Common Application Essay: I Do
“Hey kids, here’s twenty bucks. If any of y’all have the guts to ask that there bride to dance, it’s yours,” offered a bearded man in a cowboy hat. He wore a slick black suit and shiny purple tie. His words made me feel like he was giving me a fantastic opportunity, but his smile was that of a used car salesman’s. The four of us kids stared at the man, and then three of them stared at me. I was staring at the bride.
We were all part of the quartet invited to perform at this wedding. I was its youngest member, a seventh grader among freshmen. When the man approached us, we were eating dinner from the taco buffet, and the guests were beginning to fill the dance floor.
In the center of it stood the lady of the night, tall and beautiful, with long curly brown locks of hair that flowed past her expensive crystal earrings. She was still in her bright white wedding dress and sparkling heels. I stood there for a good ten minutes, unable to work up the courage to ask her to dance. I was thirteen; she was thirty, and gorgeous. I was barely five feet tall; she towered over me in heels at six feet. Did I mention she was gorgeous?
The worst part was she didn’t know me and neither did any of her guests. I could already imagine everyone turning their heads as I asked the bride, the center of attention, to dance. What if everyone laughed at me? What if the groom was offended?
Before the quartet realized I was gone, I had already made it halfway to the bride. On the verge of making my invitation, I looked back at them. They glued their eyes to me, anticipating.
“Hi,” I squeaked shyly. She didn’t notice. Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” began to play.
“Hey there!” I almost shouted. She looked at me. I had a heart attack.
“Will you d-dance with me?” I managed to say. The quartet’s laughter could be heard over the music.
“Awe, of course!” she said nicely.
I stood there shocked. I never expected a “yes”. The agreement was that I ask the bride. Not once did I think I’d actually dance with her. Nervously, I put my arm on her waist and held her hand with my left. This was happening.
And all the guests were watching it, too. I took a shaky step forward; she instinctively stepped back. She knows what she’s doing. My mind raced to recall what little I learned in 5th grade P.E. about Salsa dancing. I put my left arm up and she smiled, crouching under it and doing a little spin. The height difference made it awkward, and soon I ran out of moves.
So I did my own Salsa, which were really just the Lawnmower and the Sprinkler. She played along and did the Running Man as best she could in her dress. The crowd erupted into laughter and cheered as we both did silly dances. When the music ended, I bowed to her, and everybody whistled and applauded. I felt like a champion.
That night gave me the courage to take risks and put myself on the line. Since then, I’ve always welcomed diving headfirst into untested waters. When nobody on the step team would get on stage to challenge other steppers, I took a deep breath and hopped on up. When there’d be a question in class that nobody would answer, I’d still raise my hand and make a wild guess. When Coach Tim asks, “Who wants to lead this step?”; when Mrs. Shane asks, “Who wants to present first?”; when the dance floor’s empty, and the DJ asks “Who wants to get this party started?”, my answer always is and always will be, “I do.”
For better or for worse, I do.
Harvard Supplement Essay: The Violin
Mastering the violin is an arduous unending journey filled with obstacles, frustration, and thousands of hours of practice. But I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
When I find myself stuck on a tough section, rather than give up, I practice something else, firm in my belief that there will be more progress in the morning. I eagerly accept these challenges; every victory makes me a little bit better, and I’m grateful there are always areas for improvement.
Sometimes, the practice pays off and I find myself performing a solo with the all-region orchestra or in San Antonio with the all-state philharmonic. These signs of progress encourage me to continue on my journey, and although it will never end, I’m not worried. It’ll propel me to even greater heights, reveal new horizons to be reached, and provide the joy of music along the way.
Harvard Supplement Essay 2: When In Rome…
It was the first day of step tryouts, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I’d seen other students perform step routines and thought to myself “I want to do that!” But the moment I entered the cafeteria to tryout, I started feeling uneasy. Everyone towered over my diminutive 5’6” frame. These kids were nothing like the crowd I was used to. Everyone spoke with a different dialect of English, wore their jeans at lower altitudes, and several even sported tattoos on their forearms. Honestly, I thought they looked like thugs. It wasn’t that I’d never seen anyone like that before, but it’s really intimidating when you’re in a place full of them, and you’re the odd one out.
