College & Beyond

Leadership Skills

This is a sample of the Common Application 150-word answer, elaborating on an activity. I have chosen this sample to show how to highlight service to the community and/or leadership skills.

Elaborate on one of your activities (150 words).

A screeching halt – a jolt through my body -“Get out of the car,” the police officer forcefully demands. I jump out of the city-owned vehicle, taking confident strides with the two commanding officers of the Watts Gang Task Force. We enter the graffiti-ridden building, tagged by rival gang members. The freezing gusts pouring from the half-broken air conditioner reflect the chilling atmosphere created by the ensuing meeting. As I take my seat, I am keenly aware of the heightened emotions of community members pleading for help in stopping gang-related problems within the area they call home. A mother rages about the recent murder of her daughter; a young man screams about the vandalism of his car. As an intern for the Human Relations Committee for the City of Los Angeles, I listen and learn, trying to find ways to lighten the dark scars left behind by the destructive nature of this community.

Notice how the introductory sentence pulls the reader in so that he cannot possibly take his eyes off the page. This sentence in particular makes the reader wonder whether the student has been arrested. We soon discover the twist that she is actually traveling with the officers rather than being taken into custody by them.

The first sentence sets the tone for a dynamic paragraph, which captures the almost tangible tensions in the Watts community. One of the most beautiful descriptions in this essay is of the broken air conditioner; this imagery gave me the chills on multiple levels, which is why this essay and this candidate are so compelling.