Common Application Essay
Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
Once the lyrics started, my eyes had no chance of holding back the eager river of tears. B.o.B’s song “Don’t Let Me Fall” spoke to me deeply and immediately. It was the same morning I left the 2013 Mu Alpha Theta National Convention (the largest nationwide math competition), and upon the suggestion of my best friend Andrew, I listened to what he claimed would summarize our experience in a song. Every friend I made, every trophy I won, every game I played, all coalesced in my mind as I reminisced about what I instantly realized was the most jubilant week of my life. Never before had I experienced such a sharp pang of nostalgia, feeling just as blissful as I did melancholy.
Math chose me. Around the age of nine, I grasped the concept of special right triangles while staring at shower tiles. To this day, I habitually multiply numbers in my head, even when I sprint in a track meet or write an English essay. Independent of my math instinct, I possess a healthy competitive energy. Whether I dash down the Ultimate Frisbee field or race through Mario Kart courses, winning becomes more important than breathing. For me, the math competition is the perfect game. It satisfies my craving for challenge while encompassing my most natural instinct.
As intense as my zeal for math was, a more vibrant humanizing aspect slowly seeped into the experience. I noticed a steady change in how I spent my time at math competitions. I spent less time rechecking problems after the tests ended, and more time making sure I got to meet up with every friend I would otherwise never see. Math never decreased in importance, but became gradually overshadowed by the growing need to organize pick-up basketball and football games with other students in my free time. At the National Convention, I can always count on finding Hawaii’s Ka’iulani gossiping about her YouTube obsession, Tallahassee’s Jessie exuding her unmatched appetite for sports talk, and Seattle’s Tim enjoying crazy card games until the brink of curfew, all under one roof. Undoubtedly, many people enjoy the company of friends they seldom see. There are plenty I have not talked to in years, but here something different motivated me.
Maybe it was the camaraderie of spending time with people who inexplicably subjected their brains to more thinking on the weekends, or simply the fact that seeing each other was rare. Perhaps, though, our community most profoundly resonates from the unconscious thought that deep down, we shared some mathematical enlightenment. They, too, have seen the Pythagorean theorem’s relevance in the distance formula, and they, too, have comprehended the logic behind otherwise mindless area equations. Somehow, it felt as though we were all connected long before we met.
San Diego’s National Convention perfected my recipe for happiness: doubling the number of States I had friends in, threatening to overflow my trophy shelf (the family piano), and teaching me that math had far deeper implications than all the awards eventually only I would remember. My high school years have taught me to befriend my competitors, rather than alienate them. The tools and opportunities I have been blessed with, along with this lesson, have helped me build a confident identity for my adventures on the horizon.
Name your favorite books, authors, films, and/or artists.*
Music: Coldplay, The Beatles, Vampire Weekend, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Foster the People, Vacationer, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, alt-J
Movies: Forrest Gump, V for Vendetta, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Castaway
Books: Brave New World, The Hunger Games series
Painters: René Magritte
What newspapers, magazines, and/or websites do you enjoy?
- YouTube – for alternative news sources, comedic entertainment, academic studying, and of course publishing my piano covers
- Facebook – the social network that most genuinely connects me with my friends around the world
- Nintendo Power, Nintendo Force – I’ve always been a huge fan of Nintendo’s video games
What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 word limit)*
Americans groan about ineffective government, but barely half of the eligible voters cast ballots on Election Day. Citizens expect change, but naively re-elect nearly all of Congress. Society complains, but does not care enough to act.
Much as political awareness established this country, political apathy can lead to its downfall.
How did you spend your last two summers? (50 word limit)*
- Weston Cleveland Clinic volunteer for over 100 hours
- San Diego Mu Alpha Theta National Convention
- vacation to San Francisco (including a visit down to Stanford that ended my dream college search)
- Young Scholars Program at Florida State University
- Orlando Mu Alpha Theta National Convention
- Vacation to Chicago
What were your favorite events (e.g., performances, exhibits, competitions, conferences, etc.) in recent years? (50 word limit)*
- The Mu Alpha Theta State and National Conventions (2013, 2014)
- ARML competitions (2012, 2013, 2014)
- Harvard National Debate Tournament (2013)
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Vampire Weekend, Foster the People, and Trans-Siberian
- Orchestra concerts
- Magritte exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago
- Li’l Abner school play
What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 word limit)*
Exactly one hundred days after landing a man on the distant Moon, humans landed a letter on a distant… computer screen. I wish I witnessed Stanford’s (coincidence, I swear) SDS 940 machine receive the L and O of “login” before abruptly crashing, pioneering the Internet revolution I appreciate today.
What five words best describe you?
I curiously watched his hands tap away at an endless repertoire of seemingly flawless piano melodies. “How do you learn all these songs, Jake?” I asked at a birthday party. My friend explained that once he deciphered the chord progression of a song, improvising it on the piano was a breeze. Intrigued by the idea, I went home with the pledge to try only reading chords off of Ultimate-Guitar.com when playing piano. The difference was immediate. With the ability to interpret songs without the pressure of adhering to strict sheet music, I could express my emotions at every beat prompted only by my creativity.
I found this theme of intellectual liberty present in other inclinations of mine, too. Ever since switching to copy paper while practicing for the American Mathematics Contest, loose-leaf paper, riddled with holes and lines, feels unsuitable for math. My distaste for AP Literature class stems not from a hatred towards writing, but rather from the confinements of assignments. I most recently concluded that I enjoy running for the same reason; I can jog through new neighborhoods, exploring various paths at the kick of a foot. My mind needs to move.
With fewer rules to curb my ingenuity, I can explore paths as numerous as my jogging routes.
Footnote: I composed this essay using Google Docs in full screen mode, with no tabs, toolbars, or clock to fight for my attention. Just my thoughts and a keyboard to capture them.
