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University of Washington Undergraduate College Application Essays

These University of Washington college application essays were written by students accepted at University of Washington. All of our sample college essays include the question prompt and the year written. Please use these sample admission essays responsibly.

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College Application Essays accepted by University of Washington

The Insurmountable Slice William Gibbs

University of Washington

I consider myself a food enthusiast. That is, I love food in all of its aspects; the obvious nutiritional significance, the delightful variations in flavor and texture, the cultural connections, and sometimes even the visual beauty of it. One may.

iBook William Gibbs

University of Washington

Admissions Board: In order to convey as much information as possible to you, I have written an essay that will help give an idea about what I am interested in, how I serve my peers and community, and the types of experiences that really stick in.

A Night at the Fifth Avenue Brian D. Earp

University of Washington

Midnight was two hours old before I could finally peel out of my costume. The prosthetic nose and glue-on beard tore at my skin as I tugged them off, and they quickly joined the clutter on the bathroom floor: a tired pile of mismatched robes.

The Listening Party Brian D. Earp

University of Washington

My brother lives in a “gated community,” one of those manufactured neighborhoods. It was like we were driving through the streets of a toy city, a miniature suburb built for the amusement of a god-sized obsessive compulsive. I myself was steering.

I'm No Buffy the Vampire Slayer Arielle Ring

University of Washington

A few years ago, USA Today named the star of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, Sarah Michelle Gellar, the epitome of the modern feminist. Declaring “with her take-no-prisoners attitude. vampire-slaying Buffy Summers has become. a feminist hero who’s.

Hawaiian Style Anonymous

University of Washington

Being born and raised in Hawaii as a hapa haole, or half-Caucasian and half-Asian, I have many insights about the local culture of my homeland. Today, Hawaiian culture doesn’t just consist of the native Hawaiians, who currently make up less than.

Family Photos Young Kim

University of Washington

Nonchalantly browsing through family photos, I hastily flip through the pages when I suddenly get a paper cut. Blood slowly flows from a small slit on my finger and onto the plastic film. The blood lands on a particularly bland picture–but it.

Ascending Anonymous

University of Washington

I walk into the darkened nave of the church, ascend the steep incline between the pews, and stop at the vacant and quiet sanctuary. At the top of my climb is an illuminated room full of lively preschool children chattering with one another and.

Military Brat Anonymous

University of Washington

I have never lived in one place for more than four years at a time. The reason? I am an Army brat. Some feel sorry for me, but I think my life was greatly enriched by moving so often. My life has given me many unique opportunities to observe and.

Communications and Leadership Scott Lemoine

University of Washington

“Good morning Torrey Pines! It’s a beautiful Monday, 77 degrees and partly cloudy.”

My voice echoed throughout the campus and every classroom, as it was my responsibility to do the morning announcements each day in my position as Senior Class.

Special Olympics Scott Lemoine

University of Washington

Neither Ray nor I knew what miracles were possible. At one hundred and eighty-five pounds, five foot ten inches tall, and a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome, Ray was a Special Olympic athlete with a dream to become a champion, but his mental.

The Cliche Keenan Johns

University of Washington

Forget for a moment all that you’ve heard about the student athlete. Forget about the dedication and determination one needs to compete on a top-level team. Forget about the teamwork, the almost insidious way an athlete learns the value of.

Life as a Scribe Anthony Mells

University of Washington

As I rushed up to the sliding glass doors that marked the entrance to the Emergency Room, my heart pounded with exhilaration. Patients were sitting in chairs, lying on stretchers, and nervously pacing the floor. With a dry mouth and sweaty palms.

Unconditional Love Anonymous

University of Washington

The roaring waves crashed against the rocks. The sky was black except for two glowing fluorescent lights in a distance. I stood alone facing the Pacific Ocean and tears slowly trickled down my face but the wind quickly blew them away into the.

How Clay Changed My Attitude Anonymous

University of Washington

When I read through my first semester schedule, my face glowed with happiness when I saw Ceramics as my first period class. On the first day of school, I walked into the classroom with a smirk. I pitied the freshmen and sophomores for listening so.

Obstacles in Responding to Medical Crises Anonymous

University of Washington

During the first months of my residence in New York City, the lavishness and consumption of the American lifestyle surprised me. As a new immigrant from rural China to the Big Apple, I was mentally unprepared for the sights and sounds of such a.

The Fortune Spiders Anonymous

University of Washington

When the clear automatic doors opened to the humid air of New York City, my life would never be the same. The busy traffic with dozens of yellow cabs overwhelmed a girl who grew up in a place where a bike is an expensive transportation tool. While.

Humility Christopher Kim

University of Washington

My childhood began amidst a bevy of confusion – my parents worked several jobs and rushed in and out of the front door from one shift to the next, each time in a different uniform. Although my sister and I were able to take part in every school.

Outside the Box Anonymous

University of Washington

As I graduate from high school with just enough basic understanding of the arts and sciences to appreciate their complexity and depth, I find myself constantly investigating a broad range of topics. My intended field of study is biology, with the.

