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.
“SunHee? Isn’t that an Asian name? Aren’t you black?”
Yes, my name is actually SunHee. Yes, it’s Asian. Yes, I am indeed black. From a young age, I’ve always carried a name that I considered too out of the ordinary. SunHee, a Korean name meaning “princess of goodness and righteousness”, packed a great deal of power and responsibility- both of which I didn’t believe I was capable of upholding. I also didn’t have an ounce of Korean blood in me. As a result, it was foreign to both myself and others.
Sometimes, when you’re different from the rest of the crowd, it becomes overwhelming and the loneliness prompts you to assimilate. There were points in my life where I was extremely embarrassed of what I believed to be the oddest thing about me: my name.
Subsequently, I began to deny its existence and use my middle name. “You can just call me Khacy (K-C) ” was the phrase that immediately followed any introduction. I had teachers change my name on attendance sheets and I ignored friends until they called me by my “correct” name. It got to the point where only my parents and family friends called me SunHee anymore. This went on for so long that I almost forgot the name “SunHee” was mine. I couldn’t come to terms with the entirety of my identity because of a two syllable sound.
However, you can only stay in the dark for so long. One day, I wasn’t quick enough in correcting a person who called me by my first name and immediately an acquaintance jokingly said:
“Sunny? Oh, Sunny like Sunny D!”
Immediately, I remembered the slogan of the sugary drink: “The power-packed taste of Sunny D! Unleash the power, unleash the sun!”
At 6 years old, the Sunny D drink commercial was filled with tacky actors on a low quality TV. Nevertheless, younger me was excited at the prospect of getting to drink the delicious “power of the sun in liquefied form”. My memories of Sunny D were fun because it stood out amongst the boring milks and fruit juices in our fridge; it’s bright orange color and decorated banner wasn’t only pleasing to the eye but satisfied my thirst every time.
Similar to my fridge, we live in a society where we’re taught that unusual is weird and fitting into a crowd is essential. We are told to be unique, but are criticized if our uniqueness doesn’t fall within certain standards of “cool”. Until that moment, I didn’t realize how relevant a drink could be to my life. A pun about my name unleashed a new confidence within me that I didn’t know I had.
A nickname was all it took for me to recognize that there is no name more fitting for me than my first one. When I debate, I unleash the power of my voice. When I interact with my peers and my teachers, I unleash a sunny personality. When I perform to fundraise and witness for my church and community, I unleash power-packed songs. Everything I do- be it academic or social -is an embodiment of the sunniness within me.
I didn’t understand that the beauty I possessed came from the unique person I was and always will be. Some believe a name only has pragmatic value but it’s so much more than that. It’s a tag that follows you for a lifetime and shapes who you are. I have a name from which people can make endless puns but also call me a princess every time they want my attention- which is pretty powerful! Recognizing the meaning and flexibility of my name has made me stronger, more confident and reflects in the way I carry myself. I will continue to be the Sunny D amongst boring milks and juices. I’ll stand out, be comfortable in my own skin, and let my brilliance shine through.
Name your favorite books, authors, films, and/or artists.*
My favorite books include Things Fall Apart, Like Water for Chocolate, and House of the Spirits. My favorite movie of all time is 500 Days of Summer. The artists I listen the most to are Esperanza Spalding, Lauryn Hill, Kendrick Lamar, Doris Day, and Kanye West.
What newspapers, magazines, and/or websites do you enjoy?
For worldly news in politics and foreign policy, I read Al-Jazeera International. When looking into developments in the psychology, I read articles produced by ABPsi (Association of Black Psychologists) the most. However, when looking for leisure reads, like celebrity gossip, I admit to reading Teen Vogue and Seventeen religiously.
What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 word limit)*
Society is obsessed with speaking for others. The obsession for inclusion has, unfortunately, overstepped its boundaries. Blurred lines have developed because “representatives” of movements want to speak for all, but cannot cover the entire agenda, adding only one face to complicated issues and aiding in the masking of root causes.
How did you spend your last two summers? (50 word limit)*
My last two summers were spent attending debate camps. In the summer of 2013, I attended the National Debate Forum in Boston, MA for two weeks. In the summer of 2014, I attended the Eddie Conway Liberation Institute in Baltimore, MA and MeanGreen Workshops at the University of Northern Texas.
What were your favorite events (e.g., performances, exhibits, competitions, conferences, etc.) in recent years? (50 word limit)*
I went to my first concert in the past year and it was one of the greatest experience of my life. I got to see members of the rap group Pro Era and other Beast Coast associates as well as the rapper Ab-Soul. The energy was amazing and unforgettable.
