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Supplemental Essays: Amherst and Duke

Supplemental Essays: Amherst and Duke
Write for the Future essayists Anton Kliot (left) and Calvin Thompson (right)

Write for the Future essayists Anton Kliot (left) and Calvin Thompson (right)

Amherst Supplemental Essays

By Anton Kliot

Amherst gave applicants the opportunity to respond to a quotation in an essay of not more than 300 words. The instructions stated, “It is not necessary to research, read, or refer to the texts from which these quotations are taken; we are looking for original, personal responses to these short excerpts. Remember that your essay should be personal in nature and not simply an argumentative essay.”

Anton chose the following quote: “Rigorous reasoning is crucial in mathematics, and insight plays an important secondary role these days. In the natural sciences, I would say that the order of these two virtues is reversed. Rigor is, of course, very important. But the most important value is insight—insight into the workings of the world. It may be because there is another guarantor of correctness in the sciences, namely, the empirical evidence from observation and experiments.”

Kannan Jagannathan, Professor of Physics, Amherst College

Sitting in the shade of a tree in Central Park with two close friends, I absentmindedly pick up a fallen leaf and begin crumpling it in my hands. With that, a seed begins to form in my mind. As I look at the tree overhead, I think of the immense amount of solar energy necessary to its growth—yet this leaf could disintegrate into debris with little energy input.

I look up at a crumbling, pre-war building a hundred meters away. Hours, days, months, even, of manual labor and tons of fossil fuels had gone into its construction; yet it would take only time and the persuasion of the elements to break down into dust. This, I realize, is free energy in action. To build things, natural or man-made, to move from chaos towards structure, requires energy. However, it is the tendency of the world–the universe even—to regress towards disorder.

When my professor initially taught the concept of free energy, I was perplexed. I vaguely understood that entropy stood for chaos, and enthalpy for energy, but beyond that I was stumped. What were these values? And why did they determine the spontaneity of reactions? I learned the equations provided, and how to tackle basic problems, but without grasping entropy’s role in the reactions of the world around me I found true understanding of the concept elusive.

The power of insight lives in its ability to grow outside of the normative places where we expect to foster revelations, such as classes and labs. Ultimately, it was that day in the park, as much as any classroom experience, that  bolstered my understanding. My passion for chemistry comes not from solving equations, but from the insight into the workings of the world I have gained, both in and out of the lab.

Duke Supplemental Essays

By Calvin Thompson

1.) Please discuss why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something in particular at Duke that attracts you? (Please limit your response to no more than 150 words.)

I love many things, but learning and sports top the list. The moment I stepped onto Duke’s campus, I leaned over to my mother, gasping, and said, “Whoa,” even before beginning my tour. I was stunned to immediately see signs of my loves everywhere. My dreams of tenting in K-Ville for the annual Duke-UNC game almost made my mouth water. As for learning, the cross-disciplinary study options that Duke offers ignite my passions. I have always loved business, and as I have aged, I discovered a deep interest in education. At Duke, I saw the opportunity to combine these two interests in many ways. I would love to initiate lunches with Professor Elizabeth Garcia, whose work focuses on educational motivation, and Mark T. Brown, Director of the Management Communications Center. Exploring commonalities in business and educational spheres would be uplifting, and will engage all of my most profound interests.

2.) Please discuss one of your extracurricular activities that has required a particularly significant time commitment or that has played a meaningful role in your personal development. (Please limit your response to no more than 150 words.)

I struggled academically in middle school. So, in my sophomore year of high school, I started a tutoring program for 6-8th grade African-American and Latino students, who, like me at their age, were experiencing difficulties in school. I noticed at the high school level, I was among a tiny number of students of color taking honors and advanced classes. However, this problem  clearly started earlier. To solve it, I thought about what I wished I had in middle school: privacy and attention. I provided this so my students could receive help without feeling like they were “idiots” compared to their peers. Since beginning the program, I have tutored the same kids for 3 years. All my students have improved their grades and are on track for honors level classes in high school. Watching them work hard and succeed has been the most gratifying experience of my life thus far.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

It’s Not Easy Being Green

2014-05-09-32183_10151393788600415_1417407436_n1By Chris Drakeford

“It’s not easy being green,” In today’s world, green is everywhere from supermarkets to car showrooms. But to be honest, I had not given much thought to green until I was introduced to Ayr Muir and the Clover Food Truck, a green business on MIT’s campus. Through an internship at MIT’s Community Innovator’s Lab, a research center associated with the department of Urban Studies and planning, I created a short documentary about Clover.

