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Amherst essay examples

    • This will be my final update for the 2013-2014 application season.

      With the early rush over, I have a few editing slots open going into the last weekend of December
      ; if you have one or more application essays that you wish to have reviewed and closely edited, splice the following address into an e-mail and contact me with the subject “editing request:” wordguild@gmail.
      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.

      com.

      Include your name, geographical location, and a basic description of what you need. I’ll be asking you to provide me some additional information to help me edit, but all information and work is kept strictly confidential.

      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.

      My prices for a three-round editing package, with the last edit ready to submit, are $100-$150, depending on the essay length and prompt.

      As for the Ivies, here we go:

      The Ivies are using the Common App and a variety of questions in their supplemental sections; what they share, beyond the Common App essays, is one or more supplemental responses that are best restated by the question “Why do you want to go to school here?” This is a question which you can and should research.

      What you should not do is write an autobiographical incident or short essay on some experiment or program you were in-it’s fine and in fact necessary to talk about yourself and your specific academic interests, but you should also be talking about and showing knowledge of the university itself.

      Don’t just recycle part of a Common App essay.
      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.

      Things To Research For The “Why Us” Prompt

      Brown

      So let’s start with Brown as an example; their prompt is pretty simple: Why Brown? You probably already knew that, but my advice-again, repeated throughout this post, with some different links and information about each school- is to do some research, specifically in the areas in which you are considering majoring.

      The essay should be about your experiences and interests, but not just about you.
      Where I truly found diversity was much closer to home. Bulgaria, because of its history, is a place of many nationalities. Besides the majority of Bulgarians who are Orthodox Christian, there are many Turks and Roma, most of whom are Muslim. Because these ethnic minorities are poor and isolated in communities of their own, very few of them attend Bulgarian schools, especially a mathematics high school such as mine. Thus, I first encountered ethnic diversity when I began helping at a local orphanage, where most of the children were Roma.

      It’s about the school as well, and not just about how the school will be useful to you. How will you be useful in the world? To other people or creatures or the environment? What will your contribution be?

      Please think about that. The admissions officer will be looking for it-it doesn’t need to be completely explicit and specific, but they won’t be impressed by an essay with a whole lot of “I’s” and “me’s” in it, or by an essay that is all about how they can do things for you.

      But those statistics reveal little about the first-years who roam around campus each day. Who are they? What do they value? What have they seen? For answers to these questions, Amherst magazine turned to their college admission essays.

      See the Dartmouth admissions officer, below, and his comments on the self-absorbed.

      Look outside yourself. Study the university. Find out about programs, then about professors as well as classes. Know something about the research or work being done at Brown in your field of interest.

      Mathematics is not a field requiring much social interaction; its symbols do not depend on different cultural contexts. These are both aspects of mathematics that I love—the possibility of even a beginner to work independently and the universality of mathematical proofs. But, while math itself can be a solitary study, my pursuit of math has certainly led me to meet a variety of people. As part of the Bulgarian national math team, I often competed abroad. Having math as a common background did make it easy to approach the other competitors, and our evening conversations did go beyond the formulas from the morning competition. Being the math enthusiasts that we were, however, our conversations never strayed too far. We bonded, for instance, over our discovery that most Balkan countries still use the same ancient Soviet textbooks in math.

      Follow links and information on the work of specific professors and schools or institutes or centers.

      Be able to name drop with knowledge, but not just as a list of names the app reader already knows; this should be shown as something that fits with you and your plans, as something you can use, with a little explanation, in a meaningful way.

      Be able to explain how Brown can help you achieve whatever it is you want to achieve-which hopefully has something to do with helping other people out in some way, whether through innovation or services.
      When my grandmother called our house that afternoon, I had no idea how much my plans for the summer were about to change. In an effort to restore the health of the front lawn through his traditional method of burning the grass, my grandfather had quickly lost control of the flames, setting his entire house on fire. My family traveled our regular route to my grandparents’ house, only this time, when we arrived, we saw charred, wet wood instead of the blue-gray exterior to which we were accustomed. It was then we learned that our grandfather had years ago decided not to put homeowner’s insurance on the house, and that we would have to rebuild it ourselves.

      Then write efficiently and without hyperbole.

