Campus Lifemit application essays that worked
‘At heart, I am Chinese’
Oct. 29, 2015
‘At heart, I am Chinese’
This is part of a series of MIT application essays submitted by students who were later admitted to the Institute. The following prompts are from the 2014-15 admissions season.
Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200-250)
I am completely Chinese. My parents are Chinese and I was born in China. However, as first generation immigrants, my family and I have been immersed in the French Canadian culture of Montreal and the American culture of Kansas City. I spent a measly five months in China after my birth, a seemingly short eight years in Montreal, and an even shorter nine years in Overland Park. At heart, I am Chinese like my background, but my childhood is colored by French influences and my adolescence is completely painted with the exuberant American character. As a result, a lot of my life has been categorized by my three countries and cultures: the languages I speak, the habits I have, and the aspirations I dream.
My college track, as of right now, is to double major in economics and mathematics while also minoring in French, but my ultimate goal is to make a positive and memorable impact on the world. Every subject field has a direct lineation to my different cultures, and the most obvious is my interest in French. While it may sound silly, I feel beautiful when speaking such a beautiful language, and I aim to further develop my linguistic foundation through a minor and studying abroad. My love for mathematics is most primarily rooted in my Chinese culture, as my father’s enthusiasm about little mathematical tricks is contagious. Finally, the opportunities and the boldness I find in American culture are best epitomized in its economic landmark: Wall Street.
Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (200-250)
Math had always been the easy, simple subject for me until calculus suddenly turned math into a terribly fascinating new world for me to explore. My paradigm regarding the seemingly rigid discipline shifted from indifference to a desire to learn how the puzzle pieces of the world clicked and fitted together. I hoped to spread that sentiment by establishing Mu Alpha Theta at my school, a chartering process that I expected to last at most two months.
That preconceived notion could not have been further from the truth. After an arduous month involving hours of research, several phone calls, and admittedly, some pestering, I gained approval to start the chartering process in the second semester of my junior year. Immediately, I wrote the charter application, bylaws, supplementary materials, and student application for the math department to review. Unfortunately, as each error was traded in with another, I realized that my predicted timeframe was an over-optimistic dream. The lag was attributed to the lack of cohesive communication and initiative; I kept pushing my responsibilities to the next week until there was no more time left. Consequently, I took greater measures to accomplish my goals by setting hard deadlines for myself and approaching the math teachers more frequently for feedback.
After seven months, the math department and I have just finished the application process and are reviewing the candidates. Seeing my passion manifest into a tangible organization excites me, and I hope that it does the same for my school’s community.
—Judy Wang ’19
Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200-250 words)
This is a tricky one. Kind of. But we’re going to make it un-tricky. Let’s reverse the prompt, as far as your approach goes. Begin with identifying what your dreams and aspirations are. Focus less on the actual end, and more on the nature of it. To illustrate by example, you’d want to avoid saying “I want to be the CEO of Apple” and instead say “I want to lead a tech company that pushes the world to dream, daily.” That way you don’t box yourself into a narrow definition and you allow yourself to achieve that vision in a variety of ways. Once you have a vague sense, try to trace your influences (don’t skip ahead yet, for now just think about the few significant people or things that helped inspire these goals). This can happen in a variety of ways, by the way. There may have been people whose examples inspired you to follow in their footsteps and build upon things they’d already done. Or, it could be oppositional. Your influences may have been people doing things that drove you insane and inspired you to counteract them, as your life’s mission. Or anywhere in between. Try to “materialize” those influences though, in the form of a few bullets along a timeline that charts the evolution of your aspirations.
Great. This isn’t easy, by the way. And as a soon-to-be college student, you’re not expected to have your life mapped out. (In fact, the coolest kids are the ones just brimming with potential who have yet to discover their true callings.) Now… try something interesting. Imagine the world you come from. Family, clubs, school, community, city, town, all those things, and REPLACE IT ALL with a starkly contrasting alternate version. (Go with us here. Could be fun, could be tedious, but try it. Imagine it.) Now look at your list of bullets. Which of those disappear? Which of those would look COMPLETELY different now that all your “environmental” stimuli have changed? This may help reveal which environmental stimuli (in the form of people or things) helped to shape your goals. And allow you to formulate clear crisp explanations of exactly how that shaping took place… Walk us through a few great examples.
(Depending on your particular story, you can order this either way: start with your aspirations and then walk us through the influences. Or, start with the influences and lead up to your goals. Either can work, but you’ve got to find the version that makes your story pop the most.)
Check Out Admissionado’s Analysis of ALL FIVE of MIT’s 2015-2016 Application Essay Prompts