.st0{fill:#FFFFFF;}

諮詢顧問黑白講

精選2018年美國大學申請essay範例文,哈佛耶魯眼中的高分寫作!【中英雙語】

最近更新日期: 2018-11-23

《紐約時報》( The New York Times ) 每年都向高中生收集大學的申請寫作。這裏紐約時報挑選出其中5篇最優秀essay,有的關於家庭,有的啟發夢想,有的思索階級… 他們分別錄取了哈佛、耶魯、芝加哥大學和全美12位的文理學院高露潔學院。 從他們身上所體現的情感領悟、洞察能力、怪才腦洞,難怪會脫穎而出被頂尖大學錄取。

其實Jason分享這一篇是要是呼應我寫的關於Common Application Essay寫作的分析。仔細看看下面五篇文章,這些都是錄取美國頂尖名校的學生的Essay寫作,他們寫的是自己很顯赫的事蹟嗎?他們寫的是自已很完美的學業成績嗎?

不!都不是!

他們寫的絕對都不是你們以為自己該寫的。他們寫的都是自己的日常,但是卻又很吸引人一路把它讀完。希望下面中英對照的文章,可以給各位同學壹些啟發。


Jeffrey Yu at his home in Endicott, N.Y., where he raises chickens with his father. He will attend Yale.
Jeffrey Yu at his home in Endicott, N.Y., where he raises chickens with his father. He will attend Yale.

“My family is a matriarchy in a patriarchal community.”

Jeffrey C. Yu

並非所有醫生的兒子都會在廚房裏養小雞小鴨。但我會。是我爸教我的。

我是在一個衰敗的工業城鎮長大的,而我父親的童年卻正值文化大革命。為了讓姊妹能上大學,我的父親放棄了自己上大學的機會,去公社當起了農民。

因此,我每天早上在貝多芬的悠揚樂曲中醒來,我的父親卻是在乾草和牲畜散發的生活氣息裏長大的。每當我望向我們的三角鋼琴和我們的小雞,我都會驚訝於我們童年的鮮明差異,以及我的父親是如何通過飼養牲畜與我分享他的鄉村成長。

我的父親接受了這些不同。從如何用廁紙制作石膏塑像,到如何從無到有建起一座溫室,他向我介紹了不同的經驗。於是你可能想問:他朝九晚五的傳統工作是什麽?他曾經是駕駛著考察船跨越太平洋的船長,設計過三種可取得專利的風力渦輪機,從副廚到摩托羅拉(Motorola)技術員,一切你能想象得到的工作他都做過。

現在呢?都不是。實際上,他現在是一名居家老爸。

我的家庭是一個父系社會中的母系部落。因此,每當我解釋父親的財務狀況時,都會得到人們驚訝的反應。“他這是有多懶,多沒出息!”也有許多人試圖掩飾他們的驚訝,但他們遊移的眼神透露了一切。在一個把經濟價值擺在最前沿的社會中,這些假設對其他人可能適用,但對我父親不行。

我看媒體,不論是新聞頭版,還是網站上的專題文章,都常常突出描寫那些為了保證孩子能接受良好教育而長時間工作,一人打多份工的父母。 這些報道當然值得稱讚,但它們往往會蓋過那些相對不為人所知的、像我父親這樣的人,他們的所為是同樣重要的。

我現在意識到了,我的父親犧牲了他前途大好的事業和錢財上的成就,以確保他的兒子能得到恰當的關註、照料和道德教育。父親從他無言、無私的舉動中所給予我的,遠遠大於一份薪水所能買到的,也讓我重新認識到,我們——作為人類——能如何為自己的生活做出選擇。

我很自豪地說,我的父親是我認識的人中最富有的——不是金錢上的富有,而是品格上的富有。他擁有解決覆雜的物理和微積分問題的聰明才智,充滿年輕創業者的活力(盡管他在50歲時才創立了一家正在起步的風車公司),會貼心地接送兒子去訓練、排練。歸根結底,對我來說更為重要的是一個人身上的這些品質,而非書面上的記錄。

像我父親這樣的故事提醒著我,價值不只是六位數薪資這一種形式。他是一個啟發我的人,他提醒著我,哪怕是對我這樣一個年輕人的生活,樂觀、熱情和創造力都能帶來不同。是這些無言的品質塑造了我。

