Crack House Diary Entry: College Application

This is only a Crackhouse Diary entry in the sense that Susan and I would have never known the author of the following college admission essay had Susan not chosen to teach in a South Central high school.  The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, approached Susan for help with her application process.  Susan brought this essay home for me to review, and I thought to share it with you fellow Whatsit travelers.  Before the student gave her permission to post this she asked to have a look at our small community, to see what we are doing.  She has been lurking and silently note taking for the last couple of days while we have gone about our business.  I am glad that she feels comfortable sharing her thoughts here, and I hope that as she continues in her journey through college and then through life, that she might consider keeping us updated about her experiences, and that she might eventually do so openly.

Good readers, think back to what you wrote in your own college admission essays.  Think of what high school meant to you then, and what hope you felt as  you approached your college years.  Try to remember the nervous apprehension in waiting for acceptance and rejection letters, the thick and thin envelopes.  Now consider going through that part of your life while living on the street.



I do not know why I am homeless.  I do not know why for more than half my life I have never had a permanent place to call home.  I know the practical reasons:  Not enough money, inflation, a crumbling economy.  What I cannot fathom is why I must be homeless for so long, and struggle to succeed while others can go to college without a thought.  For years I have pondered these questions as I have strived to succeed the best I can despite my situation.  Though I do not understand why some people suffer while others live in comfort, I work to answer the questions I can answer:  Will I go to college?  Yes.  Will I succeed?  Yes.

Vagrancy has become my singular sense of certainty.  I can be sure that I will not know where I will live in a few months, weeks, days.  I can be sure that I will struggle to keep up my grades because I must dislocate all over Southern California to find a place to stay.  I can be sure that I may cry and scream without prompt, from depression, because I have no control over where I live, when I eat, when I bathe, when and how long I sleep.  I can be sure that no matter how hard I endeavor I will encounter individuals who do not understand what I go through, because they have never been through it themselves.  I become familiar with the leering looks of men who believe that because I now reside in Skid Row, I am promiscuous, perhaps a prostitute, just waiting to run away or escape my mom, no matter how many instances I prove otherwise, no matter how many times I walk in, fatigued, exhausted, a pile of textbooks in my arms.  I can be certain that, whatever haven I go to, there will be a guest or staff member who is inhumane, tyrannical, and unjust.  I can be sure I will witness the woe in my little sister’s eyes and the anguish in my mom’s.  I am intimate with impoverishment infelicity, insecurity, and injustice.

Whenever my poverty becomes overwhelming, I seek salvation in school.  I am secure in my knowledge that my education will cloak me in a blanket of security.  I can be certain that my perseverance will be rewarded.  I can be sure that my passion for learning will guide me through unexpected challenges and unforeseen obstacles.  My education, in addition to the curiosities it incites in my imagination, has woven a new cloak of security, and has become my new sense of certainty.

My unshakable passion for learning is something I grab onto– something that anchors me in my world of constant turmoil.  I control my education; within reason, I choose what to study, what to investigate, and what to practice.  I can rely with certainty upon my education, knowing that I can always learn, explore and broaden my mind whether I find myself in San Pedro or Pasadena.  I can be sure that no matter where I live, no matter where I go, school will be there, allowing me to escape from the reality that I have no home, no place to stay, and no permanent address.  In my world I need something comforting.  I need to be able to take control of my life, and seek a respite from worry.  I can be sure that at school my peers will come to me for counsel, because to them I am their unyielding intellectual, the mentor they can turn to for guidance.  I feel needed, not impoverished.  School is my refuge.  School will continue to save me and help me overcome, by virtue of the unconditional learning, growth and community it affords even in the darkest times.  I plan to use my passion and my past to prosper in my future.  I am a student.  I am a scholar.  No matter how difficult my experience may seem, I am a survivor.

16 responses to “Crack House Diary Entry: College Application”

  1. Wow, well good luck to her. It speaks well of her intellectual accomplishements that she’s able to speak so clearly about the dialectic between privation and education in her life. I hope she gets into college and is not held back by her life situation from making the most of it.

  2. Jane says:


    Thank you, so much, for allowing your essay to be posted. Your passion for learning and your talent for the written word are…inspiring. Good luck with your applications. If it means anything, I would admit you in a heartbeat.

  3. Marleyfan says:

    It is obvious from your letter that you will succeed! I’m alwasys inspired to see people get through a difficult background. In whatever you choose to pursue, you will have the heart of compassion to help others to achieve their goals. What an example you are…

  4. LP says:

    “Will I go to college? Yes. Will I succeed? Yes.” I don’t doubt either of these things. Good luck, Anonymous! Please let us know how it goes.