What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 word limit)*
I wish I were there on the opening night of the Broadway musical “In Dahomey”, the first of which was written, produced, and acted in by African Americans. This was ground breaking at the time and, since I love musicals and my blackness, it would be a dream come true.
What five words best describe you?
When you perform, you incorporate your entire being into your work. Who you are and what you convey is all put on display for an audience to watch. Likewise, I view my life in itself a performance. Included in my life is my love for debate. However, while I’ve always enjoyed the critical arguments I brought to every round, it was a part of my life that I couldn’t genuinely perform. Issues of race and gender were always my focus, but my face, my story, and my being were not included. Just like the abstract Eurocentric philosophies I criticized, I divorced myself from the reality of the debate space and simply went through the motions.
But all of this changed last summer when my coach introduced me to Oyeronke Oyewumi’s “The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses”; a book where the professor comments on and challenges Eurocentric notions of gender and what it means to be a woman. As a female of South American and African heritage who still identified as a black American, I always viewed my existence as a mixture of cultural experiences. As a result, theories about race that focused solely on the United States did not encompass who I was or how I related to the world. Through that reading, I developed a global perspective on the issues that I found so important to me. In expanding my personal library, I was able to break away from the mold.
As an introduction, here are a couple of things that you should know about me:
– I am literally always listening to music. This means I come with speakers and earphones galore! If I do not have speakers playing music, they are playing through earphones. If neither of those are on, there is a playlist playing in my head. But fear not! I am always listening. Music is the fine tuning for my entire being- ears and mind included -so don’t be afraid to talk.
– I love posters. Be prepared to see my side of the room covered from head to toe with posters that are important to me, varying in category. Best believe Lady Gaga will be up there right next to Angela Davis over the head of my bed. Each poster and picture is important to me and is a visual of a particular influence in my life.
– My blackness is extremely important to me. I talk about issues regarding race a lot. My nightstand will probably be filled with books about critical race theory and my merchandise will scream “African Diaspora”. However, I am not narrow-minded or tense and enjoy all sorts of discussions! Feel free to ask me any questions and interact with me. Don’t let the blackness scare you.
– I am a debater. Sometimes you will see me doing weird mouth exercises and speaking at abnormal speeds but it is all a part of my art. Don’t get freaked out!
Can’t wait to meet you!
What matters to you, and why?
“Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind”. As cheesy as quoting a Disney movie might seem, no other quote can truly encompass the most important thing in my life: family. Some believe that you come into this world alone and will leave the same way. While the first half may be true, seldom do we actually leave alone. Along the journey we call life, we gather a couple of people along the way. Some of them make the cut and become family. For me, family is not exclusive to those I am related to by blood. As an only child, my “siblings” are my childhood and best friends. My aunts and uncles aren’t exclusive to family genes but also include mentors that have helped me through tough times in my life.
Although Stanford is extremely far away from home (2931 miles to be exact), family does not hold you back. It allows you to grow, explore new places and meet new people. This is because deep down, everyone knows they will see each other again. My family has always been the biggest constant in my life. I have been blessed enough to have a wonderful relationship with my mother and father, as well as other adult role models. Because of this, like a pulled rubber band, I will always snap back right into their loving arms. Home is where the heart is and my heart is my family; I cannot live without them.
Standardized Test Scores:
- ACT Composite: 31
- English: 35
- Math: 28
- Reading: 34
- Science: 29
- Writing: 9
This applicant took the ACT with Writing Test twice.
School Record and Class Ranking:
- GPA: 4.237/4.0 Weighted
- Class Ranking: 1/155.
- National Honor Society Member National, 11th Grade
- Science National Honor Society Member National, 11th Grade
JV/Varsity Outdoor Track, Science Park High School Track & Field Team Member-9th, 10th, 11th, 12th Grade
15 hr/wk, 12 wk/yr
Placed at several relays and Newark city meets
Debate/Speech Science Park High School Debate Team Captain-9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
30 hr/wk, 40 wk/yr
A captain teaches and takes care of novices; I am the Greenhill Fall Invitational Champion of 2014 and on the National USA Debate Team (2014-2015)
Student Govt./Politics Science Park’s Class of 2015 Treasurer-9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
4 hr/wk, 40 wk/yr
Keeping the class on track financially and organizing events to raise money
Academic Historian of the Science National Honor Society-9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
2 hr/wk, 40 wk/yr
In charge of documentation of the club and decorations
Music: Vocal Clifton NJ Unification Church Choir-10th, 11th, 12th
3 hr/wk, 52 wk/yr
We sing every Sunday; we also help often with community events (ie. visiting nursing homes & doing fundraisers)