The Opinion Section created the column “Argus Apps” to humanize the college application process. Common App essays only ever exist within the framework of college admissions, alongside a list of accomplishments, extracurriculars, and test scores. With “Argus Apps,” we’re revisiting old Common App essays written by Wesleyan students to think about where we’ve been and where we’re going. In this edition, we hear from Editor-in-Chief Sabrina Ladiwala ’24 about her college application essay journey.
I love stories. I find that they are a way to connect with people across time, from your ancestors whose traditions have been passed down for generations to your friend sitting next to you in math class. This is what inspired my college essay. I centered this piece around the stories of my grandmother and how the work she did in her life has inspired me to reach out to those around me. Four years ago when I wrote this essay, I was curious about what connections I would make in college. Who would I be friends with? What clubs would I join? How would a faraway campus become my second home?
Standing here as an (almost) senior, I can’t believe how many amazing people have come into my life and hold such a special place in my heart. From fellow Argus members, to my research labmates, to the talented people I work with onstage, the friendships I’ve been able to make here have truly meant the world to me. I think my 17-year-old self would be proud.
Writing this piece was also a really vulnerable experience for me. I wrote about my cardiac condition, something that I hadn’t shared with many people at the time—not for any particular reason, it just never really came up. Looking back, I’m really glad I did. It’s a huge part of my identity that has shaped how I look at the world. I think it’s what makes me want to reach out. Each moment is an opportunity to connect with someone, to make them smile, to brighten their day. And those memories are priceless, so make as many as you can.
After you read through this essay, I have some little tasks I’d like you to do: One, if you get the chance, don’t hesitate to say something nice to someone, it warms the heart! Two, hug your friends. Let them know you care. And three, say hi to someone you’ve never interacted with. Who knows? Maybe you two will become besties!
Touching Lives Through Stories
“There is a miracle around every corner, you only need to spot it. And every minute, from the painful to the joyful, is precious, so you have to live each one fully.”
I’ve heard my mother say these words countless times. I grew up with them. They have made my interactions with the world around me so much more meaningful. Born with a congenital heart condition and having had three corrective surgeries for it, I tend to look at life through a slightly different lens. During the early days of my life, doctors worked tirelessly on me, nurses quietly watched over me and countless others prayed for me. It was a tough time and I believe their combined efforts pulled me through. I am profoundly grateful to be here, to be able to experience life as it unfolds. As the years have rolled by, those who touched my life have inspired me to reach out to others whose paths I cross, to try to make a difference, however small it may be. Sometimes it’s as simple as holding the door open or greeting someone in the hallway. Simply showing that you care can turn a person’s day around.
Growing up, my bedtime stories were accounts of my family history through the eyes of my mother. Customs, traditions, and family secrets were all woven into the rich fabric of her tales. While I learned about many of my ancestors from her stories, it was my maternal grandmother, “my nani,” that I was drawn to. Even though I don’t remember much about her as I was only three when she passed away, I feel deeply connected to her. She became a teacher at 17 and the first woman in her family to work outside the house. I’m 17 and I can’t imagine teaching a classroom full of high school boys at this age! Later in her career as Head of School, she was responsible for many firsts: after school meal programs for kids, tuition funding for underprivileged families, free library and reading rooms, cancer screening camps for parents, and so much more. Even after retiring, she helped set up schools in small villages because she believed no child should be left behind without an education.
She formed relationships with everyone she came across and it was her kindness that made a lasting impact on every person she met. She lives on not just in my mother’s tales, but in the memories of her many students. I remember them approaching my mom and I, saying, “I always felt better sitting in her office when I was having a rough day. She was my safe place” or “I ate from her lunch box when I forgot mine one day, she made the best bean curry!” And I know how delicious it is because my mother uses the same recipe to make it for me!
Her story inspires me to do the same, to be like her, to follow in her footsteps. As a member of my school’s admissions team, I write letters to prospective families and give them tours when they visit. While I try to give them as much information as I can, sharing my personal experiences is special. Some kids are intimidated at the prospect of choosing the right high school, so I like to engage with them more personally. Asking questions and making little jokes breaks the ice and eases the nerves a bit.
While I love making conversation with prospective families, it’s not always been easy for me to. I remember my own time as a hesitant freshman, not knowing who to talk to or what to say. This is what drove me to become a peer counselor, guiding students through the opening days of school. Many new students hesitate to participate, so introducing them to others who share their interests always draws them out. It is something my nani would have done. It warms my heart to see them a few short weeks later laughing with their friends on the quad, no longer lost in the crowd.
Life is not something you can wrap in a tidy package with a neat bow on top. It can be messy and awkward at times, but it is meant to be lived with all its joys and sorrows. It is meant to be relished at every turn, open to giving and receiving. Standing at the threshold of a new chapter in my life, I don’t know how my path will unfold, but I know that wherever I go, I always want to be touching peoples’ lives however I can. I can almost hear my grandmother’s voice in my ear, “Good morning boys! Today is a bright new day, let’s begin!”
Sabrina Ladiwala is a member of the class of 2024 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.