Save the Estuaries

This is an essay written for the Harvard supplement to the Common Application. No specific prompt was given.

I sometimes wonder whether I've ever made any personal decisions. I think my parents have shaped my life to their liking: I attended Exeter in the footsteps of my father, and now I find myself in Rennes, where he studied thirty years ago. I do not regret the decisions that they have made for me-instead, I have enjoyed and appreciated the education I am so lucky to receive. But, as I stand on the threshold between high school and college, I feel like it's time to think for myself.

Many connections pull me towards Harvard. Indeed, there are so many that some people take it for granted that I will attend Harvard.

"Your parents went to Harvard, your cousin goes to Harvard, you speak four languages, you go to Exeter and. . . your father has just been offered a chaired professorship there? Of course you'll get in."

All it takes is a mention of the revered name. Rarely do people ask me why I want to attend Harvard. I can't blame them, because I myself sometimes feel as if Harvard is, naturally and inexplicably, the next bend in the road to follow. But when I reflect on the path that I have taken-and try to distinguish my own personal course-I wonder why I am applying. I wonder if I am not merely influenced...

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