Perhaps the thing that Ateneo applicants dread the most, next to Mathematics, is the prospect of writing an essay. Unfortunately, if you’re interested in an Ateneo education, you’ll be eating essays for breakfast lunch and dinner. The time to start preparing for that is right now—before you even take the Ateneo College Entrance Test (ACET).
To help out, I’ve included a sample ACET essay for you, coupled with some notes and guidelines for study. Please note that you do not have to write your essay in exactly this way; this is just a reference to help you get started. You will naturally have your own writing style and approach to things.
The Sample Essay
The following sample is a treatise on the topic of frustration—something you’re likely to experience at least once when you’re interacting with peers from all walks of like in an academic institution known for its high standards. I’ve also included some footnotes on points I felt I needed to emphasize:
Coping Effectively with the “F” Word
A wise person once told me that oftentimes, it’s not the big problems that trip us up the most, but the many, many little annoyances that come in battalions. It’s because of the fact that they’re “little” that they often escape our immediate notice—at least until they pile up and grate on our patience.
Fortunately, I’ve experienced frustration enough times that I’ve learned to deal with it more effectively than before, or to at least minimize its damaging effects. Perhaps the following guidelines may help you, too.
The Three-Minute Rule
Chances are, the first thing that pops into your head when you’re frustrated is not the right thing to do or say. That’s why it’s very important to take some time off for what is known as the “Three-Minute Rule.”
The rule basically dictates that when you start to feel frustrated, back off or at least three minutes to get some much needed perspective on the situation. Take the time to pray and to seek guidance and wisdom.
Note that three minutes is an arbitrary span time. It may be three minutes, three hours, or three days. The important thing is to let your emotions cool down sufficiently to the point where you can think clearly again, and then act.
Look for the Unorthodox Alternative
A story is told of Alexander the Great undertaking the challenge of untying the Gordian Knot. The knot was said to have been tied in such a complex manner that no one was able to untie it.
The shrewd Alexander, however, simply drew his sword and cut the knot, effectively untying it. Since then, the expression “cutting the Gordian Knot” has come to mean solving a complex problem using unique and ingenious means.
Like Alexander, see if you can find another way to solve your problem instead of pursuing a course of action that just doesn’t work. For example, if you can’t get through an obstacle, perhaps you can go around it somehow.
The Need to Let Go
One question that inspirational speakers and writers like to ask themselves is if something will still be worth fussing over ten, fifty, or even one hundred years from now. Chances are, the thing that’s causing you so much frustration right now may not even be important next year. If so, are you perhaps giving it more attention than it is really worth?
One lesson that the late inspirational writer Richard Carlson left me is the choice of being right or being happy. We mistakenly think that we will only be happy if we prove ourselves right and everyone else wrong, or if we nail that difficult problem and show everyone what we’ve accomplished.
Some things are simply not worth your peace of mind. Sometimes, it’s better to swallow your pride and to make a strategic withdrawal instead of forcing the issue at the time. As Dr. Harold Sala once quipped, “Any bear can easily whip a skunk, but it’s just not worth it.”
A Final Word
The essay I’ve included above is just one example of many. You can find more examples and guidelines online if ever you need more reference material. Here is a short list to help you get started:
Xavier School High 4 – This blog contains a sample essay and some excellent pointers
Ateneo Tribute Essays – While not exactly application essays, it may also help to study the essays on the Ateneo site. The ones here deal with the passing of former President Cory Aquino.
A Winning Contest Essay – Here’s the essay that won the “Rizal na, Europa Pa,” essay contest for Mr. Joaquin Carlos de Jesus.
Peer Papers – If you have some money to invest, try reading the essays on this site. You’ll notice the names of some famous Ateneans here, too.
Finally, remember that essay-writing is an applied skill—like all skills, it may be developed through constant practice. The good news is that the more you practice creating essays, the more you’ll be able to refine your technique and develop a unique style and a voice all your own.
 The title is the first thing your readers will look at, so try to make it catchy and hook them in with it.
 It helps to start off your essay with something attention-grabbing. In my case, I opted for “a saying of the wise.”
 If your essay is fairly long, using captions or headings to break it up into segments helps.
 Whenever you mention something that may be unfamiliar to your reader, take the time to explain it. Don’t leave your readers scratching their heads in confusion.
 Stories are great for getting your point across in an engaging manner. Besides, people love them.
 If you’re going to tell a story, choose one that’s somehow related to the message you’re trying to communicate. That way, it’s easier to link your story to your point.
 Quoting, paraphrasing or simply drawing stuff from famous personalities can help lend credence to your essay.
 If you start your essay with a bang, end it with a bang as well. Audiences tend to recall the beginning and the end of your presentation most clearly, so save your best for first and last.
I was typing yearbook entries all day and my fingers were starting to feel numb. I stopped. And a few minutes later I found myself…. staring at the insertion point. The exact same thing I wrote about in my Ateneo Essay.
