The Responsibility of Freedom

Quote: Steve Jobs

Most teens eventually seek more independence from the watchful eyes of their parents, and many of them believe the freedom they so desire will be found attending college. Yet, just like Thomas Jefferson and the American Revolutionaries (or anyone seeking change), as so aptly advised: 

Prudence, indeed will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes…

Thus, applying Jefferson’s words of wisdom, college applicants would be prudent to examine the causes for seeking their independence from the “long established government” of their parents, in their own Declaration of Independence—the college autobiographical essays

Prompted by essay questions like on The Common Application

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Students must both identify the belief or idea questioned or challenged, as well as explain why they challenged said belief or idea, how they challenged said belief or idea, and the outcome of the process of challenging said belief or idea. Thus, they’re reflecting on the causes for declaring their independence.

Even questions on The Coalition Application which may not at first glance appear to be questioning why a student seeks independence, like: 

Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.

in order to tell the “story”, applicants must reflect on their experiences and their life’s circumstances from which their character was forged. Then, applicants can reveal more about the “causes” which are neither “light” nor “transient” for which they seek admissions to a college.

As a last example, a prompt included amongst the University of California Personal Insight Questions, applicants still have the opportunity to examine why they seek independence. 

What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?  

To know one’s inherent ability, students must then review their life’s experiences during which their ability was discovered, revealed, and/or demonstrated, in order to explain to admissions officers who they are

Additionally, in arguing “This is my Talent”, then applicants are gaining confidence in what Mr. Jefferson and The Declarers stated:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

And, inevitably, as a consequence of their self-reflection and Declaration of Independence, applicants are devising a road map that journeys through a college education on their individual “pursuit of Happiness”. 

Finally, like Jefferson, students too should depend on others who share their sentiment with whom they can collaborate on a multitude of drafts to refine their Declaration of Independence so they can finally realize the freedom inherent to their being. 


For nearly twenty years, Jill and the Creative Marbles team have assisted thousands of teenagers in drafting their own Declarations of Independence—the college essay version—and stand at the ready to advise any family and student, anywhere around the world. Contact Jill for more details.

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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