  5. swells says:


    As a community college teacher, I read dozens of these applications every year from students hoping to transfer from a 2-year to a 4-year institution. I try to help them to articulate their goals and their selves in a way that is memorable, that shows the admissions committee that they are different from the hundreds of other students whose applications sit in the stack below theirs. I try to help them to find their own voice and express who they are. Among all the essays I’ve read, yours is remarkable not only because of the story you tell, which will certainly be memorable to the readers who are judging you, but also because you have such a clear voice in it, such a controlled and polished style, that conveys how much you’ve thought through your words, and makes it unfortunately completely believable that you’ve lived what you say you have. The ending is particularly compelling. When you succeed, as I have no doubt you will, it will not be because you have overcome unusual circumstances that make people want to cut you a break; it will be because of your strong sense of self that enables you to push through these circumstances towards the vision of what you already know you are and will become. This is a fantastic essay.

  6. Ivy says:

    Anonymous: No matter what happens to you, noone can take this power that you have inside you away from you. You are a hero.

  7. Gary Lee Smith says:

    “Vagrancy has become my singular sense of certainty.”

    Sounds like a quote from Emerson.

  8. Natasha says:

    Dear anonymous,
    I know that growing up is hard enough as it is. It’s the time of building your identity. When you get bounced around; do not have anyone to assure you of not only who you are as an individual, but where you are going to live the next day; when your parents cannot help you, because they cannot even help themselves; when others try to take advantage of you, because they don’t know how wise you are at this age is all very dreadful, painful, and heartbreaking. I am speaking from my personal and similar, in many aspects, experience. I started working when I was 15 and have been fully financially and psychologically supporting my family since I was 22. I know that you will succeed, if you do not use the emotional imprints of your parents’ perspectives to mold yours. Life and people will victimize you, if you allow them. Once you understand that it really works the other way around — you do to life what you wish to do with it and life does not do to you, you will no longer be a victim, but the architect of your own destiny. Also, if you or your sister need help, please contact me. I mentored a 16 year old kid for 7 years, who is now a successful regional manager of a well known firm. I am there for everyone who needs help.

  9. LP says:

    ps Rogan: Thanks for persuading her to share her essay with us. What a great start to the week.

  10. Dave says:

    Anonymous —

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Like swells says, your clear sense of self really comes through in the essay. Best of luck in your future studies and career.

  11. ks says:

    Wow, what an amazing, self-aware essay your have written, Anonymous. I hope to keep in mind that anyone sitting in one of my classrooms could possibly have similar experiences prior to their entrance into college. One just never knows someone’s background, and should not make assumptions.

    Very best of luck to you in fulfilling your dreams. I have no doubt that you will, as difficulties seem only to motivate you to overcome them. Hopefully you will seek out available resources to aid you in your goals. This is a very good place to seek advice on such things. (FYI)

    A virtual hug to you…

  12. Miller says:


    To me, a majority of the effectiveness of your essay is that it is more than just a college admissions essay. Many students looks at the application process as tedious and unfulfilling, but your essay expresses the kind of introspection and voice (as swells mentioned) that is present in the best writing out there. It feels as if this essay was not written for some tired board of professor to read–it’s a genuine look into the life of a strong, intelligent person.

    I’m writing this as I have 30 pages worth of essay writing to complete by tomorrow afternoon and have procrastinated until today to even start the bulk of it; yet, I have still found time to complain about the load. To be selfish about it, I really needed your essay right now. It reminds me to value what it is I’m doing and to shut the hell up about my petty grievances.

    Good luck to you and, please, continue to write. You have a real talent for it.

    (And thank you to Rogan and Susan for sharing.)

  13. julie says:

    Dear Anonymous,
    I think of you and your mom and your sister on this rainy cold night. I hope you might be nestled warm reading those textbooks that bring you peace. You have conquered more than most of us in your young life. I hope you will continue to write about your life, your thoughts… about anything really. You’ve got the flow and the talent and a unique voice that our society needs to hear. Your success is a no brainer and I feel lucky that you honored us with your essay. I’m excited for you and your future. (thanks Susan & Rogan!)

  14. Mimi says:

    Well, girl, where are you applying?
    Brown? Stanford? Berkeley? NYU?

    You need to be somewhere big enough and with enough depth to keep that gorgeous mind of yours entertained.

  15. lailani says:

    It is so incredible that you have been able to remain focused on school, through living on the streets and everything that comes with it. Your knowledge is the one thing that homelessness can never strip you of and your focus on this is inspirational.
    I tutor for School on Wheels- an organization that is trying to keep homeless kids in school and learning even though what seems to matter most when you don’t have a roof over your head is survival. When you educate yourself, you are able to break out of poverty and live your dreams, whatever they may be.
    Reading this essay reinforces my commitment to encouraging kids in similar situations to work hard toward educational goals.
    Thank you for sharing.

  16. Sid says:

    Holy mother f*cker does she write well. Man, I hope she gets a full scholarship to college. I can’t believe how much she has achieved given her lack of opportunities.