      I recommend reading this article on the changes to Brown’s supplementals for this year : Changes to the Brown Supplement. And don’t forget to have a look at their mission statements, motto, and that kind of thing.

      The 440 students who make up the Class of ’12 are, by the numbers, very impressive. Their average SAT scores are 708 verbal, 706 math and 705 writing. They were part of the largest applicant pool in Amherst history—more than 7,700 applied for a spot in their class—and they were among just 1,144 admitted.

      Brown is one of the Ivies that views public service as more than lip service. Don’t forget: Sincerity is a must, but avoid being preachy or a hand-wringer, and don’t come off as self-absorbed. See my links below to how to evade the cliché, et al.

      Know What Your Major Entails/Understand the Hierarchies

      To repeat: research all things related to your major or to areas you think you may want to major in-you hopefully have already done some research and know the basics, but a quick recap here: Majors are taught within a “division,” “school” “program” and/or “department” and, in recent decades also within “centers” and “institutes.

      ” Some of the latter have different structures than a traditional school or department, but for the most part the name game with centers and institutes is a way to set up funding, often around one or more rock star figures (they are not always professors by trade, but possess advanced degrees and outside experience that applies to the field in question) or around some hot, usually interdisciplinary new “field.” There is a constant turf war for attention and funding which has driven this in recent years and this also reflects developing areas of study and technology-new stuff can create new disciplines.

      Back To Brown

      One example at Brown is the department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, formed in 2010.

      How linguistics has joined Cognition and Psychology is a bit convoluted but will illustrate a point I want to make about the contemporary, interdisciplinary approach to education.
      In reply to your "Do they expect to see an interesting opinion on any question? Or do they want to read something written by the type of person the quotation describes?", i think an interesting opinion could work, but that's not the only way you could interpret the essay prompt. As for your 2nd question, I'm sure they'd want to think the essay writer was not a machine, and was a feeling and believing person - but you don't need to focus the essay on conveying a justification of yourself as a person.
      lorddragon04 Registered User Posts: 120 Junior Member
      I know all these things, but creative or not the essay HAS to be related to the topic; and I think I don't get the topic...

      Modern linguistics really starts in the early 20th Century, with structuralism, and was a field within philosophy and sociology and later within various language departments. As the early Linguistics departments were founded at universities in the 20th Century, structuralism was superseded by new fields within linguistics, like generative grammar, and today everything from probability and game theory to computer science and brain science plays a role within linguistics (voice recognition software, anybody?).

      The result of these developments (as well as politics and funding competition) is this new department at Brown.

      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.

      It’s worth comparing majors and departmental structures at different schools-have a look at the Penn Linguistics Department, for example, which has a much less flashy website and which is embedded in a different structure- but you should also be looking at individual teachers, learning something about research and specialized programs you might be interested in, as well as about particular professors and their work.
      We'll help you estimate your AI, which is used by some schools to summarize the academic accomplishments of applicants.

      There are many other interesting developments over the last ten-fifteen years in “cross curricular” programs-check out the Brown sociology page, where you can see their links to things you would expect, like the Social Science Research Lab, but also their links to the program in Commerce, Organizations and Entrepreneurship.

      Without a place to live during this lengthy process, my grandparents moved into my house. While I loved them, my grandparents had always been somewhat of an enigma to me because they spoke mostly in French or with heavy accents. Living in such close quarters for a few months, however, gave me a much closer connection to and understanding of my grandparents, my grandfather in particular. As we spent more time together, I grew to appreciate his sense of humor, his kind disposition and his ideals. A few weeks after the fire, my grandfather passed away. I learned a great deal about him from others after his death. As a poor immigrant from Canada, he began working to support his family at age 12. He worked in a tire factory for 40 years and always put his family’s well-being before his own. As I worked to rebuild my grandparents’ home that summer, I continually reminded myself of the sacrifices my grandfather made throughout his life to give my family the comforts we have today. While I was not able to enjoy the summer relaxing with friends as I had planned, discarding the remnants of my childhood and building something new where they once were gave me a much more formative and rewarding experience. That summer, I learned a lot about my family and the hard work ethic that had brought us to this country and helped us prosper. I came to realize that I was not simply a product of my family’s hard work, but I was now part of that legacy.

