4 Standout College Application Essays on Work, Money and Class

Columbia University, which Zöe Sottile plans to attend this year.CreditUniversal Images Group, via Getty Images

Each year, we issue an open casting call for high school seniors who have dared to address money, work or social class in their college application essays. From the large pile that arrived this spring, these four — about parents, small business, landscapes and the meaning a single object can convey — stood out. The fifth essay in our package appeared on The New York Times’s new Snapchat Discover, and you can view it at this link by pressing the arrow/play button.


Blaine, Minn.

Jonathan Ababiy

Mr. Ababiy, a student at Blaine High School, plans to attend the University of Minnesota.CreditMatthew Hintz for The New York Times

‘The professors’ home was a telescope to how the other (more affluent) half lived’


At age 6, I remember the light filled openness of the house, how the whir of my mother’s vacuum floated from room to room. At 9, I remember how I used to lounge on the couch and watch Disney cartoons on the sideways refrigerator of a TV implanted in a small cave in the wall. At 12, I remember family photographs of the Spanish countryside hanging in every room. At 14, I remember vacuuming each foot of carpet in the massive house and folding pastel shirts fresh out of the dryer.

I loved the house. I loved the way the windows soaked the house with light, a sort of bleach against any gloom. I loved how I could always find a book or magazine on any flat surface.

But the vacuum my mother used wasn’t ours. We never paid for cable. The photographs weren’t of my family. The carpet I vacuumed I only saw once a week, and the pastel shirts I folded I never wore. The house wasn’t mine. My mother was only the cleaning lady, and I helped.

My mother and father had come as refugees almost twenty years ago from the country of Moldova. My mother worked numerous odd jobs, but once I was born she decided she needed to do something different. She put an ad in…

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