Baking and Business, Writing and Admission

The following essay was submitted to highly selective schools in response to this prompt on the Common Application:

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

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¬I adjusted the last figurine. Spatula in hand, I prepared to even out even the slightest imperfection in the light whipped frosting on any of the 40 beautiful Christmas Cakes for a corporate order. Assembling the cakes was always my favourite part. I would first put a layer of soft sponge cake on the turntable then add a dollop of just sweet enough whipped cream. Next, a handful of fresh luscious lychees, to add brightness and flavour. A top sponge, then I covered the cake lovingly with a cloud like whipped frosting. Every edge was smoothed out meticulously; the cake looked like a snow-covered dream. A Christmas Santa went on last, standing with pine trees on the pristine snow that was the frosting. Another masterpiece. No wonder this had become my signature cake. Who could resist Santa?

Every time I bake, my attention to detail is fueled by the quest of creating the softest, most moist and tender cake. I want a fork cut through each layer easily; I want you to taste each flavour, separate and distinct but blending harmoniously together too. Lychees, sponge cake and whipped cream should never overpower, only enhance each other. The cake has to be moist, the result of using a lychee spray on the sponge (a trick learnt from my favourite show “Rachel Allen: Bake”). The lychees need to be perfectly sized, big enough to taste their distinct flavour, but not too big such that they could not fit in a single bite.

The first time I stepped into the kitchen to bake I was 12, joining with my cousins to earn some extra holiday pocket money. Selling home baked cookies sounded lucrative and was fun too. I was hooked! To me, there was something alluring about the enchanting process of turning the most basic of ingredients into tantalizing treats. Flour, butter and chocolate chips magically transform into a warm cookie, crisp on the outside while chewy and fudgy in the centre. My enchantment with baking grew when I realized how it is a conduit to happiness. The soft moan that escaped when someone took a bite of my cake was always motivation enough. A smile on the face of just about anyone, young or old, was never far away.

Baking has slowly turned into a near obsession to perfect my signature recipes. Inherently competitive, I enter national baking competitions, drawn by the adrenaline of the competition and the chance to showcase my achievements. Of course the sense of achievement I get when I win a prize is added incentive!

Perhaps what sets me apart from other teenage girls, similarly delighted with creating sweet treats, is my simultaneous interest in creating a successful business As a daughter of small business owners, I have been exposed to the mechanics of a successful business. As my baking talents developed, I also included my love for business and management. Integrating my two passions I started my own business at the age of 16 . This is a web-based business that sells cakes and pastries, capitalizing on the popularity of patisseries in my part of the world. Establishing my one line patisserie enabled me to gain first hand knowledge and experience on how to run a business. I have learnt about marketing, product differentiation, establishing price points and customer service. Simultaneously, I do the thing I love most — bake!

My friends now know me as “Jessica-the-baker”, and my reputation as a baker precedes the knowledge of my name! From learning perseverance and how to overcome failure (such as when a cake does not rise) to learning the essential tools required for the success of any business venture, I take away many critical life skills from my baking journey. As I look forward towards future entrepreneurial opportunities, I will now be able to draw on these to prepare myself for any challenges that may come my way.

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Questions

Rate this essay from 1–5 with 5 being the highest rating. What rating did you give and why?

What words come to mind about the student after reading this essay?

Has this student chosen a good topic for her personal statement?

Does this student have a unique voice? Defend your answer.

If you had to guess, where is this student from?

Does this essay lead you to believe this student will be a successful businessperson? Why or why not?

Is this student smart? Defend your answer?

Do you think the personal statements required by colleges should be more academic in nature? Defend your answer.

Should personal statements be more important to an admission decision than standardized testing?

Would you like this student to be your roommate? Why or why not?

Should students be permitted to submit photos with their essays? The photos included in this entry are samples of the student’s culinary masterpieces. Note: a few details have been changed in the essay to protect her anonymity.

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