• Generation Change

My College Essay by Carly Milliken

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

About Carly: Carly Milliken is a senior at Kimball Union, and is from Vermont. She enjoys

making jewelry, adventuring with her friends and working with kids. Carly attended GLC as a camper and returned as an intern in the summer of 2019. 


As a child I was audacious, adventurous and wasn’t one to consider what my classmates thought about me. In first grade, I tied string all across my room and called it my spiderweb. I wore non-prescription glasses everywhere I went so I would look like my favorite doll, Molly. I showed up to school clad in my favorite pink overalls and purple clogs with my hair tied up into four ponytails, just because I thought it was fun.  However, by the time I entered sixth grade, something changed; suddenly I was afraid. Afraid of the looks I would get if I had more than one ponytail. Afraid of what would happen if anybody found out that I still played with dolls. In school, I kept quiet and walked the hallways alone, avoiding everyone’s eyes. Seventh grade was more of the same, but with a dash of difficult friendships. The confidence of my younger self seemed to have disappeared. That summer, my mother suggested that I attend the Girls’ Leadership Camp at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire. I didn’t want to go. I had been to camps before, and worries about sleeping away from home had marred the experience. But that July, due to my parents’ maxim of “try, try again”, I found myself being greeted by several buoyant women at the camp’s registration table. Their boundless enthusiasm disoriented me. How could these people be so bubbly? Who were these joyful little girls in women’s bodies?  Despite my lack of familiarity with the camp leaders, I immediately felt surprisingly comfortable with them. Their passion and hope for all girls was infectious. In the span of a week, we learned how society’s idea of a beautiful woman is narrow-minded, how the world objectifies women and treats them like they have less worth than men, and that generally, women need to work harder to be accepted in the world. They didn’t sugar-coat any of it. The leaders never failed to tell us we all mattered just the way we were. They helped us take the first steps towards self-acceptance and challenged us to discover our own definition of beauty.  For my eighth grade year, I worked to use what I learned at GLC. My confidence began to grow:  I started wearing crazy patterns again, and on occasion, I wore two ponytails. I even started raising my hand in my classes at school. And it wasn’t because I was no longer afraid - I often was - but I had come to terms with that fear. I found friends who would appreciate and reciprocate my energy. I felt like I didn’t have to try to change for these new friends, and more importantly, I found it increasingly easy to focus on what I liked about myself rather than what I disliked. Four years later, I decided to apply to be an intern at GLC and was accepted. I found myself once again surrounded by a collection of passionate women, though this time, I was one of them. I felt almost immune to the judgment that I had been afraid of since the sixth grade. I challenged myself, and barely felt afraid. I supported the younger girls as they learned; this was their chance to bask in what the world wouldn’t allow. Seeing the girls grow reminded me of myself when I was in their position, and made me aware of my own transformation. With the help of a group of supportive women, I reclaimed my individuality and my eclectic and colorful self. Going forward, I intend to retain ownership of these traits and help others embrace their own. 

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