My college essay (common application main essay) when applying for undergraduate -- I wrote this in 2016:
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The time is 4 AM. It is a Sunday – during summer vacation – and I have just woken up. No, this is not some chance event. This is my routine that I follow 365 days a year.

My sleeping schedule is just one way my heritage has shaped my life. As a Hindu, I spend around half an hour praying and meditating every morning and evening. Let me explain: I don't pray for grace, blessings, or special favors. Rather, I practice meditation: reflecting on the universal values and ideals of Hinduism, striving to make them a part of me.

When I meditate in the morning, I ask myself: What can I do to make today worthwhile? In the evening, I examine my actions throughout the day. When did I follow my values? And when could I have done better? This constant routine of introspection and reflection has allowed me to constantly strengthen and improve myself.

One of the most important values I strive to follow is brahmacharya, or self-control. Instead of pulling all-nighters working on my schoolwork or watching movies, I am sound asleep in bed every night by 9:30 PM. Having a set deadline every day forces me to finish all my work early; it has effectively eliminated procrastination. I fit my workload into my schedule, not the other way around.

But this was not always the case.

It all started with that moment – one of those rare "aha" moments that inspires you to change the course of your life forever. I was in tenth grade. My friend, who had just returned from a trip throughout India, mentioned that everyone traveling with him was awake by 4 AM every day. I was incredulous! How could that even be possible? "It's hard at first," he said. "But once you get used to it, you'll be full of energy." So I decided to try it as well. If he could do it, why couldn't I?

Turns out, it was a struggle. Every day, I would wake up to the sound of my alarm. "You're tired," my body would complain. Most days I would snooze or ignore my alarm, letting it ring for hours. And my poor brother had to sleep through this!

Other days, I would fight back. "Come on!" I would tell myself. "Just get out of bed." And my friend was right! When I got up early, not only did I get a head start on the day, but I felt more energetic, more in control of my life. Slowly but surely, this became a routine.

Now, it's effortless. I no longer use an alarm. And when I wake up, I'm not tired, but rather excited for the day ahead and the possibilities that follow. What I have gained is the value of satyam, which is an attitude of steadfastness, perseverance, and determination towards a goal.

Single-pointed focus towards my goals has served me well. When I focus on the task at hand rather than the result, all distractions melt away. This attitude has often led to success, such as when I direct a quizbowl tournament, program mobile apps, or take college courses. It doesn't stop the inevitability of failure, though. I didn't make the district honor band, nor the quizbowl A team, on my first try. But in each case, I have a sense of satisfaction that I gave it my best – and a fierce determination to improve.

So that is who my religion and lifestyle has made me into. Not a blind worshipper, but a better human being. Moreover, these values have brought me a sense of inner calmness and confidence. No matter what happens, my work ethic continues to be the guiding force of my life. I would never sell myself short! When I try my hardest and apply myself completely, there really is no limit to what is possible.