Dear Future Roommate,
On move-in day, you’ll likely find that I arrived extra early just to claim the left-side bed and right half of the sink. Prepare for cologne bottle colonization on the bathroom counter as I admittedly am a fragrance freak. I like food stashes sealed, the A/C cool, and the floor dry (Violating any of these guidelines for extended periods of time may introduce an apocalypse that no amount of Febreze can mask).
I might be a night owl, but my irresistible plush mattress topper will ensure that I get some sleep. Beyond cushy memory foam, comfort is five spare pairs of underwear, an extra 24-pack of water, and THREE trash bins (This provides sufficient collection volume for once-a-week disposal, as well as an adequate number of locations to always be within range of a toss).
Once our supplies balance with consumption rates, the ensuing months shall see consummate life enjoyment. The room will look after itself, and our personal recreations shall prevail. One bonus feature I do anticipate: I plan on setting up a piano keyboard to de-stress on the longer days (don’t worry, I can plug in headphones).
As comfy as our room will be, don’t expect to find me in it too often. I’ll need every free second to get to know The Farm’s 16,000 other personalities. If you can’t find me and I’m not picking up the phone, just check The Oval and follow the frisbee.
What matters to you, and why?
“You see, we’re fortunate enough to have more money than time,” my dad reasoned with me on the night of Black Friday 2013, as he decidedly drove past the winding line of campers outside Walmart. After a gratifying Thanksgiving dinner with relatives, my parents agreed our family would shop for bargains only if the wait was short. Initially disappointed about missing out, I took away something far greater than an unneeded 50%-off flat screen TV.
The phrase struck me: “more money than time.” It was an apples-to-oranges comparison, but one that instantly made sense. I immediately applied the new philosophy to daily activities. Within days, my obsession with taking online surveys on iPhone apps for a few cents each had ceased. I thought five minutes was worth the dime until I realized how eagerly I would buy back that time for such a price.
The original maxim soon brought me a grander respect for my time. I gain fulfillment from vacations, school dances, math competitions, and even homework, because I am making the most of the moment.
Every morning, I wake up to 86,400 fresh seconds. I cannot save them for later, and one day they will run out. While I am not immune to wasting time, my view of it as a crime against life motivates me to seize the minute. Experiences matter, and their value is determined solely by how I spend my time: the only truly nonrenewable resource.
Standardized Test Scores:
No standardized test scores reported on the application.
School Record and Class Ranking:
- GPA: 5.402/6 Weighted
- Class Ranking: 4/753 Weighted
- AP Scholar with Distinction, National, 11th Grade
- National AP Scholar, National, 11th Grade
- Furman Scholar, School, 11th Grade
- SCMEA Region II Honors Orchestra School, State/Regional 9th, 10th Grade
- PTA Reflections Music Composition Contest, School, 11th Grade
Extracurricular Activities Essay:
Despite my lifelong investment in math and science, I have Western High Debate to thank for arguably my most valuable skill: public speaking. The nervousness and anxiety I felt in my first tournament was quickly replaced by a confidence that allowed me to take second place at the very next one. Speaking became not just easy, but also fun. Whether I am disagreeing with others in my Congress chamber, running for Mu Alpha Theta National Office, or simply thanking Rotary Club members, I can express myself with clarity and poise. Unfortunately, many debate tournaments conflicted with math competitions, and I understood that I could not fully commit to both. Although I chose to crunch even more numbers, the positive impact of my two years in debate will last a lifetime.
Mu Alpha Theta-9th, 10th, 11th, 12th Grade
- 3 hr/wk, 43 wk/yr
- National Student Delegate President (12), Chapter: Co-President (12), President (11), Historian (10); 20 National, State, and Regional Awards
National Honor Society-11th, 12th Grade
- 2 hr/wk, 40 wk/yr
- Broward County NHS VP (12), Organizer of Broward County Brain Brawl and Captain of Western’s Team (12), Peer Tutoring, Harvest Drive, Relay for Life
Science National Honor Society, Treasurer (11-12)-10th, 11th, 12th Grade
- 2 hr/wk, 40 wk/yr
- Science Bowl Team (10-12), Regional Science Olympiad (11-12): 2nd Place Math Challenge (11)
Western High School Debate and Forensics-9th, 10th Grade
- 10 hr/wk, 40 wk/yr
- Novice (9) then Varsity (10) Congress debater, Top Novice at Lightning Invitational (9), Titan National Invitational Finalist (10)
Florida Student Association of Mathematics (FLSAM)-9th, 10th, 11th, 12th Grade
- 3 hr/wk, 10 wk/yr
- Member of Florida’s ARML Team (9-12); AIME Qualifier (10-11); Top School AMC Score (9-11); AMC 10A, 12A, and 12B Honor Roll
Community Service (Volunteer)
Cleveland Clinic Florida-Weston-11th Grade
- 12 hr/wk, 9 wk/yr
- Volunteer in Histology, Intensive Care Unit, and Medical Surgery Recovery Floor
JV/Varsity Outdoor Track, Western High School Track Team-11th, 12th Grade
- 5 hr/wk, 15 wk/yr
- 1600m (5 min 22 sec best), 3200m (12 min 7 sec best)
Art Poetry Club, Treasurer (12)-11th, 12th Grade
- 1 hr/wk, 30 wk/yr
- Compose, perform, and discuss poetry on a weekly basis; occasionally features local prominent poets who speak and perform
Academic School Duel, Team Captain (12)-11th, 12th Grade
- 4 hr/wk, 8 wk/yr
- South Florida high school academic quiz show, Player of the Game (most correct answers)
Community Service (Volunteer) Young At Art Museum-10th Grade
- 5 hr/wk, 8 wk/yr
- Maintaining the hands-on exhibits