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My Personal Statement: Harvard University - Sam T.

JAN 09, 2021 • 7 min read

Sam was accepted to Harvard and Yale with his personal statement which  juxtaposed The American Dream with The Kiwi Dream of his home country, New Zealand. He described how the latter has evolved to create friction between the simpler, older generation and the younger, more aspirational generation — and how these observations have shaped his passions and pursuits.

This essay is part of a collection of personal statements written by Crimson students who were accepted to their top-choice universities in the US and UK. By bringing together nearly 25 of our best students’ essays, we want to provide inspiration for future students with the same aspirations and goals. This series will showcase the wonderful variety in our student’s essay creations — powered by their personal voice and supported by their dedicated Crimson essay mentors. Ready to be inspired? Let’s go...


I asked an American friend what the oft-vaunted American Dream was.

After thinking about it, he told me that it was "freedom and equality for all, with prosperous opportunities for those who persevere and find them". Similarly, James Truslow Adams, responsible for coining the phrase, described it as that "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement". These statements forced me to reflect on how the Kiwi Dream compared.

The Kiwi Dream seems simple contrasted with these lofty ideas - after all, it amounts to "a family house on a quarter acre section, with at least one car, and if you're lucky, a boat, a bach, and a beach holiday". There are no sweeping comments on freedom, equality or opportunity in this dream, just the down-to-earth belief that if you're providing for your family, you're living the dream. The Kiwi Dream that my parents worked towards, while still held up for all New Zealanders to look to, no longer reflects what our society aspires to. That "Kiwi Dream" is now the "Urban Dream", promising home ownership, big SUVs, and glitzy developments. This narrative refinement has abandoned broad swathes of New Zealanders as it becomes more and more urbane and wealthy.

Our rural sector is the backbone of the New Zealand economy, but the Kiwi Dream does not reflect that. It focuses on "city luxuries" like the size of one's backyard while neglecting the real struggles of New Zealand - that farmers have to worry whether their local school will have enough students to stay open, and where their kids will go if not, or whether the milk price will be high enough to keep the farm afloat. The Kiwi Dream also ignores the reality of life for many Maori, who are disproportionately represented in statistics for poverty, for health, for homelessness and in the justice system. For too many Maori, the dream is being able to pay next week's rent, not a mortgage deposit, and to them, the picturesque Kiwi Dream must seem almost mocking.

The Kiwi Dream should be ideological, not material; its foundations should rest on building a better nation, not a better asset value. Its implicit exclusivity perpetuates the extant divisions in our society - rich and poor, urban and rural, Pakeha and Maori - and reinforces the unjust institutional conditions that these minorities face. The Kiwi Dream uplifts many Kiwis, but those who it leaves out, it leaves behind.

For me, the conflict between those included and excluded from the Kiwi Dream is deeply personal. I am a microcosm of Aotearoa; my father's parents are Maori labourers, my mother's are Pakeha farmers, and despite that all, I've lived a middle-class life in the city suburbs. The experiences I have lived epitomise the demographic of the current Kiwi Dream, but the histories I am heir to are exactly those that are being forsaken.

That friction is what motivates my personal battle to redefine the Kiwi Dream to incorporate all New Zealanders. As a Youth MP and Youth Councillor I have proudly called for governing institutions to embrace the views of youth when making decisions that shape our future. As a National Party member, I have fiercely advocated that our "conservative" party must be prepared to create a vision for the next election that carries all New Zealanders to prosperity.

We often ridicule the American Dream and its grandiloquence. But the truth is that we have something to learn from it. For all its grandeur and spectacle, it advances an ideal that every American can aspire to. Opportunity and freedom are beliefs that unite, rather than fracture, and now more than ever we must look to unity. We can no longer afford to divide our society by class or race; I hope to shape the future of the Kiwi Dream to be an aspiration.

NEXT WEEK: Read the essay that got Teresa A. into King’s College London!


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