CommonApp College Essay

I have now completed my first full week of college and would love to share with all of you the essay I wrote for my college applications…enjoy!

Prompt: 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.

I have a lot in common with the peanut. On the outside I have a tough shell, but on the inside, I have more of a soft crunch. Sometimes I can be a little salty, but more often I’m sweet. Plus, I’m really small – the five feet tall kind of small. Although I have similarities with the peanut, paradoxically enough, I can’t eat it. I even needed multiple people to describe  the taste of a peanut to me for that characterization above. It’s not that I don’t like it, or am a super picky eater; I’m severely allergic to it, and have been since birth. It’s not just peanuts though. Ask me what I’m allergic to and I’ll respond with a well-rehearsed

“milkeggsbeefpeanutslambsesamecarrotsstrawberriesandnuts.”

I understand that this is a jaw dropping list. In a small town like mine though, it’s no surprise that I am the only person with nine food allergies. However, food allergies are only isolating if you allow them to be. Through my food allergies, I have learned that I am a part of something larger than myself. I am one of 250 million people, one of 15 million Americans, and one of 1.2 million American youth. I may be one person with nine food allergies, but I am one person who can make a difference.

Just as peanuts are grown in clusters and sold together in cans, I want to be united with those that are like me. In August of 2012, I began my journey to achieving this connection when I created my blog “Allergy Alli” as my Girl Scout Silver award and became an advocate for those with food allergies. With every post published and every page view tracked, my digital presence increased, although it was mainly with an unintended audience. I originally aimed to reach out to my peers, but quickly discovered that I gained more interest from the parents of children with food allergies. I often receive messages, emails, and comments from these parents that are filled with encouragement and gratitude for sharing my experiences. Through my blog, these parents gain a better understanding of their children’s disease and what the future potentially holds for them.

As the page views continued to mount and the “likes” on my corresponding Facebook page continued to grow, I took another step in advocacy. I applied and was accepted into the Food Allergy Research and Education’s Teen Advisory Group, also known as TAG. I am now one of 40 members out of a multitude of applicants who applied nationwide, which has given me another opportunity to connect and learn with other allergic teens. The more I wrote, commented, and connected with this group and my followers, the more I learned that the power in my words positively impacts others and makes a difference in their lives.

Just as peanuts take on many different forms, there are more sides to me than just “The Girl with Food Allergies.” I am a scholar, performer, musician, photographer, cheerleader… I can just as easily be found curled up reading Les Misérables as I can be found singing “I Dreamed a Dream.” I almost always have a camera dangling from my neck or my pompoms shaking in my hands. It’s these characteristics that I tend to write about on my blog because it’s never been about my food allergies, but how I live with them. My food allergies are a large and important part of who I am, but they are not everything I am.

When I was younger, I hated being different and set apart from everyone else. I’ve come to learn, however, that food allergies are what you make them. Now, I don’t mind being different if it means I can make a difference. The best part is, I have many more years ahead of me, and I’ve only just cracked the shell.

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Looking Back at Where We Started – Advice for New FA Parents

Many people come to my page looking for food allergy advice from a teenager’s perspective. But it was through my formative years, when I was unable to make safe food decisions on my own, that I truly learned how to live with food allergies (shout out to my amazing parents!). However, after living so long with food allergies as a part of our lives, whether they are yours or a loved ones’, we sometimes forget what it took to get where we are today – all of the ups and downs, the sleepless nights, the tears, the triumphs…

So what I’m asking you is this: what is your best advice for new parents of children with food allergies? How have you helped your child better understand what to do? How do you cope when it gets tough and scary?

Whether you have a “To Do” or “Not To Do,” please share in the comments below, contact me through my Facebook page, or email me at allergyalli@gmail.com! I look forward to hearing what everyone has to share and I hope that we can provide some helpful insight to those new FA Parents out there that are nervous.

Thank you all in advance! 

~Alli

How My Food Allergies Affected My College Decision

I am about to deliver a statement that might surprise some people: a school’s dining services DID NOT affect my college decision. From the beginning of my college search, I decided that I would not let my food allergies restrict me in this way. I knew I wanted to choose a college that made me happy, and for me, that means a school with an accredited architecture program, a sense of community on campus, and a value placed on community service; I wanted a place to call home – not just my school. Therefore, I decided to not place any value on the dining services, because I knew that no matter where I choose to attend, I would be able to find something to eat.