Ayr, an MIT graduate, gave up a job on Wall Street to create his dream business, the Clover Food Truck. He found innovative ways to deal with the many obstacles that green businesses face, such as limited investment funds for green technologies, limited customer interest in green products, and customer unwillingness to pay a premium for the products. Clover did not heavily promote the fact that it was green, but instead concentrated on building a base of regular customers by making great food. While many people might shy away from a menu stacked with vegan sandwiches, the truth is that the food was simply delicious. In fact, several customers we interviewed were not even aware of how green Clover was. Clover’s prices were comparable to, if not better, than those of other local eateries. Ayr was able to maintain lower prices by purchasing his organic food from local suppliers, avoiding the cost of shipping food from further away.

Every aspect of Clover’s operation was designed with sustainability in mind. The truck itself was built with many recycled materials, such as the counter made from a local red oak that fell during a storm. It was equipped with energy-efficient appliances, and the staff used less than 20 gallons of water a day in food preparation. In addition, the truck was fueled partially by biodiesel (french-fry oil).

As a person who had little prior knowledge about sustainability, I learned a great deal from Ayr and the Clover truck. I learned that sustainability has many faces, whether it is wind power and other alternate forms of energy, or the little green things we can do each day. I now find that I am much more conscious about habits like recycling, switching to fluorescent lights and turning them off when not in use, and using less water. I spent very little time thinking about such things before my experience with Clover.

The daily lunchtime rush to the truck is evidence that Ayr has overcome the challenge of successfully establishing a green business. It is his philosophy that “businesses have a greater impact on society than anything.” Businesses such as the Clover Truck can pave the way to a greener future.

Chris Drakeford is a graduate of Yorktown High School and is currently a senior at Tufts University

Engaging Extracurriculars, Part 2

Engaging Extracurriculars, Part 2

jakobiBy Jakobi Jackson

I jump up and down to get pumped for the 500 meter freestyle. I give myself an inner pep talk. “Alright you’ve got to make it to the next Age Groups. You can do this!” My competitors’ looks of determination unnerve me. The whistle rouses me to action. “Take your mark…” “BEEP” “SPLASH.” We dive and I feel the power and agility of my practiced reflexes take control of me. I jet on top of the water. “Alright lap 15; kick it up a notch,” my inner coach tells me. Through swimming, l can express my raw emotions and empty my mind of baggage. “lap 20, I’m losing speed, faster!” I kick harder. My arms move like a propeller. I gasp for air every three strokes. “Last lap go all out,” I tell myself as I storm to the finish. My fingertips reach for the wall a moment before anyone else. I got first place! “Yes! I made the cut; I’m going to Age Groups” I say, panting for air. I endured the pain, pushed to my goal and will experience my first 13 and over Age Group Championship meet.

Jakobi Jackson is a graduate of Stamford High School and is currently a sophomore at American University.

Bringing a Global Perspective to Campus

Bringing a Global Perspective to Campus

Given your interests, values, and goals, explain why Oberlin College will help you grow (as a student and a person) during your undergraduate years. (300 words)

By: James Francis

There I am: a relatively shy 15-year-old male, standing in front of an all girls class reading a story about menstrual cycles and a steamy affair. A day before, I face a small mob pulling at me as if I were Jay Z as opposed to Jay Francis. It all started with Kids Powered, an organization my sister and I founded many years ago. Who would have thought we would grow from lemonade stands to one day delivering school supplies to the shantytown of Nyanza just outside Cape Town? I organized a community service project in South Africa after a family friend shared the story of teaching in the shantytowns without simple school supplies. So we raised money to buy and deliver supplies. In the first class I visited, I read aloud to the all girl class. The school did not have enough books for everyone, so the teacher often reads to the students.