I grew up in a pretty typical Chinese household. As a kid, I spent my time playing the violin, doing homework, and trying to beat my friends at Nintendo 64 games. My elementary school was situated in a mostly white neighborhood, so most of my friends also turned out to be white. Playing football in junior high broadened my perspective some, but even then, I never did spend much time with African American kids because we lived in different neighborhoods.
But I wasn’t about to turn around and leave just because of cultural differences. I didn’t believe that it should matter. I was sure I could find plenty of common ground with these new future friends of mine, but even if not, at least we’d all share a passion for stepping.
Ten days of tryouts passed and I’d made the team, along with 20 others. Everyone was getting to know each other pretty well, but I still felt alone. Nobody was rude or anything; it was just whenever I’d greet someone, he would reply with the customary but unfortunately brief “Sup?” and after some small talk about what grade level they were in, I’d be stuck. I had no clue what to talk about because I didn’t follow sports, play sports videogames, watch BET, listen to the same music, or even share any classes.
However, they did come to appreciate my dedication and fair ability, but the respect was in a sense “professional”. We were more like coworkers as opposed to friends. Accepting the reality that I may never find common ground with my teammates, I came to practice only to step, and so long as I got to do that, I was content.
Despite the distance between me and the other steppers, they were actually really nice. Violin lessons and quartet rehearsals made me miss quite a few practices, but there was always somebody willing to help me catch up. The other members would even spend time on weekends to teach me, and I’d come to practice Monday as if I’d been there the whole time. I came to realize these kids were actually very kind and hard-working people; I was just too caught up in my own misconceptions to see it. But none the less, we were still just “acquaintances”.
Three months later, we won our first step competition. On the jubilant bus ride home, the distance between the other steppers and I began to disappear, and in the most unlikely way.
“Aye yo e’rrybody listen up! We gonna have a rap battle!” Joey B called out, illuminating the bus with his phone. I never did get his last name; everyone just called him Joey B. To his convenience, it had a nice ring to it that he hoped would boost his rap career. Like many of the step alumni, he had aspirations of becoming a famous artist.
“Every single one of y’all, ‘specially y’all rookies, is gonna do this!” An even mix of cheers and silence met his request, coming from the veterans and the rookies respectively. He started it off: “Awais over there, he’s cheap like a quarter. He even stank, like hot dog water!” The bus burst with laughter.
Awais, not to be humiliated, immediately retorted, “Joey B, you think yo’ raps are good, please. You better go make like a tree. Leave!” and everybody started cheering as the first battle began.
Slowly, the light from Joey’s phone moved toward the back of the bus.
Panic settled in. What do I know about freestyle rapping? What would happen if I was mid-sentence and couldn’t think of anything? I would die. Deep down, I wished I could fall out the bottom of the bus and forgotten. Before I could find an emergency exit, I’d been illuminated. I sat there, staring at the light, speechless. After some prodding, I lamely told them I wouldn’t. I felt like a loser, and all the more distant from other members of the team. As I wallowed in sadness, the rap-battle evolved into a game in which people would insert a phrase rhyming with the previous person’s: “I body-rock like I’m in heaven!” the first one cried out.
“I body-rock at seven!” came the reply.
“I body-rock when it’s eleven” shouted another.
“I body-rock at 7-11” came the last.
An awkward silence ensued; they’d exhausted every word rhyming with “heaven”. But then all of a sudden I had a moment of inspiration: Kevin rhymed with seven! Seizing my chance, I sprang out of my seat and shouted “I BODY-ROCK CUZ I’M KEVIN!”. The entire bus erupted into a cheer.
“Kevin!” called out Joey, “that rhyme right there, it was hot. Do another, let’s see what you got!” The battle had begun. Taking a deep breath, I dove in.
“Joey-B, you gotta lotta nerve, you tryna call me out, well I’ll tell you now, SWERVE!” everyone waited in anticipation for Joey’s response.
“Little man, you ain’t got nuthin’ on me, I got mixtapes out the window, matter fact, here’s one free!” Joey tossed me the CD of his latest mix-tape.
“Ooooohh!” cried the audience.