When it came down to it, something that did affect my decision because of my allergies was the distance. By mid-April, I had narrowed it down to two schools: The Catholic University of America in Washington DC and the University of Notre Dame in South Bend Indiana. These two schools both have an outstanding architecture program, an amazing sense of community, and great opportunities for community service. In the end, the largest difference for me between the two is the distance – by car, CUA is 4 hours away and ND is 10 hours away. My mom kept reiterating to me that if I ever have an allergic reaction and am hospitalized, it would be a lot easier for them to travel 4 hours than 10, and we both loved that all the family I have in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area would be able to help me if I ever need it. At Notre Dame, I would be isolated and alone in any emergency situation, without any family nearby.

Although location was not the only factor in my final decision, it was enough that it made an impact. College is a completely new experience, and I will have to learn how to live with my food allergies in a completely different environment. This means that there is a larger chance that I might make mistakes, and I know its worth having access to family that I know and trust if I ever need it. I know CUA was the right choice.

~Alli

My College Decision and Their Dining Services

I am excited to announce that I will be attending The Catholic University of America as a member of the Class of 2020! I look forward to studying architecture in the School of Architecture and Planning and am already counting down the days until I move in. Although it’s well past May 1st (National College Decision Day), I’ve waited until today to share this with you because I just spoke with the Resident District Manager from CUA’s Dining Services a few days ago- which is what I really want to share.

When I visited Catholic University for an accepted students day, I did not have the opportunity to speak with dining services on campus (they were just too busy with so many visitors), but I was impressed with the lunch they served us; they had different “lunch boxes” that came with an apple, chips, cookies, and your choice of sandwich – ham, turkey, grilled chicken, or PB&J. They hung a sign near these boxes, though, that said “If you would like a nut, dairy, and gluten free option, please ask a staff member,” and upon my request, they brought out a different box. But instead of a sandwich, it contained a grilled chicken salad, and instead of the chocolate chip cookies, it had a package of Lucy’s Sugar Cookies (a brand that is known for being allergy friendly and all natural). Although it was a simple gesture, I was very impressed.

The conversation I had today with the manager of Catholic’s dining services only further impressed me. When I first emailed him with a run down of my food allergies and a request for a phone call, he was quick to respond. My mom and I had the opportunity to ask him plenty of questions, and he gave us a break down of how the dining hall worked. Here’s the gist of what he told me:

  • He will set up a meeting with the staff members when I first get on campus so I can personally introduce myself and inform them about my allergies
    • He said it’s important that I’m vocal and not shy so the staff members will start to recognize me over the first few weeks (I told him this would definitely not be a problem)
  • They have a four week cycle without any repetition within those four weeks, so although the first cycle will be the hardest as I’m learning what I can and can’t eat, it will get easier with time
    • Once they have the menu for this cycle in August, they will send it out to me so I have a general idea of what I will and won’t be able to eat
  • They have stations that are “Made to Order” so I can watch the staff member make my food in a separate allergen-free area of the station.
  • Most importantly, he said that he and the dining staff are willing to help in every way possible to keep me safe. They take pride in their food services and are trained to handle allergens and have done so in the past, and love to hear feedback if there’s ever anything I feel they could do better.

Although I was confident about my decision to attend Catholic before, I now have even more faith in my decision. I look forward to sharing my future endeavors at CUA and how I got to this point in the college process.

Only 105 days until move in… go Cardinals!

~Alli

Epi-pen Survey for a Science Fair

I had one of my followers reach out to me today to inform me that she is doing her science fair project related to food allergies. She needs as many people as possible to fill out her survey regarding carrying epinephrine auto-injectors.

Follow this link to complete it:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/11aX-VtK3wKFZA2daKygDAyjQAUVmHCUiZlR96boAMDE/viewform?c=0&w=1

It’s only three short and simple questions, so please help her make her project successful and fill it out!

All the best  ~ Alli

College Essay

I’m almost done with my common app essay! Does it surprise anyone that I’m writing it about my food allergies and my blog?:) I want to share it with you all once I’m done…I still can’t believe I’m even applying to colleges right now. Where did the time go?

Just a thought-provoking idea for today:

“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday, without you ever really noticing, someday is today, and that someday is yesterday, and that this is your life.”

I hope everyone is doing well!

All the best,

-Alli