Common Application Essay
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
“The steel rod flew clean through Phineas Gage’s head,” I said to my reflection in the mirror. “And he just walked away, like nothing happened.” I snickered at the sheer absurdity of it. I talked to myself to make sure that I delivered the lines of tomorrow’s neurology presentation with accuracy and lively enthusiasm.
My love of public speaking has always been rooted in science. As a child, I spoke on astronomy. Every time my teachers broached the topic of outer space, my hand zoomed up. My eyes shone as I spoke before the class about Earth’s atmosphere, faraway galaxies, and black holes.
At home, however, finding an audience proved to be more difficult.
“Later George. I’m working,” my mom would say.
“Not now George,” my dad would say.
My parents were always busy during my childhood. As an ATM repairman, my dad often left for days at a time, driving thirty hours round trip for business. Even when my dad was home, he buried himself in his work. I know now it was only out of love for me and a desire to make ends meet that they worked so hard to provide a stable household, but I was disappointed they couldn’t spend more time with me.
Despite my isolation at home, I found that I always had the perfect audience to listen to me: myself. With a hushed voice and doors shut, I talked to myself. Simply feeling the words jumping out of my mouth exhilarated me.
Whether it was discussing feral children or chemical nomenclature in my classes, I spoke with vigor, wonder, and awe. Countless late nights were spent working on Powerpoint slides and practicing my lines with a timer on hand. At the same time, I fought an ongoing battle to make my words and thoughts sound clear and coherent. It’s all too easy for me to speak in jargon but a lot harder to speak simply. In my room, I spoke and practiced until I could give my presentation forwards, backwards, and sideways.
I poured myself into every presentation because, even as I got older and my parents worked less, I found it difficult to communicate my excitement to them, because we didn’t share the same interests — until one day, when my father told me, “If you love someone, you’ll want them to do better than you.” Now I realize that I’ve only had the opportunities to develop my passion for speaking because I had my parents’ love for me and their hard work.
I’ve learned from my experiences – good and bad. And, resolved in my love for public speaking, I’ve developed a passion for teaching and talking to people. I used to be afraid of meeting new people, but debating and giving speeches in JSA led me to eventually conquering my social anxiety. In my school as well, I want to introduce people to public speaking and inspire people to learn and create. I know many people are scared of speaking. That’s understandable; I still get nervous even after speaking in front of huge audiences multiple times, from the arena of JSA to running for class president, but I want others to recognize how fulfilling and enjoyable speaking can be. I want to be that source of encouragement to people, a source that I didn’t have growing up. Thus, I’m working with my friends to organize a TEDx talk at our school to fulfill that vision, to bring that spirit of unfettered curiosity and discovery.
As I finished my presentation on Phineas Gage, I stood and smiled as my classmates clapped. I had succeeded in making my classmates just as intellectually hungry as I was and my face glowed with a smile. When people’s eyes light up during my presentations, it’s the best feeling in the world. I knew I had talked too fast. But can you blame me for being too excited?
Yale Supplement Essay
Describe an experience which caused you to change your perspective and/or opinion. How did this affect you? (500 word limit; 482 currently)
“If you get off at 45th Street Station, I’ll buy you something to eat,” I told the homeless man.
“I can’t. I get off at Richard Street. But I remember you,” he replied.
“From where?” I asked.
As the train streaked past the city lights, he recalled our encounter from the previous December. I had set out to buy him a burger but he was gone by the time I returned to the station. At the time, I assumed that he had left to escape the brutal cold. Not so. He told me the police had kicked him off the platform for loitering.
I was instantly filled with righteous indignation. I gave him a few dollars and we exchanged names so he would know me if he saw me again. His name was Brandon. “You have a good heart, George,” he told me, as he got off at Richard Street.
I often rode the train home from interning and saw Brandon on the six o’clock panhandling. He talked to me about his brother’s passing and some inheritance waiting for him in Connecticut. I always listened keenly to his stories and experiences. One day in particular, I was traveling with an acquaintance when Brandon came and sat next to me. In a weak voice, he told me he was hungry. My acquaintance shifted uncomfortably in her seat. I remembered that the local Sikh temple provided free food. As I excitedly told him, my acquaintance shot me occasional glances of disdain as if just talking to a homeless man was wrong. I began to reflect about my lack of compassion up to that point. Truth be told, I wasn’t better than her. It’s all too easy to look down, to glance at the coffee cups of change, and never look up to hear the story, to see the person.
