2 Strong Sophie Davis Essays from an Accepted Student
CCNY is not only the oldest of City University of New York’s (CUNY) higher education institutions, but also one of the most highly ranked universities within the system. And among its academic offerings is the Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program, which is a BS/MD program. If you’re committed to becoming a physician, this program can help you achieve your goals, in a shorter time frame than usual.
A BS/MD program is an attractive option for aspiring doctors, and as a result admissions are often more competitive than they are at the school in general. The Sophie Davis Program at City College is no different, which means that you need not only a strong academic background, proven community service, and a demonstrated commitment to medicine, but also excellent essays to emphasize those qualities and humanize yourself for admissions officers.
You can learn more about the Sophie Davis Program before continuing on to read two essays that helped a student gain acceptance to the program, as well as breakdowns of what they did well and where they could improve.
Essay Example 1 – Extracurricular Activity
In our capitalistic society, we’re granted the freedom and the means to go about our excursions and try to fulfill our everyday needs. Indulging in human desires, society sometimes forgets about those who cannot satisfy their own. It gives rise to two sides of the world, one full of prosperity and one brimmed with poverty. The poverty in the US is sadly astronomical, with 37.9 million people experiencing extreme hardship. This problem of poverty can result in numerous devastations for this community. Hunger, economic discrimination, and lack of education create this disparity in our society. But one that I have personally seen in my community is the issue of homelessness. Just in my city alone, 1 out of 120 people are homeless, a statistic much too great than it should be.
My family and I have been blessed with basic human needs and I’m extremely grateful for it. But even with a privilege like mine, I did not know how to initially utilize it. It was only when I began high school that opportunities to help others became clear to me. As I was finding myself in the early years of high school, my guidance counselor presented me with the clear opportunity that I needed. She told me about a club that would interest me, centered around helping others and that she was the moderator. The club needed leadership to run properly and she asked if I could find help to coordinate the club’s events. At this moment, there were no excuses, a perfect opportunity to expound on my values presented itself in front of me.
With the help of my friends, we began to fully run the club. Ideas on what to do and how to help our community pillaged our minds as we were eager to start right away. I then suggested a food drive, except we’d make bags full of food and a note of encouragement. We would try to at least reach 60 bags of food. We would finally distribute these food bags to the homeless in the area. Before we could enact any of our plans, however, we needed funds. “Convincing my school to sponsor us” was an idea that slowly dissipated as an option, so we turned to ask our school community. I brought it up to everyone I could. Any food, any snacks, anything at all that they could give would be earnestly accepted.
Almost immediately, every single day after we announced our cause, the club was getting drop-offs of food, packets of water were brought in, and people were coming in to help make note cards. During this time I learned my first lesson, the willingness of humans to help one another. In a time where apathy among humans is too common, seeing just a hint of voluntary help from others awakened a sense of relief within me, that we as a community haven’t given up on each other. It encouraged me to keep working towards this club, knowing that so many people would support me in doing it.
Once our inventory was full of food and note cards, we began the packing process. The first day was done, and almost 50 bags were ready to be given out. After the second day, 45 more were made. We had already surpassed our goal of 60 bags, and there still was a surplus of food left. By the end of the week, there were 244 finished food bags in total. 244 food bags that we then gave to the homeless.
My club has been more than meaningful to me. This one experience brought clarity to who I am and what I want to do. Being able to work with others to support a cause that would potentially help another human survive is gratifying. It’s a feeling that satisfies you, knowing that you aided someone else without any materialistic benefit yourself. I want to continue being the person who can fulfill someone’s basic needs and I want to become a person they can turn to when in need. This club has made that concrete for me, introducing a trait meant to stay in my life. While my club was and is meant to lend a helping hand to others, it truly gave its helping hand to me, becoming my mode of significance.
What the Essay Did Well
In this “Extracurricular Essay,” the student writes about an activity that showcases positive personality traits such as altruism, creativity, and teamwork, and is something they are clearly genuinely passionate about. Sometimes, applicants to specialized programs such as this one feel pressured to write about something explicitly related to the program, which in this case would be a medical or engineering related activity, but it’s far more important to choose a topic that is close to your heart.