不論是當我為救濟廚房的聖誕晚餐折餐巾花的時候,還是為化學課同學烘焙辮子面包法式吐司條的時候,我都知道成就不一定要用實證的方法來衡量。推動我前進的是這種創業者式的、自我驅動的決心,要讓生活充滿創意。 我的父親沒有按著慣有的道路生活。而我,也希望為他人、為社會帶去這樣一種非正統的態度。

我時不時會面對這個看似無法回答的問題:“我的爸爸是做什麽的?”但其實非常簡單,答案就是,他做的是他最擅長的事情:給他的兒子帶去啟發。

英文版

Not all sons of doctors raise baby ducks and chickens in their kitchen. But I do. My dad taught me.

While my childhood was spent in a deteriorating industrial town, my dad was raised during the onset  of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. After forgoing university so his sister could attend, my dad worked on a commune as a farmer. So while I grew up immersed in airy Beethoven melodies each morning, my dad grew up amid the earthy aromas of hay and livestock. Every time that I look between our grand piano and our baby chickens, I’m amazed by the stark differences between our childhoods, and how in raising livestock, my dad shares a piece of his own rural upbringing with me.

Embracing these differences, my dad has introduced me to diverse experiences, from molding statues  out of toilet paper plaster to building greenhouses from the ground up. So you might be wondering: What does he do for a traditional 9-to-5 job? He’s already captained a research vessel that’s navigated across the Pacific, designed three patentable wind turbines and held every position imaginable, from sous chef to Motorola technician.

The answer? Nothing. He’s actually a stay-at-home dad right now.

My family is a matriarchy in a patriarchal community. Accordingly, I’m greeted with astonishment  whenever I try to explain my dad’s financial status. “How lazy and unmotivated he must be!” Many try to hide their surprise, but their furtive glances say it all. In a society that places economic value at the forefront of worth, these assumptions might apply to other individuals, but not to my dad.

When I look at the media, whether it be the front cover of a newspaper or a featured story in a  website article, I often see highlights of parents who work incredible hours and odd jobs to ensure their children receive a good upbringing. While those stories are certainly worthy of praise, they often overshadow the less visible, equally important actions of people like my dad.

I realize now that my dad has sacrificed his promising career and financial pride to ensure that his  son would get all of the proper attention, care and moral upbringing he needed. Through his quiet, selfless actions, my dad has given me more than can be bought from a paycheck and redefined my understanding of how we, as people, can choose to live our lives.

I’m proud to say that my dad is the richest man I know — rich not in capital, but in character.  Infused with the ingenuity to tear down complex physics and calculus problems, electrified with the vigor of a young entrepreneur (despite beginning his fledgling windmill start-up at the age of 50) and imbued with the kindness to shuttle his son to practices and rehearsals. At the end of the day, it’s those traits in people that matter more to me than who they are on paper.

Stories like my dad’s remind me that worth can come in forms other than a six-figure salary. He’s  an inspiration, reminding me that optimism, passion and creativity can make a difference in a life as young as mine. It’s those unspoken virtues that define me. Whether it’s when I fold napkin lotuses for my soup kitchen’s Christmas dinner, or bake challah bread French toast sticks for my chemistry class, I’m aware that achievement doesn’t have to be measured empirically. It’s that entrepreneurial, self-driven determination to bring ideas to life that drives me. My dad lives life off the beaten path. I, too, hope to bring that unorthodox attitude to other people and communities.

All too often I’m left with the seemingly unanswerable question: “What does my dad do?” But the  answer, all too simply, is that he does what he does best: Inspire his son.


Eric Muthondu at his home in Richmond, Tex. He will attend Harvard in the fall.
Eric Muthondu at his home in Richmond, Tex. He will attend Harvard in the fall.

“These are the two worlds I have inherited, and my existence in one is not possible without the other.”