      The message is that there is no time like the present to start defining a course of study for yourself, and these newer institutions do offer many opportunities to craft your own program and not to be stuck in a narrow field of study-this may also help you get a job.

      Sometimes there are glimmers of hope. Recently, the boys have been spotted with textbooks. Jacob is now a witty college freshman. Peter is a budding jazz trombonist. He is incredibly sensitive, considering that he is a 13-year-old boy. Calvin sings like an angel and makes us all laugh. A couple nights ago we heard his little falsetto voice impersonating me: “Eat more broccoli! I want you in bed by 7:30! What is that smell?!” Instead of getting mad I found myself with a big, stupid grin on my face.

      On the other hand, I always argue that you should study what you love, and research the major that is in the area that most interests you, then look for ways to make it “practical,” if you do not want to stay in academia.
      Once the smoke and ash had cleared enough to enter the house, we began our work. After putting in a full week as a landscaper at Pine Valley, a trailer park for the retired elderly, I would go to my grandparents’ house on the nights and weekends to help clear and slowly reconstruct their home. Before we could do any work on the house itself, we had to remove all of my grandparents’ waterlogged and molding possessions. We salvaged what we could and packed their entire lives into a large silver trailer in the driveway. My grandparents’ house had always been a place where my siblings and I had felt secure and loved. The basement had been converted into a play area exclusively for us; we often played “school” there, and our “tests” and “projects” covered the walls. Now, as a high school student, I was removing all of the toys, games and relics of my childhood and hurling them over my head into the colossal Dumpster in the driveway.

      An English major who can search databases with his own algorithms, for example, would be very employable; you could get there with a major in English and a minor in a computer discipline, or a minor in psychology, or sociology, or philosophy, with computer classes added to learn how to construct databases and mine data.
      Ideally, I would be able to end happily—that eventually the Roma children and I bonded and now laugh about the quirks of our different cultures, and that it was our chasing two stray cats in the yard of the orphanage that made this possible. To some extent, the children and I did become friends. I am emptying my house of my old toys to give them to the children. At the same time, I realize how trusting and simple children are. I know that if the Roma children had been older, our divergent backgrounds and the circumstances in our country would have made friendship almost impossible. In Bulgaria, where the Roma live mostly in ghettos, this is the lesson I have learned about diversity. The diversity that matters most is closest to home, and is the hardest to embrace.

      I’ll come back to that later. For more at Brown, start here:

      For more ideas on things to research and write about on the “Why Us” prompt, read on.

      Penn

      Penn wants basically the same thing as Brown; here is the prompt:

      “The Admissions Committee would like to learn why you are a good fit for your undergraduate school choice (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, The Wharton School, or Penn Engineering). Please tell us about specific academic, service, and/or research opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania that resonate with your background, interests, and goals.

      I am watching Bob Dylan play the final song of the night, and it is my dad’s favorite of all time: “Like a Rolling Stone.” As Dylan gets to the chorus, I want to cry for the first time in months. The song returns me to that night backstage with my father, only this time Dylan is talking directly to me. He is asking me a very personal question: “How does it feel?” It’s as if he knows the answer.

      ” 400-650 words

      As with the Penn or any “Why Go To Our School” prompt, you want to drill down to find specific information-and maybe to find out what you want to do, as well. Here is Penn’s Majors page: List of College Majors. In one example, if you are interested in both business and international relations, you’d want to check out the Huntsman program (listed on the Penn Majors page) and start following links on the Huntsman home page: Huntsman.

      College affordability is important for just about everyone these days, and it's handy to get an idea of how much aid you might be eligible for.

      The point is to become informed and follow information that interests you.

      Columbia
      Columbia has three prompts that roughly translate to “Why Us,” or why you fit them. Here they are:
      • Tell us what you find most appealing about Columbia and why.
  • If you are applying to Columbia College, tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time.
    A year and a half later, my father, a popular and respected newspaper columnist, had largely lost his ability to eat, walk and speak. His friend, Bob Knapp, wanted to do something to lift his spirits. He had seen my dad’s high school yearbook, which described his ambition: “To meet Bob Dylan.” So Knapp hired Dylan to come to Des Moines and play a special concert in my father’s honor. It was a last meal of sorts. The thought of that concert kept my dad strong. It gave us all something to look forward to.

