Common App Essay #18 – Stanford

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. (250-650 words)

For my entire life, I have had the itch: the itch to understand.

As a kid I was obsessed with a universe I knew nothing about. In elementary school, my favorite book was an introduction to fulcrums for kids. Like the Pythagoreans who had marveled at the perfect ratios of musical notes, I was enamored with the mathematical symmetries of fulcrums. The book inflamed my itch but I had no means to scratch it.

I was raised a San Francisco Hippie by musicians and artists. I learned to sing the blues before I knew the words I used. Without guidance from any scientific role models, I never learned what it meant to do science, let alone differentiate science from science-fiction. As a kid, it was obvious to me a flying car was equally as plausible as a man on the moon. When my parents told me my design for a helium filled broomstick would not fly, they could not explain why, they just knew it wouldn’t. My curiosity went unrewarded and I learned to silence my scientific mind to avoid the torture of my inability to scratch the itch.

Then, in Sophomore year, I met [Chloe]. Before [Chloe], “passion” was an intangible vocab term I had memorized. Ever since she lost her best friend to cancer in middle school, she had been using her pain to fuel her passion for fighting cancer. When you spoke to her about oncology, her eyes lit up, she bounced like a child, her voice raised an octave. She emanated raw, overwhelming passion.

I wanted it. I was enviously watching another person scratch an itch I couldn’t.

I was so desperate to feel the way [Chloe] did that I faked feeling passionate; AP Physics 1 with Mr. Prothro had sparked my old Pythagorean wonder in mathematics so I latched on to physics as my new passion and whenever I talked about it, I made my eyes light up, made myself bounce like a child, purposefully raised my voice an octave.

Slowly, my passion emerged from pretense and envy into reality.

Without prompting, my eyes would light up, my heart would swell, and my mind would clear. One night, I was so exhilarated to start that night’s problem set that I jumped out of my seat. I forgot to sit back down. I spent that night bent over at my desk, occasionally straightening out, walking around and visualising problems in my head. Five whiteboards now cover my walls and every night, I do my homework standing up.

Once learning became my passion, my life changed. Old concepts gained new beauty, the blues became a powerful medium of expression. Mathematics became a language rather than a subject. I rocketed from the kid who cried in class while learning about negative numbers to one of two juniors in an 800-person class to skip directly into AP Physics C and AP Calculus BC. I founded Lowell Physics Club, which became one of the largest clubs in the school. Over the summer at Stanford, I earned perfect marks in Ordinary Differential Equations, Energy Resources, an Introduction to MATLAB, and an environmental seminar, all the while completing the Summer Environment and Water Studies Intensive. Now in my senior year, I am earning my AS in Mathematics and Physics at the City College of San Francisco.

As I enter college, the applicability of my field of physics offers me a broad array of high-impact careers. Given that by 2050, 17% of Bangladesh’s land will be underwater displacing twenty million people, I have settled on energy resources engineering. All of this is natural progression from one development – I learned to scratch my itch.

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