Eric Ngugi Muthondu

祖母徘徊在爐子的火焰旁,一邊優美地哼著吉庫尤人的宗教歌曲,一邊扇著火。她揉好面團,放在爐子上。她的靜脈隨著每個動作抽動:這是一幅由貧困和生為人母的一生所繪成的活生生的傑作。空氣中的煙霧越來越濃,我很快就被逼出了這座泥巴磚墻房子,她哈哈大笑。

我呢,我漫步到農場邊緣一座山脊中的小溪,想起父親早早起身餵牛的故事,想起在母親的回憶中,她在當地一個種植園裏摘了數小時咖啡豆後額頭上的汗珠。

這裏的生活與我在美國的生活有著極大的不同,貧窮的苦難與閃爍的繁榮似乎永遠不會相容。 但這就是我所繼承的兩個世界。而我在任何一個世界中的存在也離不開另外一個世界。

在溪水旁,我回憶起我在別處的生活。在美國,我看著父親每晚回家,勞累卻又習以為常地結束了又一天辛苦奔忙的工作。盡管他的雙眼中透著疲憊,但他會讓我和妹妹坐下,努力掛上我熟悉的微笑,問我們今天過得怎樣。

妹妹的回應很快,大談特談她的學習和淘氣。這一刻,我才意識到她太小了,以至於忘了我們原來的家:家徒四壁的破舊公寓,夜晚有動物在外面不斷地嚎叫。

不久之後,我發現屋內唯一可以聽到的,只有躺在床上的我腦中的思緒和輕微悸動的聲響。我琢磨著,在我的到來之前,父母曾在離散之海上漂流,當時他們是否想過,他們為我們作出的犧牲會伴隨著後背的劇痛、每個流淚夜晚與清晨的新憂慮。但是要理解起來太過繁雜。於是,我會夢見他們,以及我用他們賦予我的工具去開創的未來。

我在水邊沈思了太久。意識到了這點,我便開始往家走。爬上山脊十分累人,於是我小心地抓牢腳下的泥土,感受著它在我指間的溫暖。後來,我看到了赤著腳跑來跑去的表弟表妹,決定加入他們的足球賽,但他們都嘲笑我帶球有多不協調。他們玩耍、叫喊、歌唱,完全不知道這個村莊之外或者內羅畢之外的世界。

我不怪他們。我的iPhone令他們著迷,他們還要看我的牙套,目不轉睛地問這花了多少“先令”。我張開嘴巴以滿足他們的好奇心,但祖母叫我了,於是我們都趕忙回去看看她做了些什麽。

當我回到家時,薄煎餅已整齊地一個個摞好,金褐色盤子裏盛著甜面包,這才是完整的肯尼亞餐。趁祖母還沒來得及用吉庫尤語連珠炮般地取笑我,我拿了一塊薄煎餅就逃去尋找一塊光滑的草地,在那裏我才吃下了第一口。 每一口都提醒著我,我在這裏的時光不會是永遠,而我的成功或失敗將成為我的妹妹和親戚們的決定性例證。

高中和大學之間的鴻溝是巨大的,但是為了那些一路將我提攜至此的人們,我必須越過。這個曾帶領我父母跨越無常之海的希望,也是現在的我走向未來的動力。我將帶著一個最基本的思想前進,那就是:我也能做到。

我聽著鄰居們的呼喊和孩子們追趕著滿是跳蚤的小狗,享受著每一刻,讓那清涼附著於我的肌膚之上。

英文版

My grandmother hovers over the stove flame, fanning it as she melodically hums Kikuyu spirituals. She kneads the dough and places it on the stove, her veins throbbing with every movement: a living masterpiece painted by a life of poverty and motherhood. The air becomes thick with smoke and I am soon forced out of the walls of the mud-brick house while she laughs.

As for me, I wander down to the small stream at the ridge on the farm’s edge, remembering my father ’s stories of rising up early to feed the cows and my mother’s memories of the sweat on her brow from hours of picking coffee at a local plantation.

Life here juxtaposes itself profoundly against the life I live in America; the scourge of poverty  and flickering prosperity that never seem to coalesce. But these are the two worlds I have inherited, and my existence in one is not possible without the other. At the stream, I recollect my other life beyond this place. In America, I watch my father come home every night, beaten yet resilient from another day of hard work on the road. He sits me and my sister down, and though weary-eyed, he manages the soft smile I know him for and asks about our day.

My sister is quick to oblige, speaking wildly of learning and mischief. In that moment, I realize  that she is too young to remember our original home: the old dust of barren apartment walls and the constant roar outside of life in the nighttime.

Soon after, I find myself lying in bed, my thoughts and the soft throb of my head the only audible  things in the room. I ponder whether my parents — dregs floating across a diasporic sea before my time — would have imagined their sacrifices for us would come with sharp pains in their backs and newfound worries, tear-soaked nights and early mornings. But, it is too much to process. Instead, I dream of them and the future I will build with the tools they have given me.