Our drive to the high school was striking due to the prominent TV satellite dishes littering the roofs of tiny shacks made of scrap metal. I saw the impact of the satellites in an 11th grade boys’ math class as students asked me to describe my encounters with rap stars that they knew through television. “You never met Kanye West?”

If so many young people there connect so deeply to American pop culture, can we not find a way to excite them about other slices of America centering around, say, energy, technology or something of great benefit to the students’ futures? What if Oberlin’s revolutionary water treatment “Living Machine” came to the shantytown? I would be at home probing such a question at Oberlin, which inspires my devout interests in the college. I seek a liberal arts education that complements my passions for science and math in a way that allows me to imagine and then implement steps to a better world.

James Francis is a graduate of The Ethical Culture Fieldston School and is currently a sophomore at Oberlin College

Why Northwestern?

Why Northwestern?

By Hannah Kliot

2014-03-29-201307171011914_4950269116358_176436841_nJunior year: I am in my bed reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, my mind wrestling to understand how two people could conspire to kill so many people. After reading Capote’s book, I begin to explore another massacre – Columbine – and, after devouring articles, books and movies on the event, I ultimately write my final English paper comparing the two tragedies. I was not always confident expressing my original ideas and analyses. I began my first year at Dalton as a timid English student, often afraid of my own narrative voice. Hard work and great teachers helped me develop into a passionate and confident writer who only writes a thesis statement after considering many perspectives that challenge my initial assumptions.

After taking an Urban Studies class through the Global Online Academy last spring, I could not help but wonder: What kind of student I would have become if I were solely dependent on the dollar menu at McDonald’s to satisfy my hunger?  My growth as a writer has never been compromised by nutrition. Many experts focus on test scores and classroom size when they consider the achievement gap in education. But what about the role of nutrition in educational disparities? How can limited access to fresh produce with vital nutrients impact the learning potential of children?  I am eager to bring these questions to SOCIOL 311 Food, Politics, and Society with Professor Susan Thistle and other classes in the Weinberg School of Arts and Sciences to explore cities and the American future.

My fascination with urban America prompted my own research on nutrition and access to fresh food in cities as part of my Urban Studies class. Our class worked on solving problems specific to different urban communities. Through the class, I explored highway pollution in Portland, Oregon; drug violence in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and food deserts in New York City. I see Northwestern as an ideal place to continue these investigations and grow as an urbanist with a focus on a new, large, midwestern city. My interest in these areas draws me to the Weinberg School’s departments of Global Health, Urban Studies, and Sociology.

The Chicago Field Studies concentration in Weinberg is an exciting option for a student with my interests and background in the social sciences in that my classroom experience would extend beyond the campus and into the city. I could focus on social justice, intern at a nonprofit or community-based organization and make a tangible impact on urban challenges. This would be a natural progression from my active participation in my school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, in which I helped organize advocacy trips to Albany and D.C. to build affordable housing and prevent foreclosures.

My interest in science, and specifically my current biotechnology class, has sensitized me to the ethical challenges of scientific solutions to urban American problems. Our class recently researched different types of biofuels as alternative energy sources, which was a way to apply the information we had been learning in the classroom to real-world challenges. Classes offered in Weinberg such as Global Bioethics and Health, Biomedicine, Culture, and Society could give me further knowledge on the obstacles that scientists must surmount to be as effective as possible in our society. I could discuss and research solutions to these challenges with professors such as Michael Diamond, who specializes in Global Health Studies and has taught Managing Global Health Challenges.

As someone who enjoys writing, I am also eager to explore multiple platforms through which I can share my work on urban life. I am drawn to Northwestern because of the opportunity to take journalism classes in the Medill School of Journalism, which would complement my studies in Weinberg.  This would give me the chance to combine my love for writing and journalism with my passion for social sciences, urban studies, legal studies, and the Portuguese language and culture. Northwestern is a place where my many interests are not a hindrance in choosing between classes and programs, but rather a place where combining these interests is encouraged. Weinberg has a distinctly strong focus on undergraduate research in the social sciences. The annual Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition celebrates this research. The Weinberg School is also one of the few schools across the country that offers a minor in Portuguese and Lusophone Cultures, a concentration that I am passionate about and hope to pursue.

