Common Application Essay
I wake up; I get dressed; I go to school; I go to rehearsal; I go to meetings; I go home; I do homework; I sleep; I wake up. Such is high school.
As a kid, I always laughed at my elders when they told me time moves faster as you get older. Now, I see their point. Though I enjoy the majority of what I do for school and my other involvements, the result of having such all-consuming engagements is that there is precious little time left for reflection. I consider myself to be a thinker, and so lacking the time to think makes those times when I can ponder anything and everything all the more precious. That is why sitting around the sacred fire is when I am most content.
The opportunity to be around that sacred fire only presents itself four days out of the year, making it all the more valuable. Kindled at sunrise on the Thursday of the third full week of August, the fire will burn until that Sunday, when the Firekeepers will stop adding wood at sunset and allow it to burn out. It burns as part of the ceremony involved with the Green Corn Festival—or as it is known now, the Wigwam Festival—of the Mohegan Tribe, which begins that Saturday.
The preceding Thursday and Friday are when I find contentment. Plastic folding-chairs are arranged in a circle around the fire, with at least one of three Firekeepers always present and an ever-changing assortment of tribal members coming and going from the circle, making an offering of tobacco to the fire and leaving, or sitting down to watch it. Those who sit are generally peaceful; if they do speak, it is gently, quietly. Others, myself included, work at a craft. Some play traditional wooden flutes; some carve clubs; some weave baskets; some do beadwork. I fall into the last category.
Surrounded by the earthy notes of Native flutes, the hushed conversations of my neighbors, and the thick smell of the smoke and the sweet aroma of sage in the air, I study my beadwork and find time to think, and to breathe. At that moment, sitting in a flimsy plastic chair surrounded by people I only see one week out of the year, there is no place I would rather be. Ideas for creative pursuits—plays, stories, poems, more beadwork, vocal pieces I want to perform—run through my mind. There is time to look back on all that has happened since the last time I was there, how my life and my world has changed, and how it has not. There is time to think about the future, how things will look from this spot in a year.
Most importantly, there is time to appreciate the present, to put bare-feet onto the earth of Fort Shantok, our tribe’s sacred land, and look into the fire built for the same reason and surrounded by the same rocks that our ancestors used generations before. Time to be a nation once again with the other tribal members who sit beside me. Time to simply exist and appreciate what is.
Yale Supplement Essay
Tucked away in my closet, there’s a pile of old notebooks surrounded by haphazardly stacked books that threatens to tumble at the slightest upset. In it, there’s one sky-blue notebook. It’s ragged at the edges and the cover is held on with neon-orange duct tape. On the outside, it’s no more majestic than the other over-used notebooks, no more compelling; but inside, it contains the most venerable lessons I have ever come across.
“I hate kids.” Probably not the first words most teachers offer their students at the start of the school year–but there it was, dangling in front of us. We sat, a collection of ninth graders staring unblinkingly at the tall man who claimed to be our physics teacher; frankly, he had been fairly intimidating prior to uttering those three words. After an exceptionally pregnant pause, he continued: “I like young adults.”
This unconventional introduction to the class perfectly matched its procession through the year. It was, of course, a physics class; but nothing was presented in a conventional way. We learned about how we think, allowing us to work with ourselves to learn instead of pushing against the natural tendencies of our brains.
What has stuck with me the most from this experience is what we learned about life. He never sat us down and said, “take notes on this; this is about life,” but the profundity of many of his statements was such that I always kept notes, three to five pages for a single forty-five minute class. We learned that there is no such thing as an accident, only a mistake, and that, in science and in life, you are supposed to make these mistakes—and learn from them. We learned that where we go in life is up to us, summed up in the words, “you have a choice: president or bum.” We learned, by finding method after method for sitting in a chair, that there are innumerable ways to do nearly anything.
This class was strange and extraordinary; it had to be taken day-by-day, because you never knew what might be next. It altered the course of my life, and the lessons I learned became the compass that still guides me today. I had returned to my third and final year at The Rectory School feeling like my life had no base, nothing I could define myself by; I had no idea what I wanted out of life or what principles governed me. By the time I left, I had this one sky-blue notebook, ragged at the edges and with a cover held on by neon-orange duct tape. The notes inside it hold my equivalent of the holy scriptures; but I never have to read them. They are engrained upon my being by the phenomenal experience I had in that class.
Standardized Test Scores:
- 2060 SAT Composite
- 31 ACT
- U.S. History: 660
- Biology: 690
- Literature: 750
AP Test Scores:
- AP Literature and Composition: 5
- AP Environmental Science: 5
- AP English Literature: 4
- AP U.S. History: 4
School Record and Class Ranking:
- Cumulative Rank: Not provided/unranked
- Cumulative GPA: 3.9
- Freshman High Honors
- Presidential Award
- Vaseloff Award (for eclectic student)
- Freshman History Award
- Freshman Drama Award
- Sophomore Year Salutatorian
- Junior/Senior Valedictorian
- 2 French awards
- Senior Drama Award
- Founder’s Medal (school’s highest award)
- 2 Thorne Writing Prizes
Extracurriculars and Volunteering:
- School prefect
- Drama club
- A Cappella
- Gay-Straight Alliance
- Volunteer work with CT Audubon Society Citizen Scientist
- Kitchen Volunteer with Tribe