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Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment

Today I spoke with a woman from the admissions department at Prescott College in Arizona. She informed me that I've been accepted to the school, and that I'm being given some scholarships! I would love to go to Prescott, but it is the first place I've heard from so for now I can't say whether or not I'll end up actually going there. It is an expensive school and it's far away, but I am so glad to know I got in!
I'd like to share with you the essay I applied with:

Before I could even speak, my dad read to me—poems, stories, T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare. After much practice, I had the “To be or not to be” soliloquy mostly memorized by age seven. In the community college English class my dad teaches, he shows a tape of seven-year-old me donning a black turtleneck, sitting in a rocking chair, and reciting Hamlet’s famous lines about contemplating “that sleep of death.” My dad says it’s his favorite film version of the scene.

Years later, my dream job was to be an English teacher. I imagined myself teaching British literature, probably due to six years of Shakespeare camp and my continued practice of “To be or not to be.” But as I grew older and developed a variety of interests, I realized that English and expression through writing would better serve me as a tool with which I could express my other interests, one being preservation of the natural world.

My appreciation for nature is almost hereditary; a lifetime before I sat in that rocking chair reciting centuries-old lines, my maternal great-grandparents took their two sons to the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite. It was the first of many trips to the area, where a small lake, two stores, a restaurant, campgrounds, and cabins comprise the quaint mountain town of Pinecrest, where my mom spent two months every summer growing up. The smoky air, lake with distant mountain ridges nestled into the background, and nearby trails are familiar reminders of my family’s tradition and the many summers spent among the pines.

Growing up, my dad and his family went camping at places like Sequoia National Park and Big Sur. In high school, he was an avid rock climber, ascending up the cable-clad granite of Yosemite’s Half Dome—without the cables. He once backpacked from the same mountain town my mom spent her summers in to Yosemite Valley, a 70 mile trip and no small feat for a junior in high school. He vividly remembers being enthusiastic about the first Earth Day in 1970, and after high school he spent many afternoons scaling Castle Rock in Saratoga, California.

My parents’ combined enthusiasm for the outdoors made camping in Pinecrest a first vacation choice. Then little blonde-haired me arrived, tagging along at three-months-old on my first camping trip. I frequently accompanied my parents on jogs along mountain roads in my neon green baby jogger. Waking up to mountain bird songs and a crackling campfire, hiking up Half Dome this past June—with cables—and ascending an unmarked rock hillside this summer with my dad: these are the memories I cherish most. No doubt my parents’ decision to camp when I was young influenced my preference for the open air, or as John Muir called it, “that one great bedroom” that spans the atmosphere.

As I was growing up, I wasn’t cognizant of the value I placed in nature. But between the end of eighth grade and the beginning of my sophomore year, I realized the deeply ingrained reverence I felt for the place I ventured to every summer. I matured alongside the green fad that has since become a movement and I developed a consciousness for the impact my actions have on the world. I developed “green” habits, but more importantly I recognized the respect and appreciation for nature that runs through my veins. The immersion in nature as a young child and the passion for the outdoors that my dad and mom introduced me to have made my place in the natural world something that influences everything I do. During the growth of this admiration for nature, and consequently my desire to help stop environmental degradation, I didn’t see the correlation between nature and English. It wasn’t clear until I became interested in nature writing—Thoreau, Emerson, and later Muir. Reading Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild opened the door to transcendental ideas and truly changed the way I think about the world. Continued reading of nature writers led me naturally to John Muir, another great influence on my view of life. Nature writing, I realized, was a way to fuse my love of nature with English.

The opportunity to combine writing with nature in an academic setting arose my junior year in my United States history class. When choosing a research topic for a paper, my eye was drawn to a topic near the end of the list: “Should we protect the environment at the expense of the economy?” I utilized my knowledge about the environment to craft a paper based in logic and fact that supported the environmental, with the suggestion that the economy doesn’t always have to suffer when the environment gets priority.

For me, environmental sensitivity has become who I am. I don’t have to think about the fact that I’m using my reusable mug at the coffee shop—if I go in to buy coffee without my own mug, I feel guilty for wasting resources. As a youth member of my city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, I advocate for alternative transportation. I am always looking for opportunities to support the environment: I’m currently interning for a grassroots organization called Climate Prosperity Citizens. We’re developing a database of green tips from hundreds of sources on the internet. My school’s Environmental Club needed a new secretary this year, and I volunteered. I’m planning for our club to help a local elementary school with their new garden, and our school’s bulletin now has weekly green tips to encourage a more environmentally-conscious campus culture. And I’ve found a way to combine my love of writing with my concern and appreciation of nature; I began a “green” blog in January 2009 as both a resource of green tips and to share stories from my life relating to the environment. As of November 2009, I’ve written thirty-five posts and had visitors to the site from Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, and all over the United States. Practicing what I preach is important to me, but conservation has become more than a hobby; it’s a part of me, as inseparable as my philosophical or spiritual beliefs.

I love to teach others about how to conserve and I enjoy reading about nature and the environment, but nothing compares to actually being in the mountains, looking at wildflowers or gazing across a pine-filled valley. That is what I want to experience—not only text and pictures on a page. Prescott College interests me because of that promise of experiential learning—doing, not merely watching or reading. At this point in my life and experiences, nature is where I want to work. I want to study nature; I want to be a naturalist. But a person cannot become a naturalist just by reading books about plants and animals. The greatest teacher is nature and Her bounty of plants and wildlife. John Muir was a persuasive expert on nature because he lived to observe, explore, and discover the essence of life. Muir’s greatest teacher was Nature, and he considered himself a pupil in the “Universe of Wilderness.” I want a college experience that will allow the Wilderness to be as important a teacher to me as the professors, an experience beyond some four walls, a white board and a computer. I want to acquire the knowledge and experience to effectively express my thoughts on nature through writing. I know Prescott is the best place I can achieve that.

For more information on Prescott, you can visit their website at They're an excellent private school for anyone interested in environmentalism and social justice, as both are encompassed in the school's philsophy.


  1. Very well said; congratulations on your acceptance!

  2. Brilliant! The way you've identified and then woven the independent threads of your childhood journey into a tapestry of an extraordinarily beautiful and meaningful life is awe-inspiring. Never before have I seen the college essay treated as the opportunity you present here: to evaluate where you've been, to find the meaning, and then to apply it to the next steps along the purposeful life path you now envision for yourself. Thank you for doing the work, sharing it, and contributing to an enhanced experience for us all.

  3. Excellent essay and we sincerely hope you choose Prescott College. You definitely have the qualities we look for in students and your personal mission aligns perfectly with us. Congratulations!
    Michelle Tissot
    Director of RDP Admissions


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