While Northwestern’s proximity to Chicago has a great influence on my desire to attend the school, its location in the smaller town of Evanston is just as appealing to me. The sudden transition from a bustling city to beautiful, quiet suburbs on the North Shore is a welcome contrast from the completely urban environment that I grew up with in New York City. A smaller college town setting with easy access to a large city provides the best of both worlds, a distinguishing quality of Northwestern.

Northwestern’s size is distinctive in that it has all of the resources of a larger university while maintaining strong, personal professor-student relationships that I find crucial for successful educational development. Students’ happiness and passion were evident throughout my visit. My tour guide Mariana beamed as she explained all of the unique academic, social, and internship opportunities that she had at Northwestern. Students smiled walking past us on Sheridan Road, eagerly anticipating their athletic commitments, lunch with friends, or office hours with a professor. Everyone seemed to have a place in the school, and all students are brought together through the numerous academic, cultural, athletic, and social offerings. After all, where else can thousands of undergraduate students come together for a thirty-hour Dance Marathon to benefit a charitable cause? This event epitomizes the large impact that Northwestern has due to its number of undergraduates while simultaneously maintaining the feeling of a tight-knit community. Whether it is dressing up in all purple to cheer on the Wildcats, working on a group project with friends during lunch in Norris, or exploring restaurants in the town of Evanston and in the greater city of Chicago, there is no place where I would rather spend my next four years.

Hannah Kliot is a graduate of the Dalton School and is currently a Freshman at Northwestern University.

Why U-Penn?

by Alec Harris

Considering both the specific undergraduate school or program to which you are applying and the broader University of Pennsylvania community, what academic, research, and/or extracurricular paths do you see yourself exploring at Penn?

You have heard of cancer and AIDS, but what about poor file management? Every year 96,000 Americans die due to poor file management of medical records. With two business partners, I decided to dive into this critical national public health problem. My two partners, high school students like me, address this problem by creating a company that unites hospitals through a “Cloud System.” Doctors would be able to enter the “Cloud” and open up their patients’ documents. By utilizing their patients’ health information, doctors could safely determine the right medications to prescribe. We meet weekly to work on the product and search for investors.

I look forward to marrying my passion for problem solving and entrepreneurship with the strong liberal arts foundation at the University of Pennsylvania. I have purposefully chosen to major in economics in the College of Arts and Science because it will provide the intellectual underpinning to complement my diverse interests as an aspiring entrepreneur. I also appreciate the opportunity to start clubs at the University of Pennsylvania, as I would start an organization that focuses on entrepreneurship for liberal arts majors.

I owe my initial curiosity to take on problems, like poor file management, to my participation in LEAD’s Engineering and business programs over the past two summers at Villanova and Duke. The LEAD teachers challenged me with intriguing and difficult problems to assess. Through the lectures and assignments, I gained a passion for finding the solutions to many problems that we discussed. For example, we were told to find the cause of a specific short-circuited car. After many hours of research, I found the transistors, under the hood, worked as gates by controlling the amount of electricity used. When the transistor breaks down, a car can be short-circuited. We studied how such a complex network operates and evaluated new ideas for the purpose of efficiency, which inspired my thirst for more answers.

Student life at Penn would offer the opportunity to explore my other interests in social problems. In my days of playing baseball in the Harlem Little League, I met many kids who had a mutual love for baseball, but I was keenly aware of our different social situations. Many of them ended up in gangs and jail. They were sons of alcoholic fathers or grew up around gang violence. The decisions they made were inevitably a reflection of what surrounded them.  I want to join students organizations that tackle those kinds of problems.

Whether it’s the book Freakonomics or my observations of my friends, I always find myself analyzing the different angles in search for hidden answers to problems, whether they are math or engineering or social problems like those that can impair the lives of inner city teenagers. At U-Penn, I would enter a world that would give me the artillery to continue the search for solutions to problems that had not been answered.

Alec Harris is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and a 2012 graduate of Pomfret.