The student also does an excellent job of showing how their passion for helping the homeless came about. They start by providing us with helpful background context on the issue of homelessness, then dive into how they worked with their guidance counselor and friends to address that issue. We also get to see the bigger picture lessons the writer took from this experience, which are integrated seamlessly into the rest of the essay. For example:
“Almost immediately, every single day after we announced our cause, the club was getting drop-offs of food, packets of water were brought in, and people were coming in to help make note cards. During this time I learned my first lesson, the willingness of humans to help one another.”
If the student just said “This experience taught me people are willing to help each other,” that would feel dry and generic, like a line from a bad Christmas movie. By instead directly connecting this takeaway to tangible actions they observed during their work with the club, we get a sense of not only what the student learned, but how they learned it. The process of learning a lesson is what you want to highlight in your college essays, as that is what will help admissions officers truly understand your way of thinking.
Finally, in the second to last paragraph, the author uses quantitative data to demonstrate the concrete impact of their efforts: their original goal was 60 bags of food, and they ended up packing 244. While numbers aren’t everything, if you do have a metric like this to share, we encourage you to do so, as it emphasizes your dedication to the cause.
What Could Be Improved
While this student’s genuine passion for helping the homeless comes across clearly, their writing style is very stilted, which makes the essay less relatable. Admissions officers appreciate a personal tone, as, while the college essay is a formal piece of writing, getting to hear things in a student’s own voice allows them to get a clearer sense for the applicant’s personality.
For example, in the second paragraph, the student writes:
“But even with a privilege like mine, I did not know how to initially utilize it. It was only when I began high school that opportunities to help others became clear to me. As I was finding myself in the early years of high school, my guidance counselor presented me with the clear opportunity that I needed.”
The sentence is phrased so formally that it’s clunky to read. While there’s no one rule for how to phrase things in a college essay, and sometimes more formal phrasings are justified, a good tip is to say things the way you would in conversation. If this student were talking to a friend or even a teacher, they would be unlikely to use words like “utilize,” or phrases such as “presented me with the opportunity,” as those are stiff, robotic things to say out loud. To make this section flow more naturally, the writer could instead say something like:
“High school gave me the independence to pursue a wider range of academic and extracurricular opportunities, and as I settled into freshman year, I knew I wanted to do something to serve my community. Initially, I didn’t know how exactly to do that. So, I scheduled a meeting with my guidance counselor, and she told me about a club she ran that was not only dedicated to helping others, but was also searching for leadership.”
This version is much friendlier and more digestible, which makes the story feel livelier and more engaging, as we can tell this is something that happened to a real person, rather than something dull and dry you’d be reading about for homework.
Essay Example 2 – Social Change
America is the land of immigrants. Since its creation, there has been no one but immigrants coming in to contribute to its birth. Coming from all edges of the earth, immigrants have devoted themselves to operating the country. This notion was true in the 1800s and continues now in the 21st century, with almost one million coming to the US every year. Today, many of the one million originate from Latin countries, mainly from Mexico. These newcomers have transformed the country, aiding in its progression economically and culturally. But their aid has not been fully acknowledged. Legislation concerning their status has been negatively brought up around the country, making it difficult for immigrants to thrive. Especially with fear for their well-being, just surviving is painful, a fact I’ve sadly come to acknowledge.
Every month, I go to a nearby food pantry. We pack food received from donations and deliveries, and distribute them to local families in our community. It’s an aid we do to keep these families healthy and so they do not need to worry about buying food. I began volunteering at this food pantry 2 years ago and the satisfaction I achieved was almost addictive. Doing your best to help someone to not only survive, but not worry about what to eat the next day is extremely gratifying and the families are thankful for the service provided to them.