“Mixtape? You know why it’s free? Ain’t nobody yet signed you, take it back, please!” The subsequent roar of the audience drowned everything out. Joey had no response. Worried I’d gone too far, I walked up the isle to apologize, but as I reached got closer, I saw a smile widen across his face as he reached a hand out to shake mine.
I had beaten a step alumni in a rap battle. All the rookies cheered me on, and gave me high fives and fist bumps. For the first time, I felt I was really part of the team, really one of them. From there on, the other members respected me on a more personal level, and I was no longer just a professional asset, but a fellow friend and teammate.
Looking back on step tryouts and the rap battle, I’ve learned not to jump to conclusions about people before getting to know them. It’s funny to think I was uncomfortable at all in their presence that first day, given how accommodating they turned out to be later on. In the two years since that first day of tryouts, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the finest gentlemen around, and despite huge initial differences, we have become the best of friends. Long after I retire my “step career”, I’ll bring with me the lessons I’ve learned through this team. I don’t believe there’s anyone or any group that can’t be gotten along with, nor do I believe there are differences too difficult to overcome.
Now who said you can’t have an Asian on a step team?
Standardized Test Scores:
- 2300 SAT Composite
- 800 Reading
- 750 Math
- 750 Writing
- SAT World History-800
- SAT Math Level II-790
- SAT Biology-790
AP Test Scores:
- World History-5
- US History-5
- English Literature-5
School Record and Class Ranking:
- Cumulative Rank: 1/629
- Cumulative GPA: 4.7082
- 12th: Mid-Cities Optimist Club Outstanding Student of the Year Award. One student is selected for this award per school per year.
- 11th: Mid-Cities Optimist Club Young Texan of the Month Award.
- 10th-11th : TSTA Texas valedictorian
- 11th: T.M.E.A. Texas Music Scholar
- 9th: Superintendent’s Scholar
- 12th: National Merit Commended Scholar
- 9th: Cream Of The Crop Award
Extracurriculars and Student Demographics:
G-Phi Smooth Step Team, 10th– 12th 35 wks/yr, 20 hrs/wk
- March 2012: Champion, NSSA National Step Competition.
- March 2013: 2nd Place, NSSA National Step Competition
- 12th : Step Master (a.k.a. Captain), responsible for recruiting and training of the team, planning, scripting and scheduling of team competitions nationwide.
- 11th: Step Leader, helping Step Master to manage Step team activities
- 10th-11th: Texas Step Team Association Valedictorian
- 10th: “Krunkest Dancer” Award
- 11th: “Mr. Motivational” Award
- 11th : “Thunderfoot” Award
- 11th-12th : T.M.E.A. All-State Philharmonic/String Orchestra, First Violin
- 10th-12th: All-Region Symphony Orchestra, First Violin
- 9th : Concert Master of both All-Region String Orchestra and Central Junior High Symphony Orchestra
- 10th-12th : LD Bell Symphony Orchestra:
- Concert Master, 11th-12th, Vice President 10th
- Most Outstanding Sophomore Award, 10th
- Advanced to state level for violin UIL solo performance – 9th-10th
- Advanced to state level for violin UIL performance with Quartet, 11th-12th, Vice President 10th
National Honor Society-9th-12th
- Officer (Secretary)-12th
- Officer (Parliamentarian)-9th
Junior Varsity Football team-9th
- Starting running back/wide receiver
Varsity Pole-Vault Team – 9th
Mu Alpha Theta – 9th-12th
Hip Hop Dancing Team: 9th – 6 wks/yr, 5 hrs/wk
- Won 1st Place in School Talent Show
H.E.B. Teen Court, 10th-12th, teen court lead attorney-20 wks/yr, 3 hrs/wk
- Volunteered bi-weekly in HEB municipal teen court as lead attorney
- Won Texas Wesleyan Teen Court Competition – 5th place award
Charity/hospital Volunteering, 11th-12th-20 wks/yr, 10 hrs/wk
- Volunteered in Battered Women Foundation, JPS county hospital and Harris Methodist Hospital.
L.D. Bell Quartet 10th-12th-20 wks/yr, 5 hrs/wk
- 11th-12th: Quartet Leader
- Quartet volunteered in various community, church and charity events year round.
Freelance Violinist, 11th-12th 10 wks/yr, 4 hrs/wk
- Performed with professional ensembles at varies events.