Realizing I have mused far too long by the water’s edge, I begin to make my way back to the house.  The climb up the ridge is taxing, so I carefully grip the soil beneath me, feeling its warmth surge between my fingers. Finally, I see my younger cousins running around barefoot endlessly and I decide to join their game of soccer, but they all laugh at the awkwardness of the ball between my feet. They play, scream and chant, fully unaware of the world beyond this village or even Nairobi, but I cannot blame them. My iPhone fascinates them and they ask to see my braces, intently questioning how many “shillings” they cost. I open my mouth to satisfy their curiosity, but my grandmother calls out, and we all rush to see what she has made.

When I return, the chapatis are neatly stacked on one another, golden-brown disks of sweet bread  that are the completion of every Kenyan meal. Before my grandmother can ridicule me in a torrent of Kikuyu, I grab a chapati and escape to find a patch of silky grass, where I take my first bite. Each mouthful is a reminder that my time here will not last forever, and that my success or failure will become a defining example for my sister and relatives.

The rift between high school and college is wide, but it is one I must cross for those who have  carried me to this point. The same hope that carried my parents over an ocean of uncertainty is now my fuel for the journey toward my future, and I go forward with the radical idea that I, too, can make it. Savoring each bite, I listen to the sound of neighbors calling out and children chasing a dog ridden with fleas, letting the cool heat cling to my skin.


Alison Hess at the University of Chicago.
Alison Hess at the University of Chicago.

“While I then associated my conquests with ‘being a better boy,’ I now realize what I was really working toward was becoming a better farmer.”

Alison Hess

我一直以為父親希望我生下來是個男孩。

這個,請不要把我父親當成瘋狂的鄉巴佬性別歧視者。事實是,在他所處的地區和行業,成功與否主要看你能不能提供和保持近乎不可超越的體力勞動壯舉,人們往往更喜歡大塊頭的人。

小時候,我更喜歡綠色而不是紅色的拖拉機,因為父親開的就是綠色的。我喜歡黑白相間的母牛,而不是棕色的,因為父親養的就是那種黑白的。我冬天穿連體工作服,一連幾周穿著帶窟窿沾泥巴的靴子。和新來的人說話時,我會表現出尚且稚嫩的男子氣,雙臂交叉抱在胸前。我的玩具箱裏只有農具模型。三年級的時候,我把頭發剪得非常短。父親露出微笑,摸了摸我的頭。

我從未試圖把餡餅皮搟得更加光滑,或是熨出筆挺的衣領。相反,我崇拜父親那雙有耐心的手。它們努力在母牛的脖頸上找到正確的血管紮針;用力制住受傷的小母牛;在他駕駛牲畜拖車時習慣地、巧妙地快速打方向盤。

長大後,我自己也要做這些事情。十歲生日那天,我收到了自己的第一頭表演母牛。在赫斯家族,這是一種成人禮。我給她起名叫米西(Missy)。當我用極低的聲音和她說話時,我沒有意識到一件事:

米西不在乎我是女孩。她不認為我特意表現出男孩子氣,也不會註意到我堅決抗拒粉色衣服(反正她是色盲)。她對照顧她的新人塊頭略小無動於衷。她只在乎自己每天的均衡棉籽玉米面飼料,以及有人能多拍一下她的頭。我坐在她旁邊擦她的白色皮革籠頭時,她感謝的是我一絲不茍的勤勉,而不是我的性別。

幾個月後,當我和米西贏得最佳表演獎時,父親的心臟差點爆炸。我學會了無論何時只要感到自豪,就要表現出來。盡管當時我把自己的勝利和“當一個更優秀的男孩”聯系在一起,但現在我意識到,那時我努力的方向其實是成為一個更優秀的農民。

我知道,我會做父親會做的所有事情,並且在有些事情上青出於藍,比如承擔餵新生小牛犢這件雜事,或是讓小母牛習慣帶籠頭這項艱巨的任務。我用了四年時間才意識到:

在那些時刻,我證明自己是一個比他還優秀的農民,不是因為我克服了自己的性別,而是因為我克服了自己毫無根據的無知觀念,認為睪丸酮水平最高的農民才是最優秀的農民。

大學一年級,我離開農場,去了寄宿學校。在學校裏,我身邊都是更富裕、受教育程度更高的人。他們中絕大部分人以前都聽說過“女權主義”這個詞。在我介紹自己的家鄉時,我開始從討厭的英語老師和敏銳的朋友們皺起的眉頭中領會這個詞的意思。四年的教育和每周的議論文教會了我這個學術術語。我知道了“女權主義”這個詞的拉丁語詞根、同源詞和它的歷史影響。

但我通過書本了解到的相關知識越多,在文章中用這個詞的次數越多,我越是明白自己早已知道它的意思。我身上正體現出女權主義在農場的現狀。我已經付諸實踐了。這都是我的母牛教我的。

英文版

I always assumed my father wished I had been born a boy.

