Heqing “Amy” Zhang
On the day my first novel was rejected, I was baking pies.
Or rather, I was gathering the necessary stamina for our church’s annual pie sale. Ten hours of rolling crusts and peeling apples and kneading butter and sugar into the crumble topping, all the while drowning in the cinnamon air, surrounded by near-literal mountains of pies that we were forbidden to touch. (It was, I think, our pastor’s method of drilling the meaning of temptation into heads — he always preached about Eden the following Sunday.) I sat on my couch and counted the minutes until the agony of pie-making, (almost) forgetting the novel that was currently with the acquisitions board of one of the biggest publishing houses in the world.
To be fair, I hadn’t known that the acquisitions meeting would be held that day. I did know that two — two! — senior editors wanted to make all of my impossible dreams come true. I knew that the marketing and sales people had already looked over my manuscript — something that usually happened post-contract. I knew the meeting had been pushed back twice already by an unsympathetic hurricane that had left downtown Manhattan under several feet of water. I knew this was it. This had to be it. It was my turn.
I had slogged through the query trenches in search of an agent. I had collected enough rejection letters to wallpaper my room. I had found an agent who hadn’t run away when I finally told her that I was 15, who loved my story almost as much as I did, who submitted it and lured two — two! — senior editors to take a risk on it.
Hello, future? I’m ready for my happily ever after. Love, Amy.
Phone call from my agent. Sweaty palms and dizziness, a tap of a shaking finger to a smudged screen. Small talk and stalling. A sigh and, at last, the news, that the publisher had a similar novel on her list and vetoed the editors. That there was no heat in the flooded building and they had rejected everything and had gone home early. Stomach in throat, swallow. False laugh, assurances of next time. End call. Tears.
Hello, Amy? Sucks, doesn’t it? Love, the future.
It sucked so monumentally that I bought a pie and ate it in one sitting.
It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay. I fell asleep like that: okay, okay, okay, and I almost believed it. After all, the next day was the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. I had an outline and a story to tell: one of imaginary friends, Newton’s Laws of Motion, a car out of control, a crash into a tree.
Okay, okay, okay.
A ringing in the ungodly hours of morning. Phone call from a friend. Bleary eyes and words still spinning: okay, okay, okay. A mumbled what the heck? in place of a greeting, another hurricane in the answer. A classmate, a car out of control, a crash into a tree.
We used to have gym together, I didn’t know him too well, and I never would. Those were the facts — no opinions, no emotions I could translate into ink on a page, touch, understand. The words were gone. I sat at my computer with my fingers on the keys, shaking, sweating, smudging, but there was nothing to say.
Everyone went to the memorial service and everyone brought flowers, and in the silence, we cried. And there was anger, too, later — a bursting, a hush that imploded. I went home after the service and threw my laptop open and wrote about all that was unfair, and there was a lot to write about. The month passed, and I won NaNoWriMo. I revised the novel and sent it to my agent who began the submission process once again.
It sold in three days.
Hello, future? I’m not afraid. Love, Amy.
Severna Park, Md.
Life from Seven Feet Up
Walking down a busy street, I see the quick glances and turned heads. The murmurs and giggles trickle toward me. I try to ignore the buzz, interspersed with, “Oh my God!” and the occasional, “Damn!” Then, a complete stranger asks for a picture, so I stand with people foreign to me and politely smile and laugh. After the click of the camera, they go on their way. Sometimes I wish I weren’t so tall. Maybe then I could take a friend to a movie and just blend into the crowd.
Attention from strangers is nothing new to me. Questions about my height dominate almost every public interaction. My friends say my height is just a physical quality and not a personality trait. However, when I reflect on my life, I realize that my height has shaped my character in many ways and has helped to define the person I am.
I learned how to be comfortable in my own skin. If I had the introverted personality my older brother had in high school, I’d probably be overwhelmed by the constant public attention. Even as a young child, parents at the sidelines of my baseball games, as well as the umpire, would, in front of all my teammates, demand by birth certificate to prove my age. I grew acquainted early on with the fact that I am abnormally tall and stick out about the crowd. It’s just the way it is. Being self-conscious about it would be paralyzing.
I learned how to be kind. When I was younger, some parents in my neighborhood deemed me a bully because I was so much larger than children my age. I had to be extra welcoming and gentle simply to play with other children. Of course, now my coaches wish I weren’t quite so kind on the basketball court.