Why Skidmore?

by Sophia Barachi-Ehlrich

In brief, why do you feel that Skidmore is a good match for your academic and personal goals? (700 ch)

The prodigious emphasis on the arts is one of the many things that drew me to Skidmore. It was the first school I visited where Studio Art is one of the most popular majors, which is important to me because I am a passionate painter. Many colleges claim to be largely art-oriented, but Skidmore uniquely and wonderfully combines classroom art with environmental aesthetics. The campus’ visual aspects give the students an electrified spark and the notion that anything is possible. In addition, the students can combine their artistic passions with other academic subjects, thereby doing what they love.

Sophia Barachi-Ehlrich, a 2012 graduate of The Ethical Culture Fieldston School, is a sophomore at Skidmore.

Why Barnard?

by Amanda Honeywell

“GO LIONS!” I could hear myself getting louder with the crowd as we watched the football game between Penn and Columbia. Seeing my chattering teeth, my mom told me to wait with the rest of the family; she’d be right back. I continued to cheer, ignoring the cold air against my face. Moments later she reappeared, wearing a light blue sweatshirt with BARNARD written across the front. She handed me an identical sweatshirt, informing me that I was now wearing her Alma Mater. As a six-year-old, I did not know what that meant, but I continued to cheer.

Last summer, I re-entered Barnard’s gates, overjoyed to have been accepted in the Pre-College Program. I enrolled in The Mental Life of Babies, studying infant cognition. One class just wasn’t enough. I hated saying goodbye to Milbank Hall and Pilar, my roommate who became a great friend. The experience reinforced strong interests in Barnard as a setting where I could thrive alongside brilliant women.

Besides, where else is a dancing bear the mascot?

Amanda Honeywell, a 2013 graduate of the Kew Forest School, is a freshman at Barnard.

Why Syracuse?

Who or what influenced you to apply to Syracuse University?

by Douglass Holloway

The wind was brutal. It slapped my face and sent my body into a shiver the minute I stepped out of the car for my first visit to Syracuse University. I was not expecting Bahamas weather, but there was something about the snap of that first Syracuse wind that awakened my mind and body to a new day. I saw the smiles on the faces of students walking together and obviously enjoying their conversations. I wanted to pull out a video camera and begin shooting a series: Smiling Through the Engaging Winds of Syracuse Life.

My creativity was so comfortable within the cold world of Syracuse. I love to ski and felt like I was on my favorite slope as I toured the campus and learned more about the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, specifically of the Film/Television/ Radio program. I began imagining a life of classes that will compel me to study content in new ways. I envision assignments in which I create content that stretches the limits of different genres of film and television programing. I also appreciated the opportunities to study other subjects such as history and literature.

I had heard the Syracuse spin from many alumni and friends from my high school who attend the school. They say all the good things that loyal students and alumni celebrate about any good school: great faculty, a challenging curriculum, accomplished alumni, good sporting events, school spirit, engaging and quality campus experience, yeah, yeah, yeah. However, I saw the wonders of the alumni and student’s descriptions on my tour and in the classes I visited. By the time I was in the car on the way home with the heat blasting, I had acquired a strong taste for a new color. In fact, at breakfast the next day, my orange juice was not too sweet but not at all bitter. It was just right!

Douglass Holloway, a freshman at Syracuse, is a 2013 graduate of Scarsdale High School.

Who Is The Person You Dream Of Becoming?

Syracuse University: Who is the person you dream of becoming and how do you believe Syracuse University can help you achieve this?

by Tyler Mckenzie 

Michael Vick walks into my office. A few minutes later, an animal rights activist enters. I bring the two of them together and convince them both to work together for the cause of safety to animals. My education at Syracuse will give me the tools to produce that dream. I want to become a sports agent and the solid program in business and the culture of sports at Syracuse will provide the tools for me to pursue my goals. Syracuse also has an overwhelming support for sports as evidenced by a great fan base that really shows enormous love for Syracuse athletics. Playing basketball at Syracuse is a goal of mine, which will also be great training for my long- term goals.  I also dream of becoming a more well rounded person intellectually and Syracuse has many opportunities to help me achieve this.

Tyler Mckenzie, a 2011 graduate of Half Hollow East High School, Dix Hills, New York, is a sophomore at Syracuse University.