Essay
Even though we live in a capitalist society, I still cannot help but believe, despite my own cynicism, that people are more motivated to achieve something for personal satisfaction rather than monetary gains. Look at Chekov's short story, "The Bet." A man agrees to sacrifice fifteen years of his life in prison in exchange for a million dollars. Obviously his motivation for such an extreme bet is wealth, but by the end of the prison sentence, the man could care less about the money. After years of introspection, of reading Shakespeare, The Bible, and textbooks, the man actually comes to despise the money he once sought; the money he signed away fifteen years of his life for. He does not collect his money from the banker, he runs away to be on his own and continue to live the life of solitude he has learned to love, free of money and possessions.

Also, in a psychology class, one of the first things students study when they come to the topic of motivation, is external stimulus versus personal drive. Any textbook will tell one that studies show that a child is more likely to put as much energy as possible into completing a task when it is something that makes him happy, than if he was doing it for a physical reward. A child is more likely to get good grades, if it makes him feel good about himself, than if his parents offer to pay him every time he makes the honor roll. I agree with this theory on motivation because I see it play out everyday in my life. If my older sister had been concerned with money and fame, which reality television tells us every night is important, she would have gone to college after graduating high school. She knew though, that school and learning did not make her happy, and she was not going to suffer through four more years of school just because a college degree could lead to a more successful job. Right now she does not make as much money at her job, but she likes her life and the way she lives; she has more fun answering phones and dealing with other people at work than she would behind a desk in a classroom. This past year I myself have been forced to look at my priorities as well. I have worked hard in school all my life and have made honor roll semester after semester, because I enjoy it. I have not filled up my schedule with classes I did not want because calculus and economics look good on a college transcript. I had a high enough GPA to join the National Honor Society, but I chose not to join because even though it might have impressed some admissions officers, it was not something that was going to make me happy. Instead I spend my time studying Creative Writing, Art History, and the other subjects I feel truly passionate about.

There is a pleasure principle in psychology, which basically means that one will do whatever will make them most happy or least unhappy. I think that is true, and I feel that the happiness most people seek out is not about money or luxury. Maybe it looks like that from the media, because advertising says that people want to be like Donald Trump, but that is not real life. Real life is my next door neighbor who gardens as a second job for small fees because he loves to be outside, working with his hands in the nice weather. I am sure no one would mind winning the lottery, but to say that it is our primary motivator in life is sad and untrue. A person who is happy and making minimum wage is likely to live longer than someone who spends his or her life working sixty four hour weeks at a stressful job to make money hand over fist. Are some people very driven by money? Yes. Is that more important than the personal satisfaction that comes from doing something good? Literature, psychology, and our personal lives tell us no, and I hope it stays that way.

Why this essay received a score of 6
This outstanding essay insightfully and effectively develops the point of view that, "Even though we live in a capitalist society, I still cannot help but believe ... that people are more motivated to achieve something for personal satisfaction rather than monetary gains." The writer demonstrates outstanding critical thinking by focusing on clearly appropriate examples from "Literature, psychology, and our personal lives" to support this position. The essay begins by describing Chekhov's "The Bet" as a short story that, through its main character's changed priorities after "years of introspection" in prison, ultimately places higher value on a "life of solitude ... free of money and possessions" than on wealth. The writer continues to demonstrate outstanding critical thinking by offering as evidence the psychological principle of "external stimulus versus personal drive" and several examples of how this principle has been borne out in a sister's and the writer's own lives. The essay concludes by once again drawing on psychology, this time the concept of the "pleasure principle," to reinforce the idea that "the happiness most people seek out is not about money or luxury" but in "the personal satisfaction that comes from doing something good." This well-organized and clearly focused essay demonstrates coherence and progression of ideas. The essay consistently exhibits skillful use of language and demonstrates meaningful variety in sentence structure ("After years of introspection, of reading Shakespeare, The Bible, and textbooks, the man actually comes to despise the money he once sought; the money he signed away fifteen years of his life for"). Thus, this essay demonstrates clear and consistent mastery and is scored a 6.

Source: The College Board

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