I learned humility. At 7 feet tall, everyone expects me to be an amazing basketball player. They come expecting to see Dirk Nowitzki, and instead they might see a performance more like Will Ferrell in Semi-Pro. I have learned to be humble and to work even harder than my peers to meet their (and my) expectations.
I developed a sense of lightheartedness. When people playfully make fun of my height, I laugh at myself too. On my first day of high school, a girl dropped her books in a busy hallway. I crouched down to her level and gathered some of her notebooks. As we both stood up, her eyes widened as I kept rising over her. Dumbfounded, she dropped her books again. Embarrassed, we both laughed and picked up the books a second time.
All of these lessons have defined me. People unfamiliar to me have always wanted to engage me in lengthy conversations, so I have had to become comfortable interacting with all kinds of people. Looking back, I realize that through years of such encounters, I have become a confident, articulate person. Being a 7-footer is both a blessing and a curse, but in the end, accepting who you are is the first step to happiness.
I am here because my great-grandfather tied his shoelace. It was World War I, and he was a Montenegrin fighting in the American army in France. His fellow soldiers surged across the field, but he paused for the briefest of moments because his laces had come undone. Those ahead of him were blown to bits. Years later, as Montenegro was facing a civil war, the communists came to his home. His village was small, and he knew the men who knocked on his door. But this familiarity meant nothing, for when they saw him they thought of the word America, stamped across a land where the poor were stripped of their rights and where the fierce and volatile Balkan temper would not do.
As his neighbors ransacked his home, his wife had thrust his good pair of shoes at him.
“Take them,” she had urged. “Wear them.”
But he did not, for he knew that he could not run. I also cannot run, but I wear my new shoes with great ease and comfort. I wear the secret guilt, the belief in equality, the obsession with culture, and the worship of rational thinking and education that becomes the certain kind of American that I am. None of these things are costumes. I believe in and feel them all sincerely, but they are not who I am. They may be a part, but I can say with certainty that they are not all.
I was born in Belgrade and Serbian was my first language, but these things seem nearly inconsequential when compared to the number of years that I’ve spent in America and the fact that English is by far my superior tongue. We visit every two or three years or so. Everybody is there, my entire collection of cousins and aunts and grandparents neatly totted up in a scattering of villages and cities, arms open with the promise of a few sneaky sips of rakia and bites of kajmak. I love them, I truly do. I love the flat roof on my grandparents’ home, the familiar sounds of the cicadas, the cows that they had when I was 7, and even the goats that I have not met yet. But they are not me, those things. They are something else.
Take a few bounds away from my immediate family, and I do not know anyone’s names. Somebody is always falling ill, or drinking too much, or making trouble for themselves. We speak of them sometimes, or pity them, but we do not go to their weddings or funerals. And yet I feel worried, not for them, but for myself. The Serbs and Montenegrins are people of complicated histories, and as I watch the documentaries my father made during the civil war there, I am gripped with fear and fascination. Those strange people can be so hateful. They cry and beat their hearts at the thought of Serbian loss in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. This kind of nationalism makes me cringe. I do not want to be that way. But is there not something beautiful in that kind of passion and emotion? What does it say of me that I sometimes cannot help but romanticize something I know to be destructive and oppressive? This is why I worry.
They are not me, I tell myself, and I am right. But can they not be just a part? Can they not be a tiny sliver, or maybe even a sizeable chunk, comparable even to the American in me? Must I relegate them to nothing at all? For if those shoes, the ones my grandfather bent to tie in the middle of that blazing battlefield in France, are not mine, then why do I think of them so often?
Porter Corners, N.Y.
My head was spinning, my hands were bleeding, and my lungs desperately needed more air. The air was filled with the shouts of men dying and steel clashing with steel. To my left were two young men, no more than 18 years old, at each other’s throats. To my right an old man lay dead, missing an arm. My men were pouring out of the breach in full retreat. Death surrounded me as I summoned every ounce of my courage and shouted out that desperate ultimatum to my dying brethren, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead!”
Then reality came crashing down. “No, no you’re doing it all wrong.” I blinked, and instead of a bloody battlefield in front of me there was nothing more than a nearly empty auditorium. The sole occupant of the auditorium was a tall, bald, British man with a terrifyingly condescending demeanor. He was my Shakespeare coach. The most minuscule mistake never escaped his notice. “There’s no chance in hell I would ever fight for you,” he said. “Do it again.” I went offstage and tried to repaint the picture.