I have always been blessed and cursed with frugality. My parents are first-generation immigrants – they unintentionally instilled it in me from a young age. We always shopped at flea markets, we haggled, and we clipped coupons. We’ve come a long way in the past ten years but those lessons are ingrained and I still fret over spending money. I wasn’t heartless. Sometimes I tried to help but before meeting Brandon, I would often just walk right on by. My conversations with Brandon changed me. I began to acknowledge the indifference that grew within me; an indifference to the plight of the poor that is too common for a young man growing up in the crowded city. He taught me the virtue of silence and of listening to understand.
The last time I saw Brandon, he told me he was going back to Connecticut to see his family. We said our goodbyes, but now I regret not thanking him, because it was through him that I learned a greater sense of charity and concern for others.
Famous person you’d like to meet:
I’d love to meet the Austrian Kurt Gödel, the epitome of crazy geniuses. He turned the world of mathematics upside down by proving that mathematics cannot be both complete and consistent; one of them has to be false. I’ve always seen math as a field of definites and truth, so his work simultaneously fascinated and unsettled me. Gödel showed me how elegant math can be. If I met Gödel, however, my question would not be about math. I’d ask, “What really is that loophole in the Constitution?” Some backstory: Before his United States citizenship hearing, Gödel intently studied the Constitution. He remarked to Einstein, his friend, that it contained a flaw which would allow the United States to become a dictatorship, but he never mentioned what the actual flaw was. It bugs me that we don’t know. It’s like an annoying mosquito that you repeatedly try to swat away but keeps returning and causing a nuisance. If Gödel found a loophole, then it really must exist. I admire his relentless obsession with his work and I want a greater insight into that obsession. I would like like to ask Gödel, to put the mystery and my curiosity to rest.
What is your favorite source of inspiration?
Getting up from my chair and doing something. Pacing my room and thinking aloud, staring outside a window, taking a jog, photographing at the park. Moving my body gets the gears of my mind in motion.
How do you spend a typical weekend?
I go to church, sleep in, listen to electronic music, brew and drink inordinate amounts of coffee, take walks, browse the Internet for trivia, and sometimes work on photography/typography. On Sunday I tutor kids at my church.
What is the compliment that you have been paid that you are most proud of? Who gave you the compliment?
“You speak Arabic well.” From the father of a good friend. My Arabic is a bit broken, so over the summer, I studied and tried speaking exclusively in Arabic to improve. I felt so flattered and humbled to hear that.
After a challenging experience, how do you rejuvenate?
Sometimes sleeping, lying on the couch, or watching a TV documentary, or walking outside. Walking makes me feel peaceful and like I’m on top of the world. I even start humming songs to myself and nodding my head to the beat.
If you could change one thing about your high school, what would it be and why?
Reinstating electives, because they allowed me to pursue my creative interests and delve deeper into science, technology, and history. My school used to offer a geography class which I would have loved to take.
What about college most excites you?
Exploring my interests. I’m excited to join clubs, take classes in subjects like philosophy, make friends, collaborate with them, and in the end, learn and grow as a person as a result of it all.
Tell us about a concept or subject that intellectually excites you. Why does it interest you? (200 words; 199 words currently)
I have an intellectual interest in photography. I’m still an amateur, but that’s only motivated me to refine my skills and become a better critic of my work. Whenever I go outside to photograph, I learn something, whether it’s advice from a Russian couple I met in Rockefeller Center, criticism from the other photographing George down my block, or simply a lesson from a bad picture. I feel the impetus to explore and find something new to photograph. Photography allows me to capture the beautiful moments in life, from flowers to portraits of friends, with a feeling of joy that nothing else can replicate. I remember returning home one day to a gorgeous sunset. Shimmering gold and ruby ribbons unfurled with rage across the sky. An elusive beast I had to capture in its natural habitat. With my faithful camera and tripod, I jogged to the waterfront to shoot the sunset. Ten minutes later, I reached the water but I had forgotten my tripod mount. My forgetfulness had rendered my tripod useless. Nevertheless, I realized that I’d never been that passionate about my creative work that I would jog to the park on a whim for just a photograph.
Standardized Test Scores:
- ACT Composite: 35
- SAT Composite: 2250
- SAT Subject Tests:
- Chem: 740
- Bio: 790
- Physics: 800
- Math 2: 800
- Literature: 770
AP Test Scores:
- Biology: 5
- Chemistry: 4
- Psychology: 5
- Physics: 4
- English Language: 5
School Record and Class Ranking:
- Cumulative Rank: Not provided/unranked
- Cumulative GPA:
- Gold on National Spanish Exam
- Winner of Quizbowl with school team 3 times
- First place finisher at Seton Hall University science poster presentation
- Science fair project featured at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
Extracurriculars, Leadership and Involvement:
Leadership and Involvement:
- Junior State of America
- Tutoring at local church
- Columbia University SHP
- Science League
Volunteering and Employment:
- Volunteered at hospital for a summer
- Worked at web development firm for a summer