  • If you are applying to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section.
  • As with all of these questions, this prompt is a good place to mention a campus visit. The people, both students and faculty, and physical setting of the school are, hopefully, something that has influenced your decision, and this is the time to express your enthusiasm.
    The five essays published here are different from one another in style and subject matter. But all, in some way, are about relationships—with family, with strangers, even with Bob Dylan. The students wrote the essays as high school kids in the throes of college-application anxiety. And the essays—more than just tools to gain admission to college—are glimpses into the minds of five people on the cusp of adulthood.

    Specifics help, but don’t get carried away in your descriptions of the ivied walls and eager scholars.
    Back in the day, research was the purview of grad students, but these days undergrads are often involved in the cutting edge stuff- as I pointed out above, “even” an English major might be doing research, and the cutting edge there might be looking at evolving responses to a work of literature over time, Huckleberry Finn, for example, using those databases of, say newspapers and periodicals I mentioned and writing algorithms to define searches that reveal how attitudes toward Twain’s magnum opus have changed, or looking at the incidence of a word and how its meaning has changed, and thus engaging in a kind of English-department driven sociology. This is quite a bit like market research, by the way, and the same basic skills can be used on other databases, looking at health in various human populations, for example.
    In December 2004, I was a few months into my freshman year of high school. Everything was perfect. I had a lot of friends, was acing my classes and had the interest of a girl I liked. Then one night my life changed. Hours after my brother returned home from college for Christmas break, the two of us were called into my parents’ room. “We have some very sad news,” my mom said. They told us that my father had Lou Gehrig’s disease and had only two to five years left to live.

    So what I am saying is, you could use this required app essay to start thinking in an innovative way about your own future, and you might even find a way to convince your parents that the apparently impractical subject that you love could actually be practical, after all.
    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.

    With a little tinkering.
    Have a look at the research opportunities in the school of psychology at Columbia, here, and start clicking for some examples of the interdisciplinary possibilities offered in one field:
    Or go to the general research page, which has links to various fields and institutions within the university and find the sites that you need:
    As you probably know, Dartmouth uses the Common App and a College/Major specific essay.
    I beg my brothers to focus. I peel them off screens like gum off pavement and toss textbooks and math worksheets in their general direction. I make color-coded “to-do” lists. They smile indulgently and go back to punching each other. I am tempted to grab my backpack and sprint to safety in my room, ignoring the low booms of violent video games and smoke creeping from the kitchen. But I cannot give up on my brothers. I see them surrounded by opportunities, by teachers and books that could open up whole new worlds for them and by parents who try doggedly to help them.

    So everything I said above about Brown, et al, still applies, but I’ll add a bonus:
    an excerpt of some quotes from an interview with a Dartmouth admissions officer, published on Business Insider; the “insider” tips offered by BI are not really anything new, and officials who are quoted as unnamed sources always have some kind of ax to grind-this guy sure offers some complaints as well as reveals some of his own biases- but his statements on the admissions essay itself are worth perusing; here they are:

    Essays

    “The essay is very important.

    It’s about a year and a half since my dad’s death. I’m with a friend and his father at a Bob Dylan concert. It is the first time I’ve seen him perform since his concert for my dad. But I’m not sitting in the front row. I’m not giving a speech before the concert. And I definitely will not meet him afterwards. Now I feel like everyone else in the crowd who is there just to hear some music. But really, I am there because of my dad, because Dylan’s music connects me to him.

    It’s when you get a sense of what the kids about. We’re looking for creativity, self-awareness. The biggest mistake is when they aren’t very self-aware and write standard sports essay where they talk about the big game and that hurts them in the end.
    I was standing backstage, staring at Bob Dylan while he performed “Like a Rolling Stone,” voted the greatest song of all time. The sound technician handed me something very special: Dylan’s harmonica. When the show was over, my father’s idol approached us. This was it, the moment my dad had been dreaming of. Dylan, who is notoriously standoffish, shook his hand and said, “It’s great to meet you.” Propped up on his walker, my father opened his mouth to talk. He was probably trying to tell Dylan something he had waited his whole life to say. But he only produced a blur of unintelligible words. The illness had taken his speech. My heart raced in a panic to understand him. Here was his big chance to talk to his hero. Yet my father, who had spent his life giving voice to the voiceless, couldn’t speak. Dylan leaned in and put his ear to my father’s mouth, but he still couldn’t understand. He gave my dad a hug and signed an autograph for him. And with that, the event that had kept us all going was over.