I emerged inflamed with the drive for victory. Every word I uttered was a strike against the French. Every heartfelt delivery of that carefully choreographed routine was ground gained at Harfluer. I fought passionately with that ancient text, but my coach cut me off again. “OK, better, maybe I would fight for you, but I wouldn’t die for you. C’mon pump me up, show me you care. Do it again.” I tried again. I put forth all my effort, but again he stopped me. I performed it countless times over, but with each rendition the quality exponentially worsened. Finally, he told me to stop. We had done all we could for today.
I stepped off stage and collapsed into a chair, angry and defeated. Reaching into my pocket, I found the small rectangular magnet that had been given to me by the head of the theatre department for “motivational purposes.” On the right side of the memento there was an ornate picture of The Bard in all his glory, and on the left there were six simple words: “To thine own self be true.” I knew why I was here. I was here to prove to myself that I could accomplish something momentous.
I was born with two speech impediments. I was a shy kid, with a crooked smile, who couldn’t pronounce any words correctly. Participating in theatre was the last thing anyone expected of me. Yet I wanted to sway crowds with my voice, make them cry, laugh and shout for joy. I was a terrified 10-year-old the first time I stepped on stage, and equally frightened moments before I finally performed at Lincoln Center. I walked slowly to my position full of fear, but when the spotlight hit my face, there was no trepidation, only a calmness and quiet determination. In that moment all the long hours of struggle fell into place. I had already accomplished what I had set out to do before my final performance. Just being there, having worked as hard as I had, made all the worry dissipate. It was just me and the light.
In that earlier moment of failure, I couldn’t see that light, or even imagine it. My brain was in a fog; I couldn’t think. As I sat there and the lights in the theatre clicked off one by one, the setting sun cast a beam of orange sunlight directly center stage. I pretended to watch myself perform in that light, pacing to and fro, shouting heroically to my men and charging headlong into battle, into victory. I looked back down at the memento. Then something clicked. Henry V never lost hope and neither would I. So I went once more to the stage.
Aliso Viejo, Calif.
Keeping my head down and avoiding eye contact, I tried not to attract attention. Drunken shrieks and moans reverberated through the darkening light of the bus stop, while silhouettes and shadows danced about. My heart pounding, I hoped I would survive the next 40 minutes. I had never seen the homeless at the stop act so deranged. But I had never been there so late.
It was well past sundown. A man passed out on the next bench awoke only to shout and drink. One screamed racial slurs and curses at another while they both staggered around. Another lacked an arm and had the most baleful gaze I had ever seen. As much as I tried to empathize and feel compassion, I couldn’t stymie a feeling of terror and revulsion.
After a few long minutes, a shadow detached itself from the opposite benches, came over and sat down next to me. Squinting, I took in her kind, wrinkled face. Ah, thank god, a kindred soul enduring the same thing.
“Missed the bus?” she asked.
“Y-yeah,” I mumbled.
“You certainly chose the wrong time to do that. Where’re you headed?” Her voice was scratchy, like a smoker’s, but she spoke well.
“Ah, homes. When I was a bit older than you, my home was a car. Can you believe that my car, an old Toyota, got 50 miles to the gallon? I could drive from here to San Francisco in one sitting.”
No, I couldn’t. The more we talked, the more I enjoyed her company and forgot about the craziness around me. She grew up in San Francisco and loved to travel. She loved helping people and went to church. Before I could learn more, a homeless man staggered up to me and asked me for money. I was so uncomfortable I relented.
My friend turned to me and advised, “Don’t ever give a homeless person money. Give them food. The stereotype is true — they buy drugs and alcohol. Look around you.”
Stunned and feeling naïve, I promised to do so. We talked more until my stomach rumbled and I remarked that I hadn’t eaten since lunch. Just then a bus arrived — apparently hers. She procured two hardboiled eggs from her pocket and offered them to me. I politely declined, and she went to get her stuff. But wait, why was she carrying eggs in her pocket? When the woman emerged from the other side of the stop, she boarded the bus with a sleeping bag and backpack. She was homeless! She smiled down at me, the bus left, and I sat there in quiet shock.
