Sifting for essay gold, NYT finds a nugget from a new Duck

Tillena Trebon

Tillena Trebon is trading a life of “beautiful contradictions” in the dry Arizona sun for the damper, but perhaps greener, life of a first-year student at the University of Oregon.

A big step, for sure. But it got even bigger when her application essay was among a select few featured prominently in The New York Times. Nothing like having a worldwide audience for your first college paper.

Trebon lives in Flagstaff, splitting her time between her mother’s suburban home and her father’s rural ranch, one of the defining contradictions she described her short but lyrical essay.

“I live between a suburban land of plenty and a rural land of scarcity, where endless skies and pallid grass merge with apartment complexes and outdoor malls,” she wrote. “I balance on the edge of drought.”

Jim Rawlins, the UO’s admissions director, likened the 488-word composition to a tone poem that paints a picture in words. In relatively few paragraphs, it sketches a young life lived on the edge of different worlds, balanced yet torn.

“Tillie’s essay is a great example of an applicant who found her own unique way to share insights on who she is and how she sees the world around her,” Rawlins said. “Oregon is excited to welcome freshmen like this, who are aware of themselves and look to understand their environment.”

The Times seeks out some of the nation’s best college essays each year for its Your Money section, as a way to spark conversations about both money and life perspectives. This year, four essays were featured.

To read the Times’ story, see “This Year’s College-Bound Essayists and Their ‘Beautiful Contradictions.’ To read the essays, see “4 Standout College Application Essays on Work, Money and Class.”