    Not standing out is a big mistake for kids who are from demographic groups that are historically well represented.

    But even an amazing essay can’t save a bad application.

    “It’s difficult to see an app like that because every aspect of the application needs to be pretty strong, especially in the numbers driven game, it’s hard for a kid to stand out if not strong academically even if he writes this amazing essay. It’s a question of the marginal case.”

    “Many kids write adversity essays. Some cases are more contrived than others. I remember one essay about a girl who struggled with a broken family in the ghetto, who lacked nuclear family structure at home.

    In a brief story, my father attempts to answer the ancient philosophical mind-body conundrum. Without a formal education, his active mind weaved his reflections into a metaphorical tale. Should I have broken the news that modern science dispelled his whole theory? Should I have dampened his eagerness to divulge his thoughts with his only daughter? Reason dictates that I should. But, I could never.

    It was well-written, not case of pitying herself, but written matter of factly, very powerful.”

    Most essays are not very memorable. I think people should be willing to take a larger risk with essays. There’s a way to do that and still be tasteful. You don’t want to highlight a negative personality trait.

    My connection to Dylan differs from that of my father. My father was a child of the 1960s anti-war era. Dylan, his idol, sang protest songs that energized a generation. They helped shape my father’s view of the world. My generation is also growing up while America is at war, but without anti-war idols or icons of social protest. Instead, our heroes are highly paid sports stars and high-gloss entertainers. Yet Dylan speaks to me in a personal way. When I’m in a good mood, I roll down my windows and drive around with his songs blaring. When I’m in a bad mood, the music is still blasting, only the windows are up and I’m screaming the words out. I found out only after my father’s death that he did the same thing.

    Like if you’re a complete narcissist, if that comes across in tone even though the essay is creative it will put off admissions officer. I do think kids need to think more about what they want to present.
    Participating in international math competitions has given me many chances to travel abroad. One might think this is where I have found the greatest diversity, meeting people different from me and being challenged in my views. Yet it has not been at distant math competitions but at home that I have found diversity most overpowering.

    ” (My addendum to this: use good judgement if you want to be daring Many “risky” essays actuall do come across as self-absorbed or in poor taste. So be wary of what I would call stunt essays. Notice also that the app officer specifically liked the simply factual essay by the girl from the broken family in the ghetto. Notice in addition that he uses the word ghetto, which sounds quaintly like what those suburban middle class kids, whom he seems to both pity and sneer at in the article, might say. Instead of ‘hood, for example. It’s additionally interesting, because these days the “ghetto” is more a pocket neighborhood than the vast and largely, to the middle class and upward, unknown area of a city where poor people and immigrants live. We often have urban professionals and hipsters on the same block or a block away from what this app officer would think is a “ghetto” neighborhood. So, he sounds a lot like an older version of the kids he seems to address most directly here. I’m just sayin’).

    You can read more at the link below, though I hasten to add that some of this unnamed admissions officer’s complaints deserve a response from somebody, and a good journalist would have gone and asked other Dartmouth officials, on the record, for responses.

    The children all addressed us as “missus” even though none of us was older than 18. We soon learned why: Roma girls marry when they are 13 or 14, and a woman who is older and unmarried is considered a spinster. So I found myself perceived in a way I had never considered: I was a woman who belonged to an ethnic group not to be trusted and who had failed to attract any man. My math jokes, meant to break the ice, were lost on the Roma children because most had completed only primary school and some not even fourth grade. For the first days, the only thing we discovered we had in common was our love of cats—stray for them, domesticated for me.