I explored the stop anew. Drugs, alcohol, missing limbs were no longer terrifying. Now, I saw the symptoms of sickness, a sad lifestyle that did no harm except to those who lived it.
The homeless lady probably has no idea what an effect she had on me. Because of her, I swore to look through the top layers of every situation. Now that I have a car, I never go to the bus stop, but I know its lesson, at least, will continue to take me places. I hope my expanded empathy and open-mindedness will allow me to feel at home in any foreign situation and connect with all people. Next time I might even accept a hardboiled egg straight out of a stranger’s coat pocket.
New York, N.Y.
Attempting to juke people like an NFL running back, I slithered my way through the tunnel to the A-Train on 42nd Street during rush hour. I often try to block out the hectic surroundings by isolating myself in music, but I can never seem to get out of the real life time-lapse. In photography, a time-lapse is a technique at which the frame rate is lower than that used to view the sequence, thus, when the sequence is played at normal speed, it gives the effect that time is moving faster, or lapsing. In a Manhattan subway tunnel, a real life time-lapse gives the illusion that thousands are moving around you in one single moment. Luckily, that afternoon, the frame rate was higher than the actual visual sequence.
The crowd shoved their way toward the platform as the screeching train echoed through the underpass. The doors opened and I pushed my way toward the already full train. After five seconds, I began to worry, fearing that the door would close and I would be stuck longer in the blistering, underground cave. The tall, brunette girl in front of me inched her way over the gap between the rusted train and the yellow platform, but one misstep turned my time-lapse upside down.
In slow motion, one vertebra at a time, she fell through the gap toward the tracks as the train doors closed. I slipped my hands out of my skinny jeans and reached under her arms as her head neared the platform. I hoisted her up and the sensor doors reopened as we entered the train. I threw my headphones around my shoulders, clumsily turned down my embarrassing music, and asked if she was okay. My pause had lasted for all of about two seconds. No one on the train noticed, not even her mom.
This isn’t a heroic tale or a love story, although I felt like it was at the moment. I felt like I had done something much bigger than me, and I also felt like this beautiful girl and I would naturally connect over what just happened. But this wasn’t the case. Instead, I checked on her, smiled, and around 10 seconds after my “lifesaving” moment, immediately isolated myself back into the music. I couldn’t bring out my inner-confidence. I simply stood there thinking of something to say, only to be left mute.
It’s easy to say what you want to do, but nearly impossible to bring yourself to do all those things. Life is about taking risks, not about conforming and hiding behind invisible walls. I tend not to struggle with personal adventure; I’ve jumped off 50-foot cliffs and rode the biggest roller coaster dozens of times; however, I do fear being judged and messing up when stepping toward the plate. Life’s too short to live with regret though. My life wasn’t dramatically transposed during this incident, but the things I didn’t do are a constant reminder to stomp on the shortlist of opportunities I’m given. For that girl, she was a vertebra away from not having another chance. When that moment comes for me, I don’t want to have any regrets. I look back at this brief moment with such rue because I feel that my time-lapse was flipped for a reason, yet I couldn’t grasp the opportunity.
The music was a place to buy myself more time, a place to quickly think about the next move. But the top-half of the sandglass was empty and the girl got off at the next stop, roughly 30 seconds later. My eyes were fixed on her as she left the train and headed for the stairs. The train began to move when she glanced through the window and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
An eerie silence draped over New Orleans on a humid morning as the insects scampered back into their burrows. It was Saturday morning and I was still lying in bed, playing with the mood ring that my best friend, Anna, had given me as a good luck charm going into fourth grade. It was turquoise, meaning “tranquility.” However, as I focused on the footsteps downstairs, I could tell that both of my parents were in a rush and that Mama was nervous, which was rare. Something was different.
I ran down to grab breakfast, but the voice of the news reporter and the hurricane alert noise coming from the kitchen television distracted me. The words on the bottom of the screen read, “mandatory evacuation.” Papa told me to pack some toys for myself and for Rafa, my little brother. I figured we wouldn’t need much since there were so many activities in Houston, where we’d evacuated to before. This time, though, the highways were too congested to get there safely. Instead, we headed to Charity Hospital since Papa, a neuroradiologist, was on call. With our previous experiences of nothing but strong winds and lights-out for a day or two, my parents decided it would be best for the four of us to stay together.
