College Essay Examples



Given the battered economy, the housing market collapse, and spiraling costs of inflation, what is the state of the American dream? Although the country has floundered through the largest recession since the Great Depression, 64 percent of Americans (Sorkin and Thee-Brenan 2014) said that they believe it is possible to start out poor, work hard, and become rich; in other words, only slightly more than half of Americans still believe in the quintessential American dream. The American dream has been a carefully constructed fallacy which negatively portrays the poor and working classes and excludes undocumented immigrants from having an “American” dream of their own, but since the recent recession, the definition of the American dream is changing.
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Proponents of the “work hard and pull yourself up by your bootstraps” camp do not understand the irony of the stance. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” was a phrase originally used to illustrate doing something impossible (CITE). It is physically impossible to put yourself off from the ground by pulling on your bootstraps. Why does this mentality persist among half the American population? Media plays a large role in the negative portrayal of the poor and the perception of the poor by those more affluent. Beliefs like one can live a comfortable life working a menial, low-skilled job are perpetuated in televisions shows like the well-known sitcom, Friends: Rachel lived in a spacious apartment in Manhattan while working as a waitress in a café. If Rachel can do it, why can’t anyone?
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Over the last decade or two, the American middle class has become a shell of its former self, with a prosperous, well-educated minority growing on one side which is now colloquially known as ‘the 1%’ and the working class majority on the other side facing greater adversity and limited opportunity to change their circumstances. This is the greatest wealth disparity America has seen since the days of robber barons and the birth of the American dream (Robber, 2012).
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The conceptualization of the American Dream is one that is important to track throughout the history of the United States. The basic tenets of the American Dream are “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” (The American, 2015). However, the very conceptualization of the American Dream from an objective standpoint is that each person will have a better life; not that everyone will reach the upper echelon of power and prestige, but that they are granted the chance. Still, there are several factors that are keeping Americans from realizing this dream.
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One of the first ways that the United States’ dream is being extinguished is through the terrible divide in overall education. Being that the highest paying jobs in the United States require some form of post-secondary degree, it is safe to say that pay is an indicator of whether or not a person will be successful in their pursuit of the American Dream. According to the findings of Georgetown University, the higher education that an individual has is one of the determinant factors about the total amount of money that an individual will be able to make throughout their lives. A person holding a Bachelor’s Degree will earn about $2.37 million while someone without a degree will only earn $1.2 million dollars throughout their lives (Burnsed, 2011). This shows that there is a definitive disparity between those who are able to attend school and those who are not. Of course, this falls back to the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” fallacy, that anyone who is truly dedicated to being able to go to college will be allowed to. Yet, this is a sheer lie, as there are many factors that determine if an individual is able to go to college at all.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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