As part of College Confidential's essay series, we're sharing personal essays from students who were admitted to college during a prior admissions cycle. The student who wrote this as his essay was accepted to Tufts University, and we are sharing it with his permission.
"Do you only own one shirt? Or do you have a whole closet full of the same one?"
Over the last 11 years, I have fielded this question hundreds of times. Although it's now common knowledge that Apple founder Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day of his professional life, I certainly wasn't aware of that when I created my "uniform" back in first grade. That was when my mom took me back-to-school shopping and I picked out just one white T-shirt and one pair of blue jeans. When she asked what else I wanted, I said that was going to be my outfit for the year.
We picked up two weeks' worth of the same shirt and pants, and that's what I wore every day, the whole year. When second grade rolled around, I changed up the shirt to make it a blue polo, but kept the blue jeans. I even slept in my uniform. Other kids may have thought it was weird, but other than asking questions, they never said anything negative about it.
Some school years, I was still so enamored with the previous year's outfit that I kept it a second year. Old class photos indicate that my black T-shirt/ light blue jeans combo endured for both fourth and fifth grades, but I shifted to a gray henley before moving to middle school. That helped me segue into the green henley I adopted in tenth and eleventh grades. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt in the heat of the summer may have seemed odd to some people. But I would even wear it to the beach without a second thought.
I have to assume my parents and teachers figured I'd outgrow this habit eventually. In pretty much every other way, I was a normal kid. But each August when the school clothes purchases were made, I went for just one look. One year, the school yearbook staff interviewed me about my fashion choice. Was it a comfort to have the same outfit all the time — almost like a pacifier or blanket?
No, I told them. It just made my life easier and gave me fewer things to worry about. I never had to decide what to wear — I always knew what the choice would be. But I also think it has something to do with my strong interest in art. As an artist, I like to express myself using the minimum number of tools. When I am trying to perfect an animation, I can tweak a character's eyebrow ever so slightly to convey sadness or elation. If I'm sketching an animal, the curve of its mouth can make the difference between it being relaxed or ready to pounce.
It's the same thing with me. The outfit is the one constant, so I can observe others while blending into the background. But if I want to stand out on a particular day, I have to consciously emote more with my expressions, my words and my movements. I can't rely on a snappy new pair of shoes to show people I'm ready to dance, since I wear the same maroon Vans on a daily basis.
As I write this essay, I'm already considering options for senior year of high school. Do I come into twelfth grade with a bang, sporting a silver jacket each day or an off-the-beaten-path pair of overalls? Should I really shock everyone and just buy a variety of clothes? As a student at an arts high school, I could probably wear a Batman costume every day with no issues.
Maybe that uncertainty every August is part of the joy of my uniform — I even surprise myself with each year's choices. Whatever prompted this decision over a decade ago is now something I embrace. I like that no matter what path I take in life, I won't have to decide which outfits to pack.
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