We were assigned to a small room on the 14th floor with two tiny twin beds. That night, the rain pounded on the old windows, like an angry crowd getting more and more agitated. At 1 a.m., a fierce air pressure in the room created a sharp pain in my ears, awakening us, only a mere second before the windows imploded. Shards of glass flew around the room, forcing us to hide in a stuffy hallway storage closet. We huddled around the handheld radio’s static for the next five hours.
After the hurricane passed, I could tell Mama was distressed, yet she still managed to smile and say, “Te quiero mucho mi amor, todo va a estar bien.” The next morning, one of the doctors urged us to look out the window. I simply stood there, holding Papa’s sweaty hand, listening to the muddy waters from the Mississippi rushing in.
No one expected what would come next. In the basement, the emergency generators flooded, and the smell of rotting corpses from the morgue grew, getting stronger with the heat. In the lobby, people broke into the vending machines, stealing and selling the food. We didn’t have any clean water either, so showers soon became Purell sanitation wipes, and toilets became buckets to throw out the window. During the day, my parents were busy, so Rafa and I painted “SOS” on bed sheets and hung them outside. At night, we played cards, and I silently sat next to a nurse who thought about the dog she had left at home. No one knew if our homes or friends were okay, nor when we’d be rescued, but I didn’t cry. I was in survival mode.
A week later, we were rescued on swamp boats. That year, I attended four different schools. When it was over, I wept uncontrollably. Hurricane Katrina has challenged me. It has humbled and motivated me. I want to be a doctor, like the ones at Charity. I saw them work together, tirelessly, caring for anyone that they could, even dropping a joke here and there. I will never forget the man who gave me his secret stash of candy, or the night that we celebrated a birthday with a tuna sandwich as the cake, a Q-tip for the candle, and how they sliced it for everyone to share. We never gave up. I learned to appreciate everything and everyone around me. I became stronger.
Sample College Admission Essays
This section contains two examples of good college essays.
- College Essay One
- College Essay Two
- College Essay Three
College Essay One
Prompt: Please submit a one-page, single-spaced essay that explains why you have chosen State University and your particular major(s), department(s) or program(s).
State University and I possess a common vision. I, like State University, constantly work to explore the limits of nature by exceeding expectations. Long an amateur scientist, it was this drive that brought me to the University of Texas for its Student Science Training Program in 2013. Up to that point science had been my private past time, one I had yet to explore on anyone else’s terms. My time at UT, however, changed that. Participating for the first time in a full-length research experiment at that level, I felt more alive, more engaged, than I ever had before. Learning the complex dynamics between electromagnetic induction and optics in an attempt to solve one of the holy grails of physics, gravitational-waves, I could not have been more pleased. Thus vindicated, my desire to further formalize my love of science brings me to State University. Thanks to this experience, I know now better than ever that State University is my future, because through it I seek another, permanent, opportunity to follow my passion for science and engineering.
In addition to just science, I am drawn to State University for other reasons. I strive to work with the diverse group of people that State University wholeheartedly accommodates – and who also share my mindset. They, like me, are there because State University respects the value of diversity. I know from personal experience that in order to achieve the trust, honesty, and success that State University values, new people are needed to create a respectful environment for these values. I feel that my background as an American Sikh will provide an innovative perspective in the university’s search for knowledge while helping it to develop a basis for future success. And that, truly, is the greatest success I can imagine.
This emphasis on diversity can also be found in the variety of specialized departments found at State University. On top of its growing cultural and ethnic diversity, State University is becoming a master at creating a niche for every student. However, this does not isolate students by forcing them to work with only those individuals who follow their specific discipline. Instead, it is the seamless interaction between facilities that allows each department, from engineering to programming, to create a real learning environment that profoundly mimics the real world. Thus, State University is not just the perfect place for me, it is the only place for me. Indeed, having the intellectual keenness to absorb every ounce of knowledge presented through my time in the IB program, I know that I can contribute to State University as it continues to cultivate a scholarly climate that encourages intellectual curiosity.
At the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at State University, I will be able to do just that. In a department where education and research are intermixed, I can continue to follow the path that towards scientific excellence. Long-mesmerized by hobbies like my work with the FIRST Robotics team, I believe State University would be the best choice to continue to nurture my love for electrical and computer engineering. I have only scratched the surface in this ever evolving field but know that the technological potential is limitless. Likewise, I feel that my time at State University would make my potential similarly limitless.