I thought I left the post-ACET (Ateneo College Entrance Test) depression behind when I ate Zarks after taking it but here it is haunting me! I remembered how poorly I did in the WHOLE test. No, I am not exaggerating. Time pressure did a great job screwing up my mindset then. I already took the ACET when I was a Junior for the AJSS (Ateneo Junior Summer Seminar). I could still recall my 3rd year self cursing the test items. Of course I didn’t pass. Taking it now that I’m a senior didn’t make a difference. I still had no knowledge of Trigonometry. I still did poorly in Math which ACET is like 99% of.
I’m very sure I did better in the UPCAT than the ACET but Ateneo has a different way of screening applicants so I’m still clinging to that tiny bit of hope of passing the ACET.
Another thing that’s really making me hope I get accepted is the essay I sent it with my application form. I’m so proud of it because I believe it’s the best literary piece I ever made in my entire life of course with the help from a friend of mine. It’s the greatest summation of Jerm and his awkward life. Reading this made me
forget temporarily forget about the post-ACET depression. (am I the only person who notices how awkward acet looks like in capital letters?)
If you’ve been reading my blog ever since, you might have noticed that the essay was my last post on there but here it is since I moved. Essay was here
For countless minutes, I sat in front of my laptop, watching the insertion point blink, waiting for my mind to come up with any idea of what significant experience or accomplishment I should discuss in this essay. I was not used to the feeling of being at a loss for ideas. In the tests I took in school, I would always say that the essay was the easiest part. This time, it seemed like I was writing an essay for the first time and I did not know how to start. Then, I remembered being stuck in the same situation, staring at the insertion point. It happened a year ago, it was the day I published my first blog post.
I was a reserved guy before. I found it uncomfortable to talk to people, sometimes, even to my friends. I actually spent more time in the company of books, delighting in the joys of reading than in interacting with people. I was used to the routine so it did not bother me before. I was happy being left alone in the corner, swaying in the background. However, all that changed when I attended a leadership training seminar. It was then that I realized that I turned down so many opportunities. I stopped joining quiz bees and I even dropped out from a student council election, all because I was afraid of being branded; of being labeled as a nerd. My perspective, my attitude towards others, everything started to change after I attended the seminar. It became clear to me that I was too afraid to trust in people and to let them know who I really was. It was hard to accept that all those times, the only critic I had was myself. I guess it is true that the biggest opponent you will ever face is yourself.
A pang of guilt struck me when I remembered all the people who believed in me when I did not and all their efforts that were left unappreciated. I felt the need to explain everything; to make them understand. I wanted people to hear me in the best way I know how, that is, through writing. So I published my first blog post. All my efforts paidoff. My attempt was viewed in a positive light and things started to slowly but surely change for the better. I found my voice and I was heard.
From that day on, I tried writing blogs as much as I could. I soon realized that I was back on the road of self-development, not to mention self-improvement. My blog made me gain a certain amount of self-confidence and a small measure of respect – from myself and from others - along the way. I realized that my words really do mean something. I realized that my words amounted to something much more. Apart from gaining the respect of my peers, I gained their trust also. And upon that realization I came out from the obscurity I relegated myself into in the past.
I am happy that I took the first bold step and mustered all the courage I had and posted my first blog post in spite of my disposition at that time. In the heels of my new found courage and confidence, I rode the wave of respect and trust that arose after I wrote that simple blog post and dared to take a shot to become the president of the senior council of our school. It was something I dreamed of for quite a long time but I did not know if I was cut out for it due to the fear I harbored; an imagined fear; a fear that crippled my ability to trust in myself; a fear that destroyed my self-confidence; a fear that was, in the end, dispelled by the act of writing that first blog post.
In the immortal words of Albus Dumbledore, ‘Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.’ The greatest realization I made in this experience was knowing the real power of words. I found out that it can change lives for surely it has changed mine. And that is why I want to be a writer and a journalist someday, to exploit the power of words. The amazing power of words has been used by notable figures in our society today and all throughout history. Following their steps, I stand by and firmly believe in the saying: ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’ something that has been embodied by arguably the most notable example of whom is no less than our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. These seven words are proof that the power of words transcends time and any social change.
I believe that whatever I have been through in the past, how insignificant it might seem then, is essential to who I am now. I am proud of the accomplishments I have achieved. I am glad for the mistakes I have made. I am happy that I engaged into this new journey as an applicant writing this essay. This is but the first step of a long and difficult journey ahead. There are a lot more to learn. The future awaits, and the next page is about to unfold. I shall face it with my head held up high, drawing strength and inspiration from my renewed faith and confidence in myself and with the respect and trust given to me by my family and friends. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. But one thing is for sure though, I will be writing all about it for the world to read.
I still hope I get accepted by Ateneo even if I couldn’t afford education there. I love the color blue and Ateneo is blue. I love their campus and gaah why can’t I study in three schools at once.
I wish everyone who took the ACET 2013 and are about to take the AJSS 2014 the best of luck. - Jerm