Now, please don’t assume that my father is some rampant rural sexist. The fact is, when you live in  an area and have a career where success is largely determined by your ability to provide and maintain nearly insurmountable feats of physical labor, you typically prefer a person with a bigger frame.

When I was younger, I liked green tractors better than red tractors because that was what my father  drove, and I preferred black and white cows over brown ones because those were the kind he raised. I wore coveralls in the winter and wore holes in my mud boots in weeks. With my still fragile masculinity, I crossed my arms over my chest when I talked to new people, and I filled my toy box exclusively with miniature farm implements. In third grade, I cut my hair very short, and my father smiled and rubbed my head.

I never strove to roll smoother pie crusts or iron exquisitely stiff collars. Instead, I idolized my  father’s patient hands. On a cow’s neck, trying to find the right vein to stick a needle in. In the strength of the grip it took to hold down an injured heifer. In the finesse with which they habitually spun the steering wheel as he backed up to the livestock trailer.

And I grew to do those things myself. When on my 10th birthday I received my first show cow, a rite  of passage in the Hess family, I named her Missy. As I spoke to her in an unnaturally low voice, I failed to realize one thing: Missy did not care that I was a girl. She did not think I was acting especially boyish or notice when I adamantly refused to wear pink clothing (she was colorblind anyway). And she did not blink an eyelash at her new caretaker’s slightly smaller frame. All she cared about was her balanced daily feed of cottonseed and ground corn and that she got an extra pat on the head. As I sat next to her polishing her white leather show halter, she appreciated my meticulous diligence and not my sex.

When Missy and I won Best of Show a few months later, my father’s heart nearly exploded. I learned  to stick my chest out whenever I felt proud. While I then associated my conquests with “being a better boy,” I now realize what I was really working toward was becoming a better farmer. I learned I could do everything my father could do, and in some tasks, such as the taxing chore of feeding newborn calves or the herculean task of halter-breaking a heifer, I surpassed him. It has taken me four years to realize this: I proved a better farmer than he in those moments, not despite my sex, but despite my invalid and ignorant assumption that the best farmer was the one with the most testosterone.

My freshman year, I left the farm for boarding school, where I was surrounded by the better-off and  the better-educated — the vast majority of whom had heard the word ‘feminism’ before. I began to pick up just what the word meant from my antagonizing English teacher and my incisive friends’ furrowed brows when I described my hometown. Four years of education and weekly argumentative essays taught me the academic jargon. I learned the Latin roots of the word “feminism,” its cognates and its historical consequences.

But the more I read about it in books, and the more I used it in my essays, the more I realized I  already knew what it meant. I had already embodied the reality of feminism on the farm. I had lived it. My cow had taught it to me.


Caroline Beit at School of the Holy Child in Rye, New York. She will start at Yale next fall, after a gap year.
Caroline Beit at School of the Holy Child in Rye, New York. She will start at Yale next fall, after a gap year.

“While I have not changed the tax system (though someday I plan to), I have changed how my clients interact with it.”

Caroline S. Beit

“除了死亡和納稅,沒什麽是可以確定的。”

本傑明·富蘭克林(Benjamin Franklin)的這句話到了今天依然能夠引起共鳴,如果你和大多數人一樣,也會覺得申報所得稅的確令人不快。不過,對我來說,報稅準備工作是我觀察我們社會當中迥異經濟現實的望遠鏡。透過這個鏡頭,我親眼見識到,有時微薄的工資和倒退的公共政策會對經濟弱勢者帶來什麽不利影響,以及我如何才能作出改變。