This is a picture-perfect response to a university-specific essay prompt. What makes it particularly effective is not just its cohesive structure and elegant style but also the level of details the author uses in the response. By directly identifying the specific aspects of the university that are attractive to the writer, the writer is able to clearly and effectively show not only his commitment to his studies but – perhaps more importantly – the level of thought he put into his decision to apply. Review committees know what generic responses look like so specificity sells.
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College Essay Two
Prompt: What motivates you?
For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of science. Where others see the engineering, experimentation, and presentation of science as a chore, I only see excitement. Even as a child I constantly sought it out, first on television with Bill Nye and The Mythbusters, then later in person in every museum exhibit I could find. Science in all its forms fascinated me, but science projects in particular were a category all to themselves. To me, science projects were a special joy that only grew with time. In fact, it was this continued fascination for hands-on science that brought me years later to the sauna that is the University of Alabama in mid-June. Participating in the Student Science Training Program and working in their lab made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Just the thought of participating in a project at this level of scientific rigor made me forget that this was supposed to be my summer break and I spent the first day eagerly examining every piece of equipment.
Even at first, when the whole research group sat there doing rote calculations and others felt like they were staring down the barrel of defeated purpose, I remained enthusiastic. Time and time again I reminded myself of that famous phrase "great effort leads to great rewards," and sure enough, soon my aspirations began to be met. This shift in attitude also coincided with a shift in location: from the computer desk to the laser lab. It was finally time to get my hands dirty.
Now things began to get really interesting. During the experimentation phase of the project, I spent the majority of my waking hours in the lab – and I enjoyed every minute of it. From debriefing with my coordinator in the morning to checking and rechecking results well into the afternoon, I was on cloud nine all day, every day. I even loved the electric feeling of anxiety as I waited for the results. Most of all, though, I loved the pursuit of science itself. Before I knew it, I was well into the seventh week and had completed my first long-term research experiment.
In the end, although the days were long and hard, my work that summer filled me with pride. That pride has confirmed and reinvigorated my love for science. I felt more alive, more engaged, in that lab than I have anywhere else, and I am committed to returning. I have always dreamed of science but since that summer, since my experiment, I have dreamed only of the future. To me, medical science is the future and through it I seek another, permanent, opportunity to follow my passion. After all, to follow your passion is, literally, a dream come true.
In addition to its use of clear, demonstrative language, there is one thing that makes this an effective essay: focus. Indeed, notice that, although the question is broad, the answer is narrow. This is crucial. It can be easy to wax poetic on a topic and, in the process, take on too much. Instead, by highlighting one specific aspect of his personality, the author is able to give the reader a taste of his who he is without overwhelming him or simply reproducing his résumé. This emphasis gives the reader the opportunity to learn who the writer is on his terms and makes it a truly compelling application essay.
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College Essay Three
The winter of my seventh grade year, my alcoholic mother entered a psychiatric unit for an attempted suicide. Mom survived, but I would never forget visiting her at the ward or the complete confusion I felt about her attempt to end her life. Today I realize that this experience greatly influenced my professional ambition as well as my personal identity. While early on my professional ambitions were aimed towards the mental health field, later experiences have redirected me towards a career in academia.
I come from a small, economically depressed town in Northern Wisconson. Many people in this former mining town do not graduate high school and for them college is an idealistic concept, not a reality. Neither of my parents attended college. Feelings of being trapped in a stagnant environment permeated my mind, and yet I knew I had to graduate high school; I had to get out. Although most of my friends and family did not understand my ambitions, I knew I wanted to make a difference and used their doubt as motivation to press through. Four days after I graduated high school, I joined the U.S. Army.
The 4 years I spent in the Army cultivated a deep-seated passion for serving society. While in the Army, I had the great honor to serve with several men and women who, like me, fought to make a difference in the world. During my tour of duty, I witnessed several shipmates suffer from various mental aliments. Driven by a commitment to serve and a desire to understand the foundations of psychological illness, I decided to return to school to study psychology.
In order to pay for school and continue being active in the community, I enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard as a Medic. Due to the increased deployment schedule and demands placed on all branches of the military after September 11, my attendance in school has necessarily come second to my commitment to the military. There are various semesters where, due to this demand, I attended school less than full time. Despite taking a long time and the difficulty in carving separate time for school with such occupational requirements, I remained persistent aiming towards attending school as my schedule would allow. My military commitment ends this July and will no longer complicate my academic pursuits.