    A really good journalist would probably capitalize the personal pronoun “I” as well, even in a blog format article. Having offered those qualifications, here’s the link: http://www.businessinsider.com/secrets-of-dartmouth-admissions-office-2012-10#ixzz2nwiWxswn

    Amherst
    I like Amherst’s supplementals the best of this bunch, so I saved them for last. I won’t discuss all of them, but there are a couple that I think are worth looking at; here they are, so you don’t have to go back and open another page up:

    1) “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.
    Besides, there are some things I would prefer that science not explain. To name the neurotransmitters that cause sensations of love is good trivia, but to rationalize the limitless range of human emotion undermines the human spirit. The human brain may be a gray sack of neurons and tissue, but the mind is an elusive, external voice. The mind, which holds our spirits and consciences, transcends our physical mortality.

    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.
    It was an experience that others could only dream of. I was sitting front and center at a Bob Dylan concert, where I had just given a speech. At the end of the show, I would be going backstage to meet Dylan. It could have been the best moment of my life, but there was a catch: I was there because my father was dying.

    Kannan Jagannathan, Professor of Physics, Amherst College

    This prompt is interesting on a number of levels in its definition of what a good physical scientist is like-that’s what it is, in essence. And since the topicc is about the workings of the world, human artifacts and ideas like ethics can also be featured in this essay. I think the best source of inspiration for this prompt that I can give you this late in the game is a podcast from a wonderful radio program, Radiolab-listen to this episode, about the scientist Fritz Haber, who was brilliant, made amazing discoveries, but who also . . . caused great harm. Showed a certain lack of foresight, of some degree of common sense and personal responsibility. Here it is: Fritz Haber.

    In all of the Ivies, there has been some soul-searching due to things like the financial crisis and recent Great Recession-most of the major players in finance responsible for this fiasco came out of the Ivies, the best and the brightest, as it were, and while Professor Jagannathan seems to intend a more specific emphasis on empirical common sense, ethics itself, forseeing the potential outcomes of scientific work, in every sense, is also important.

    Being a sister has made me who I am. I have abandoned the idea of clockwork and learned to improvise. Setbacks, like discovering hotdogs between the couch cushions, do not cause me to panic. My brothers have shown me that it is possible to conjure creativity from chaos and scrawl beautiful words in illegible handwriting. I have learned that loyalty has no limits, and that if I work hard enough, I can accomplish feats that seem impossible—like organizing my brothers. In comparison, putting together class projects is a cinch. I have become a leader. Even my brothers would admit that. Just recently I was in the kitchen dancing around with a spatula while putting away dishes. All three boys watched for a while and then joined in the kitchen utensil dance. There the four of us were, music blasting, spoons waving, and all was well.

    As the Haber episode I linked shows. So don’t write an essay focused entirely on some experiment you did; try to have a wider view into which your experiment might fit, a view of how your work might be of wider benefit, of an ethical dimension as well as a practical dimension.

    2) “Literature is the best way to overcome death. My father, as I said, is an actor.

    Yet, anyone could easily miss the point. Anyone could overlook my father’s efforts to teach me something that I could not learn in school: the belief in the human spirit. The belief in the vitality of our souls long after our physical bodies have rotted is what keeps the old appeased and the young wise. All is not lost after death. I exist because my mind decides that I exist.

    He’s the happiest man on earth when he’s performing, but when the show is over, he’s sad and troubled. I wish he could live in the eternal present, because in the theater everything remains in memories and photographs.
    But scientific explanations do exist for these phenomena. Wind is caused by the acceleration of air particles from areas of higher pressure to lower pressure; gravity pulls objects of mass toward the Earth; love can be trivialized to neurotransmitting chemicals. And even by ignoring that Edison was never famous for the concept of gravity, anyone could easily discredit my dad’s story.

    Literature, on the other hand, allows you to live in the present and to remain in the pantheon of the future. Literature is a way to say, I was here, this is what I thought, this is what I perceived. This is my signature, this is my name.”

    Ilán Stavans, Professor of Spanish, Amherst College.

    The new first-year class arrived at Amherst from 28 countries, 46 states and Washington, D.C. (The top states represented are New York, California and Massachusetts.) More than 50 percent of the first-years are on college financial aid. Thirty-nine percent identify as a students of color, 13 percent as first-generation college students.

    From “The Writer in Exile: an interview with Ilán Stavans” by Saideh Pakravan for the Fall 1993 issue of The Literary Review.

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