NYT Featured This College Essay About a Dominican Mom’s Legendary Thriftiness

Lead Photo: Jessica Hill for The New York Times
Jessica Hill for The New York Times
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Writing a college essay is daunting. In a set amount of words, you’re expected to succinctly give college admissions officers an idea of who you are – all while trying to differentiate yourself among countless applicants. With everyone bringing their A-game, it’s not always easy. But it’s possible.

After receiving hundreds of essays, The New York Times chose four they liked best – one of which belonged to Dominican-American student Isabella DeSimone. She started her 653-word essay by describing the biggest fake out in Latino kitchens: the butter container. “My small body and head of curly hair trotted over to the refrigerator in search of some butter for my bread,” Isabella wrote. “I shifted some cans of half-opened Goya beans and the remnant of a brick of dulce de leche that had seen better days. After much shuffling, I spotted the big brown container of margarine. Carefully placing the tub on the kitchen table and readying for my ‘feast,’ I opened the container. To my dismay, it was filled with arroz con pollo.”

And though the anecdote is funny and relatable for many children of immigrants, at its core, her story is about her once being stuck between the United States’ excessive consumption and her Dominican mother’s frugality. Eventually, her mother’s iron will won out, and Isabella embraced these lessons.

“The phrase ‘making do’ could evoke connotations of stagnation and despair for some;but for me it is about understanding my situation and being proactive,” she wrote. “The values I gained from being able to make do are unparalleled. Making do gifted me with resiliency and gratitude. Making do allowed me to internalize acceptance and to value effort.”

Read Isabella’s full essay here.