In college, as I became more politically engaged, my interest began to gravitate more towards political science. The interest in serving and understanding people has never changed, yet I realized I could make a greater difference doing something for which I have a deeper passion, political science. Pursuing dual degrees in both Psychology and Political Science, I was provided an opportunity to complete a thesis in Psychology with Dr. Sheryl Carol a Professor in Social Psychology at the University of Texas (UT) This fall I will complete an additional thesis as a McNair Scholar with Dr. Ken Chambers, Associate Professor in Latin American studies in the UT Political Science Department.
As an undergraduate, I was privileged to gain extensive research experience working in a research lab with Dr. Carol. During the three years I worked in her lab, I aided in designing a study, writing an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application, running participants through both pilot and regular studies, coding data, and analyzing said data, with these experiences culminating in my honors thesis. This thesis, entitled Self-Esteem and Need-to-Belong as predictors of implicit stereotypic explanatory bias, focuses on the relationship between levels (high and low) of self-esteem and an individual’s need to belong in a group, and how they predict whether an individual will tend to explain stereotype-inconsistent behavior. Participating in such a large study from start to finish has validated my interest in academic research as a profession.
This fall I will embark on writing an additional honors thesis in political science. While the precise topic of my thesis is undecided, I am particularly interested in Mexico and its development towards a more democratic government. Minoring in Spanish, I have read various pieces of literature from Mexico and have come to respect Mexico and Latin American culture and society. I look forward to conducting this research as it will have a more qualitative tilt than my thesis in psychology, therefore granting an additional understanding of research methodology.
My present decision to switch from social psychology to political science is further related to a study abroad course sponsored by the European Union with Dr. Samuel Mitchell, an Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at UT. Professor Mitchell obtained a grant to take a class of students to Belgium in order to study the EU. This course revealed a direct correlation between what I had studied in the classroom with the real world. After spending several weeks studying the EU, its history and present movement towards integration, the class flew to Brussels where we met with officials and proceeded to learn firsthand how the EU functioned.
My interest in attending the University of Rochester in particular, relates to my first semester at OU and the opportunity to take an introductory course in statistics with the now retired Dr. Larry Miller. Through the combination of a genuine appreciation and knack for statistics and with his encouragement, I proceeded to take his advanced statistics class as well as the first graduate level statistics course at OU. I continued my statistical training by completing the second graduate statistics course on model comparisons with Dr. Roger Johnson, a Professor in the Psychology Department. The model comparison course was not only the most challenging course I have taken as an undergraduate, but the most important. As the sole undergraduate in the course and only college algebra under my belt, I felt quite intimidated. Yet, the rigors of the class compelled me to expand my thinking and learn to overcome any insecurities and deficits in my education. The effort paid off as I earned not only an ‘A’ in the course, but also won the T.O.P.S. (Top Outstanding Psychology Student) award in statistics. This award is given to the top undergraduate student with a demonstrated history of success in statistics.
My statistical training in psychology orientates me toward a more quantitative graduate experience. Due to the University of Rochester’s reputation for an extensive use of statistics in political science research, I would make a good addition to your fall class. While attending the University of Rochester, I would like to study international relations or comparative politics while in graduate school. I find the research of Dr.’s Hein Goemans and Gretchen Helmke intriguing and would like the opportunity to learn more about it through the Graduate Visitation program.
Participation in the University of Rochester’s Graduate School Visitation Program would allow me to learn more about the Department of Political Science to further see if my interests align with those in the department. Additionally, my attendance would allow the Political Science department to make a more accurate determination on how well I would fit in to the program than from solely my graduate school application. Attending the University of Rochester with its focus on quantitative training, would not only allow me to utilize the skills and knowledge I gained as an undergraduate, but also would expand this foundation to better prepare me to conduct research in a manner I find fascinating.
From attending S.E.R.E. (Survival/POW training) in the military and making it through a model comparisons course as an undergraduate, I have rarely shied away from a challenge. I thrive on difficult tasks as I enjoy systematically developing solutions to problems. Attending the University of Rochester would more than likely prove a challenge, but there is no doubt in my mind that I would not only succeed but enable me to offer a unique set of experiences to fellow members of the incoming graduate class.
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