在報稅季節,我每個周六都跟隨AARP報稅援助項目(Tax-Aide Program)進行志願工作,接下來的這一年將是第三次了。在曼哈頓晨邊高地圖書館(Morningside Heights Library)的地下室裏,我們會幫助年邁者和低收入者報稅。在我第一次加入的那個報稅季節裏,我負責處理組織任務,在初始面試過程中協助招募顧問。

我告訴AARP的經理我想在下一個季度回來,並做些實際的稅務準備工作時,她表示懷疑,尤其是因為在我的所在地,第二年輕的報稅人員也有37歲。但是,這並沒有把我嚇住:盡管我在稅務季節開始時剛滿16歲,但我鑽研過這些材料,也通過了美國國稅局(I.R.S.)的高級資格考試。

作為志願者,我的目標是幫助我的客戶得到他們應得的每一筆抵免,將亟需的資金放回他們的口袋。要做到這一點,我需要的不僅僅是專業知識,還得在人與人的層面進行溝通。我會積極地傾聽他或她的故事,註意使每個人都感到放松。

比如那位幾乎不會說英語、剛剛成為美國公民的年輕女子,她提到自己與殘疾的祖母同住。從她的故事中我可以確定,她可以因為她的祖母而申請“受撫養者看護稅抵”和一千美元的勞動所得抵免。這些抵免占了她收入的20%左右,並將用來為她的祖母購買藥品和其他必需品。

有時,經濟狀況處於維生邊緣的人們所受到的壓力是那樣明顯,令我感到悲傷。 比如球鞋和牙科護理這樣我從未多花心思的基本需求,對很多人而言都遙不可及。

我清楚地記得,那位來自皇后區,在塔吉特(Target)工作的單親媽媽去年在H&R Block報稅公司花掉了400美元(相當於她一周的薪水)。有了我們的志願工作,今年她不需要再為報稅準備付款,還可以申請抵免,於是她向我表示,她可以為和我同齡的兒子買一雙新跑鞋了,而且還有希望去牙醫那兒看看抽痛了幾個月的一顆牙。

作為志願者,我學到了同情、傾聽,以及通過簡單的方式溝通複雜專業問題的重要性。讓我的客戶放鬆,他們就能理解我對他們的錢應當如何繳稅的解釋。我也深入了解了稅收政策會對低收入勞動者和老年人的經濟狀況與身體健康產生怎樣的影響。雖然我並沒有改變稅收體制(雖然我以後有這個打算),但我改變了客戶與體制的溝通方式。

除了本傑明·富蘭克林說的,生命中死亡與稅收這兩樣確定的事情之外,我還會加上第三件確定的事,那就是人類精神的持久力量。 我記得一位拄著拐杖的八旬老人,在二月一個下著雨的寒冷周六排了兩個小時的隊。不知怎地,他能在曼哈頓憑著每年15000美元的社保收入生活下來。盡管他的收入低於報稅要求,但我們一起申報了77美元的學區稅和租房抵免,這相當於他兩個星期的雜貨采購費用。

我們完成了工作後,他對我說,“明年見。”這一刻,我知道我已經做出了實實在在的改變。

英文版

“Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Not only do Benjamin Franklin’s words still resonate today, but, if you are like most, filing  income taxes is simply unpleasant. For me, however, preparing taxes has been a telescopic lens with which to observe the disparate economic realities present in our society. In looking through this lens, I have seen firsthand how low wages and, at times, regressive public policy can adversely impact the financially fragile, and how I can make a difference.

This coming year will be my third volunteering every Saturday during tax season with AARP’s Tax- Aide Program. In the basement of the Morningside Heights Library in Manhattan, we help the elderly and low-income individuals file their taxes. During my first season, I handled organizational tasks and assisted intake counselors with the initial interview process.

When I told the AARP manager that I wanted to return the following season and do actual tax  preparation, she was skeptical, especially since the next youngest tax preparer at my location was 37. That, however, did not deter me: Though I would be just 16 before the start of the season, I diligently studied the material and passed the advanced I.R.S. qualification test.

As a volunteer, my goal is to help my clients obtain every credit they are entitled to and place  vitally needed money in their pockets. To do this, I need much more than just technical knowledge. It is also essential to connect on a human level. I make it a point to put each person at ease by actively listening to his or her story.

For example, the young woman, who is a recently minted United States citizen and barely speaks  English, mentions that her disabled grandmother lives with her. Her story allows me to determine she can claim a dependent care credit for her grandmother and a $1,000 earned income credit. These credits represent approximately 20 percent of her income and will go toward buying her grandmother’s medications and other necessities.

