First, Columbia; Then, the World


Photo donated by Mariana Colicchio


In the narrow span of a semi-frantic eight hours, Mariana Colicchio analyzed judicial precedent, deconstructed binary constitutional distinctions, and submitted a comprehensive entry to the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review High School Essay Contest. 

   After a few months of thorough deliberation, the judges affirmed what Mariana already knew: her essay wasn’t just good—it was the best they had received.

   As a part of her painstaking preparation, Mariana planned a single draft on “half a sheet of yellowed legal pad paper.” Her thoughts and those scribbles were what she used to compose her award-winning essay, beating out countless other applicants to earn her a lauded first place position.

   Some would say she procrastinated up until the very last minute. Mariana, after first begrudgingly agreeing, would maintain that she already had a general framework and knowledge about the court cases she was going to use. Years before she even considered the contest, Mariana participated in an “intensive criminal trial advocacy class with a brilliant legal professor,” who introduced her to “4th amendment jurisprudence” and fanned a budding passion for constitutional law.

    As a result, Mariana wasn’t overly intimidated by the contest’s 2020 prompt. As a result, she didn’t start really typing until the morning of her deadline. 

   Inhaling a cup of black tea and half a banana, Mariana coalesced abstract ideas into decipherable sentences. With the help of Charter debate alumni Michael Omole and Yasmeen Metellus, Mariana wrote, edited, and wrote again, dancing the thin line between confidence and all-consuming doubt.

   The final product was brilliantly researched and philosophically unified, not to mention extremely well written. Of course, an error or two slipped through, but considering her success, Mariana says, “It’s pretty safe to say that [the judges] liked it enough.”

   After all, who would pay any serious attention to the remnant of a small, very amusing editorial comment left in footnote three, located right on the bottom of page one?

   Uninterrupted hours and weeks of anxiety came to fruition during the last ten minutes of Mariana’s break at Trader Joe’s. She had gotten an email, days after she had stopped compulsively checking. 

   She had done it. She had won.

   After sending out a flurry of texts, she had to “swallow [her] excitement and go back to work for 3 hours.”

    Standing on the ledge between high school and college, certain decisions and achievements mean all the more for applications and one’s future. That being said, people define their own achievements, and not the other way around. 

   As Mariana writes her way into a school that’s worthy of her dedication and ambition, lines on her Common App won’t indicate what type of person she is.

   The effort behind the experiences on those lines will.

   As she continues to push into her future, Mariana will continue to try, win, fail, and try again. To know this about her is to know something equally important: this first place success is far from her last.

You can read Mariana’s essay here: