A bus. The yellow lighting of the gas station against the dark hours of midnight. Fast asleep. Silence. My head slumped over my mom’s shoulder. Her voice timid and hesitant as she stumbled through a sentence in English at the cash register. A Winnie the Pooh journal. These are the things I remember when I think of when my mom and I immigrated to America.

Camila Cabello, “Our Dreams Were Bigger Than Our Fears”

What a captivating opening paragraph to Camila Cabello’s “Our Dreams Were Bigger Than Our Fears” essay! It’s difficult to not continue reading after you’ve skimmed your eyes through these few sentences.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the tale that Camila documents in her essay is one of the most American stories that you can come across. It chronicles her family’s journey to become citizens of the United States, their tireless pursuit and fulfillment of the American Dream, the strength of women, and the beauty in living and breathing a diversity of cultures – both past and present.

Read “”Our Dreams Were Bigger Than Our Fears” – Essay” by Camila Cabello on Genius

This is even more relevant with the 2020 Presidential Elections right around the corner. But what moved me the most was how much her story could have been mine. My parents were also immigrants. My mother is from Taiwan and my father was a refugee from the Vietnam War.

Their stories, although unique to them, follow a similar tale of courage, strength, and resilience – the qualities required to immigrate and settle in the United States.

Camila’s essay also impressed me because even within first glance, I could tell that this was an essay that could be worthy of winning a scholarship (not that Camila will ever need one).

And with so many other students out there that are either an immigrant themselves or come from an immigrant background, it’s important to share tips on how you can also turn your own immigrant story into an award-winning essay.

So in today’s blog, I’m going to explain why I think Camila’s “Dreams” Essay could be worthy of a winning a scholarship.

Insight #1: Camila’s Essay is a Goldmine of Meaningful Themes  

In a mere 14 paragraphs and a personal touch, Camila maps out her family’s entire journey of immigrating to the United States. And it’s a whole lot more than just an immigrant story – it’s a story with many layers and nuances – as it should be!

An immigrant story is ultimately a story about people and their humanity. It will only be complete with all the elements of the human condition with all the ups and downs, the doubts, the fears, the excitement, and hope.

And because Camila’s essay captures so many meaningful themes, each theme itself can be developed into their own separate essays. Let’s just take a closer look at all the themes that this essay either centers on or just mentions in passing.

Sometimes we don’t really know what we want to write about until we actually start writing.
And Camila’s essay demonstrates how powerful it can be flush out all of the ideas/stories that you might want to write about in a single essay.

This helps us explore all our ideas while creating a goldmine for stories that you can use for other purposes in the future.


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    Insight #2: The Themes in Camila’s Story Are Extremely Versatile

    The second reason why Camila’s essay is the perfect material for a winning scholarship essay is because the essay’s central themes are unbelievably adaptable. The different elements of this single story/essay can be diced up, re-arranged, or just re-imagined in a way that can suit a whole host of scholarship prompts.

    And to be clear, this doesn’t meant that Camila’s essay in its current form can be automatically used for different scholarship applications. It’s still need some restructuring and rewriting for it actually fit the purposes of a scholarship essay. But man! It’s a really solid start!

    Just to hammer this message home, here is just a handful of scholarship prompts that this essay could be transformed into:

    So the moral of the story? Save every essay draft you come up with. Each draft can be used as a blueprint of ideas and themes that you can recycle into future essays. I mean, why write 10 separate essays when you can just write 1 essay in 10 slightly different ways?

    Insight #3: The Essay Lays Out All the Key Building Blocks for Future Drafts

    Another awesome thing that Camila does is that she lays out the entire journey of her family’s story in an almost timeline fashion. By doing this, she makes is super easy to spot all the key events that has happened and makes it even easier to pick out the ones she can use for future drafts.

    Let me show you how this roadmap of an essay can work. This is what her essay looks like if we just break it down to each individual paragraph:

    Now pretend that Camila has identified 4 different scholarships that she’ll like to apply to. She can then look through this timeline of events and figure out which ones will be relevant (or irrelevant) for future essays.

    For example, let’s imagine that Camila wants to apply for a diversity scholarship (I know! Bear with me here!). And after careful consideration, she decides that she wants to write about the lessons that she learned from her mom.

    In which case, paragraph #5, #9, and  #10 would be really important for her story because they touch up on her mom’s sacrifices and the struggles she went through to take care of her family. These paragraphs can also give Camila some direction in terms of exploring how her mom’s presence had influenced her own development.

    On the other hand, paragraph #7 and #11 are not needed at all. I mean Camila can probably get away with telling a story about her mom without mentioning her ride on a Greyhound bus bound for Miami and when her father reunited with them in the United States. 😛

    I am sure these are really interesting and meaningful stories in their own right, but since they’re not directly related to the main theme (Camila’s mom), they’re not needed.

    Each scholarship essay will take on a different form based off of the specific needs of the scholarship and the audience that you’re writing to. So it’s incredibly useful when you have a list of events where you can pick and choose which ones work best.

    Here are more examples:

    • Diversity Scholarship– Paragraph #9, #10, #11, #12, #14

    • Women’s Academic Scholarship- Paragraph #5, #8, #9, #10, #12

    • Merit Scholarship– Paragraph #2, #3, #9, #11, #12, #14

    • Career Potential Scholarship– Paragraph #2, #3, #5, #12

    Having an essay that chronicles all your stories can make it much easier for you to figure out what events you’ll like to include or exclude in your future draft.

    Stay tuned next Monday where I’ll show you how a Camila Cabello could adapt this essay into an actual scholarship essay!


    “Camila Cabello – OMG (ft. Quavo)” by Alef Alencar is marked under CC PDM 1.0. To view the terms, visit https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/

    “Camila Cabello” by rocor is licensed with CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

    “Camila Cabello” by rocor is licensed with CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/ 

    “Camila Cabello” by rocor is licensed with CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/