I am saddened at times by the palpable stress of those living on the edge of economic subsistence.  Basic necessities such as sneakers and dental care, which I had never thought twice about, are out of reach for many. I vividly remember the single mom from Queens who works at Target and spent $400 (a week’s paycheck) at H&R Block last year. By not having to pay for tax preparation this year and the credits she can claim, she confided she will be able to buy her son, who is my age, new shoes for track and hopefully see a dentist for a tooth that has been throbbing for months.

As a volunteer, I have learned the importance of empathizing, listening and communicating complex  and technical matters simply. Making my clients feel at ease allows them to understand my explanation of how their money is being taxed. I have also gained insight into how tax policy affects the financial and physical health of the working poor and elderly. While I have not changed the tax system (though someday I plan to), I have changed how my clients interact with it.

Beyond Benjamin Franklin’s two certainties in life of death and taxes, I would add a third: the  enduring power of the human spirit. I remember an octogenarian man with a cane who waited two hours in line on a bone-chillingly rainy Saturday in February. He is somehow able to survive in Manhattan on $15,000 of Social Security earnings a year. Even though his income is below the filing requirement, together we claim $77 of school tax and rent credits, which translates into two weeks of groceries.

When we finish, he says to me, “See you next year.” It is at that moment I know I have made a  tangible difference.


Kataryna Piña at her grandmother’s home in Weslaco, Tex. She will attend Colgate.
Kataryna Piña at her grandmother’s home in Weslaco, Tex. She will attend Colgate.

“At the age of 11, I started working for the very first time as a cleaning lady with my grandparents.”

Kataryna Linn Piña

她坐在陽光下縫被子時,光線讓她皮膚上的每個皺紋、灼傷和割痕顯得特別突出。她一針一針地縫著邊,食指上的頂針保護著其他手指免遭針紮。雖然她右手的每個指頭上都戴著戒指,但左手只有一個指頭帶著她的結婚戒指。這些戒指把人們的註意力從她的年齡和傷痕轉移到她珍愛的東西上。

奶奶的戒指不僅被她的兒子、我的父親多次偷走,而且她時時刻刻處於擔心狀態,怕他會再偷她的東西。我父親被關在監獄裏時,她一星期每天都戴著戒指;但他在家時,她手上光禿禿的。隨著時間的推移,這已變得越來越常見,她學會了把值錢的東西藏在她床底下的珠寶盒裏。

小時候,我觀察過奶奶的手向內、向外來回不斷的動作,註意到她的節奏。這種節奏就像每個星期日我和她一起去逛跳蚤市場時聽到的恰恰舞音樂。

每星期,她都對賣主的產品討價還價,把“不需要的必需品”帶回家;幸運的是,有些星期買來的東西碰巧是線和新的衣服樣子。當奶奶給我縫上學穿的衣服時,我總是在試圖按照電視劇La Rosa de Guadalupe裏的衣服樣子縫件什麽,我那是做給她看的。我會邊聽邊唱她最喜歡的羅西王子(Prince Royce)歌曲,用與她用的顏色一樣的線,並試著用同樣的恰恰舞節奏。

因為父親被關進監獄,我家裏的女性都得去打工。11歲時,我第一次開始工作,和祖父母一起當起了清潔工。雖然我想幫助我的家人,但對當一名清潔女工我感到羞愧。我和母親爭吵過,我不想過這樣的生活,不想為了家庭的穩定而放棄我的童年。

家人好幾次說我“忘恩負義”——奶奶也多次用“一切好事都只會發生在那些耐心等待的人身上”這句話來教育我。縫紉不再是一種愛好,而是成了一件必需做的事情,我給自己縫制圍裙,把布片縫在一起做抹布,為我的家庭爭取更美好的未來。奶奶也不得不放下百衲被去工作,但她從不抱怨。

最近幾年,奶奶的病越來越重,所以我把她未完成的被子帶回家,打算把它做完。讓這個項目半途而廢不是奶奶的選擇;她的年齡、以及她為家庭不停地做貢獻讓她無法完成這個被子。障礙不僅經常讓我重新設計人生道路,而且改變了我的視角,讓我看到了生活中更大、更美好的東西。被子是一塊一塊拼縫起來的,每塊布都代表著我的家庭內部的不穩定。