I began to notice a pattern in the families that were coming to the pantry. Many of these families had Latin American origins, especially coming from Mexico. I was given the job to bring their food bags to their specified location. When I would walk with them, we started to converse about our lives. Many of the parents didn’t speak English quite well, so I started talking to the children about their life stories. Most children were born here in the US but the rest of their families immigrated here, not knowing much on how to survive. I was always aware that many immigrants’ lives were similar to this situation, but I was alarmed by the amount of resources they weren’t familiar with. Insurance, education access and legal help were all free services available to them, but just a mention of these resources came as a mystery to these families. If these services are readily available for immigrants to use, why are so many people not familiar with them? It was a question that permeated my mind. They deserved to live completely and well. I wanted to do what I could to inform the families about what they could do to assimilate better.
An agent of social change is one who listens and is aware of the problems around them. But even with this knowledge, they must have a clear understanding of how to correct the dilemma. Although it may have been small, I believe I was able to assist these families in becoming familiarized with the US immigration-help systems and how they can use its benefits. Everytime I saw one of the families, I would tell them some of the organizations that can help them. I found a local program to teach them how to speak English, a project that helps integrate Latino communities, and a program that assists in naturalization for immigrants. I’ve introduced them to certain organizations like the Hispanic Federation and simply how to find information to help them by looking through the internet.
Becoming involved in the lives of the immigrant families has allowed me to learn about their lives. They would tell me about the experiences they had gone through collectively. The reasons they had to come to the US, the difficulties they’ve faced, and the hardships they currently are facing. It’s granted me knowledge of what each of these cultures have been shaped by. Sympathy and understanding towards the lives of others are what I’ve gained from embarking on a simple task. By informing families and giving them just the bare minimum in terms of resources, I myself have gained precious knowledge and connection that empowers me to affix with others who share similar stories and try to help them thrive in our country.
What the Essay Did Well
Once again, the author does a great job of highlighting an issue they are passionate about, and how they have worked to combat it. The overall structure is very similar to the first essay, which is not surprising since these examples were written by the same student: in the first paragraph, they outline the scope of the problem; in the second and third paragraphs, they explain its relevance to their own life; and in the final paragraphs they describe their efforts to solve it.
Once again, the author also does a great job of connecting their bigger picture takeaways to concrete actions and events. For example:
“They would tell me about the experiences they had gone through collectively. The reasons they had to come to the US, the difficulties they’ve faced, and the hardships they currently are facing. It’s granted me knowledge of what each of these cultures have been shaped by. Sympathy and understanding towards the lives of others are what I’ve gained from embarking on a simple task.”
By explaining how they became more sympathetic to the struggles of other people, not just stating that they did, we see that the student’s compassion for immigrants is genuine, and that they aren’t just paying lip service to something they think admissions officers will like.
What Could Be Improved
Like with the strengths of this essay, the weaknesses also overlap with those of the previous essay. The primary issue here is once again the overly formal writing style, which makes the essay feel more like a piece of academic writing than a personal reflection. While the writer is clearly a thoughtful, introspective person, those qualities would come across even more strongly if they used a more conversational tone.
This essay could also benefit from the author sharing more specific anecdotes from their work with immigrants, which would allow them to provide more details about their thoughts and feelings. For the most part, that look inside the writer’s head is missing, as events are presented in a more play-by-play style. If the author focused more on showing and not telling, we would get to know them much better, which is the whole point of the college essay, after all.
As an example, in the second paragraph, the author writes:
“I began volunteering at this food pantry 2 years ago and the satisfaction I achieved was almost addictive. Doing your best to help someone to not only survive, but not worry about what to eat the next day is extremely gratifying and the families are thankful for the service provided to them.”
Here, the author directly tells the reader that they feel satisfied and gratified by their work, without explaining what about the work has led to these feelings. This point would be stronger if they instead said something along the lines of:
“Every weekend I spent countless hours unboxing thousands of vegetables and fruits, stirring boiling pots of hot tomato soup, and tumbling into bed exhausted for another 5 am wakeup the next day. But the muscle cramps, sweaty face, and early alarms were all worth it when I saw people’s smiles as the first spoonful of soup touched their mouth.”
This far more detailed version both describes how the writer arrived at their feelings of satisfaction and gratification, and immerses readers more fully in the story, by allowing us to feel the writer’s simultaneous fatigue and pride right alongside them.
Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay
Want feedback on your Sophie Davis essay before you submit? That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!