然而,當你把所有這些布塊縫成一件完整東西時,你就有了一個用多條接縫連接起來、經過多次加固的被子,就像是描繪了我們曾經面臨並克服了諸多障礙後所展示的韌性。

現在,奶奶來到我們家時,她一邊伸手去拿眼鏡,把自己的助步器從桌子旁邊推開,一邊叫我把被子拿給她。曾經習慣了不停地縫紉、帶滿了戒指的手現在光禿禿的,手上的傷疤也被皺紋隱藏了起來。

奶奶緊緊地抓著被子,向我示意,讓我把她的縫紉籃子拿過來,那個放在屋子角落裏的籃子上蓋滿了灰塵。她的手從每個布塊摸過,對被子進行著最後的仔細檢查,找到了一條沒完全縫好的接縫。她笑著說:“把這個縫兒縫起來,然後做一床你自己的被子。”

英文版

The way the light shined on her skin as she sewed the quilt emphasized the details of every wrinkle,  burn and cut. While she completed the overcast stitch, the thimble on her index finger protected her from the needle pokes. She wore rings on every finger of her right hand, but on her left she only wore her wedding ring. The rings drew the attention away from her age and scars to her cherished possessions.

My grandmother’s rings had not only been stolen by her son, my father, but she was constantly in  the state of fear that he would steal from her once again. When my father was incarcerated, she wore her rings every day of the week; however, when he was home, her hands were bare. As it became increasingly common over time, she learned to hide her treasures in a jewelry box under her bed.

As a small child, I watched my grandmother’s hands move in an inward and outward motion, noticing  her rhythm. This rhythm was like the cha-cha music I heard every Sunday when I went with her to the pulga, the flea market. Every week, she bargained on the vendor’s products and brought home “unnecessary necessities”; luckily, some weeks it just happened to be thread and new sewing outlines. As my grandma sewed my outfits for school, I was always trying to complete the outline of La Rosa de Guadalupe just so I could impress her. I would sing along to her favorite Prince Royce songs, use the same color of thread as her and try to go at the same cha-cha.

With my father incarcerated, the women in my family went to work. At the age of 11, I started  working for the very first time as a cleaning lady with my grandparents. Even though I wanted to help my family, I was ashamed to be a cleaning lady. I argued with my mother against living a life like that, a life in which I gave up my childhood for my family’s stability. After being called “malagradecida” — ungrateful — several times, my grandmother reacquainted me with the idea that “todas las cosas buenas vienen a los que esperan” — all good things come to those who wait. Sewing was no longer a hobby, but a necessity, when it came to making my own apron, seaming together rags and pushing for a better future for my family. My grandmother, too, had to put down her quilt and go to work, but she never complained.

In recent years, my grandmother has become increasingly ill, so I took her unfinished quilt to my  home, planning to complete it. My grandmother did not choose to leave this project unfinished; her age and constant contribution to her family through work did not allow her to. Often, obstacles have not only redesigned my course, but have changed my perspective and allowed for me to see greater and better things present within my life. The progression of each patch depicts the instability present within my family. However, when you put all these patches together as one, you have a quilt with several seams and reinforcements keeping it together to depict the obstacles we have faced and have overcome to show resilience.

Now, when she visits our home, as she reaches for her glasses and pushes her walker away from the  table, my grandmother asks me to bring her the quilt. The jeweled hands that were once accustomed to constant stitching are now bare, and the scars are hidden under every wrinkle. With a strong grip on the quilt, my grandmother signals me to get her sewing basket that sits in the corner collecting dust. She runs her hands over the patches one last time and finds an unfinished seam. She smiles and says, “Cerrar la costura y hacer una colcha de su propio” — close the seam and make a quilt of your own.

 

原文出處 – 5 High Schoolers and Their College Application Essays About Work, Money and Social Class

Jason (資深遊學留學策略規劃師)


Jason從事教育顧問的工作已有10年的經驗, 從2007年入行, 在這些日子裡, 遇見過形形色色的家長與同學, 每個人都有自己的理想與堅持或是需求需要被滿足. 多年的顧問經驗告訴我, 沒有最好的某種教育產品, 只有最適合的生涯規劃. 服務, 該提供給真正有需要的人, 這一直是Jason以助人的角度出發, 持續堅持在教育顧問服務產業的目標, 如果你正好在選擇教育產品上很徬徨, 何不與我們聊聊?