Jan the Troubadour Anonymous

University of Washington

Three months into my exchange year in Germany, my friend called me, a little dejected. She wanted to go downtown, and it was clear why. There was still something incredibly rousing, mysterious, and exciting about the European city that had.

Live On Anonymous

University of Washington

I always thought Peter Pan was mad. While he and his fellow Neverlanders were enjoying their eternal childhood, I was desperately awaiting my “grown-up” days. I just wanted to rush through life; I wanted to close my eyes and wake up a responsible.

Project in International Engagement Cameron Vohr

University of Washington

Two things happened to me in elementary school that changed my life: I started organizing small local peace rallies with my mother and I got my first alto saxophone. In those days, the two were unrelated. Years later, however, upon joining the.

Personal Statement Essay Anonymous

University of Washington

“You’re in the wrong line, Melody!” my former classmate shouted across the blacktop. Heads turned and people stared, and my blushing cheeks complemented my hot pink shirt. I felt embarrassed and proud at the same time. On a hot September day in.

Understanding and Developing from Misconceptions Anonymous

University of Washington

As a blonde cheerleader, I’ve chuckled to myself when instructors who don’t yet know me refrain from calling on me the first week of class. I guess the uniform and pom-poms give them a subconscious stereotype that I will be unable to answer the.

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The themes addressed in Winton’s stories often revolve around the experiences of adolescence.

University of Washington Requirements for Admission

Choose Your Test

What are University of Washington’s admission requirements? While there are a lot of pieces that go into a college application, you should focus on only a few critical things:

In this guide we’ll cover what you need to get into University of Washington and build a strong application.

School location: Seattle, WA

This school is also known as: U Dub, UW

Admissions Rate: 53%

If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.

The acceptance rate at University of Washington is 53%. For every 100 applicants, 53 are admitted.

This means the school is moderately selective. The school expects you to meet their requirements for GPA and SAT/ACT scores, but they’re more flexible than other schools. If you exceed their requirements, you have an excellent chance of getting in. But if you don’t, you might be one of the unlucky minority that gets a rejection letter.

University of Washington GPA Requirements

Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.

The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school’s average GPA for its current students.

Average GPA: 3.78

The average GPA at University of Washington is 3.78.

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA.

With a GPA of 3.78, University of Washington requires you to be above average in your high school class. You’ll need at least a mix of A’s and B’s, with more A’s than B’s. You can compensate for a lower GPA with harder classes, like AP or IB classes. This will show that you’re able to handle more difficult academics than the average high school student.

If you’re currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 3.78, you’ll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate. This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.

SAT and ACT Requirements

Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.

You must take either the SAT or ACT to submit an application to University of Washington. More importantly, you need to do well to have a strong application.

University of Washington SAT Requirements

Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school’s average score.

Average SAT: 1300 (Old: 1825)

The average SAT score composite at University of Washington is a 1300 on the 1600 SAT scale.

On the old 2400 SAT, this corresponds to an average SAT score of 1825.

This score makes University of Washington Moderately Competitive for SAT test scores.

University of Washington SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)

The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1190, and the 75th percentile New SAT score is 1420. In other words, a 1190 on the New SAT places you below average, while a 1420 will move you up to above average.

Here’s the breakdown of new SAT scores by section:

University of Washington SAT Score Analysis (Old 2400 SAT)

The 25th percentile Old SAT score is 1650, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 2020. In other words, a 1650 on the Old SAT places you below average, while a 2020 puts you well above average.

Here’s the breakdown of old SAT scores by section:

SAT Score Choice Policy

The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.

University of Washington has the Score Choice policy of “All Scores.”

This means that University of Washington requires you to send all SAT scores you’ve ever taken to their office.

This sounds daunting, but most schools don’t actually consider all your scores equally. For example, if you scored an 1300 on one test and a 1500 on another, they won’t actually average the two tests.

More commonly, the school will take your highest score on a single test date. Even better, some schools form a Superscore – that is, they take your highest section score across all your test dates and combine them.

Some students are still worried about submitting too many test scores. They’re afraid that University of Washington will look down on too many attempts to raise your score. But how many is too many?

From our research and talking to admissions officers, we’ve learned that 4-6 tests is a safe number to submit. The college understands that you want to have the best chance of admission, and retaking the test is a good way to do this. Within a reasonable number of tests, they honestly don’t care how many times you’ve taken it. They’ll just focus on your score.

If you take it more than 6 times, colleges start wondering why you’re not improving with each test. They’ll question your study skills and ability to improve.

But below 6 tests, we strongly encourage retaking the test to maximize your chances. If your SAT score is currently below a 1300, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the SAT and retaking it. You don’t have much to lose, and you can potentially raise your score and significantly boost your chances of getting in.

Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and SAT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you’ll study smarter and make huge score improvements.

University of Washington ACT Requirements

Just like for the SAT, University of Washington likely doesn’t have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.

Average ACT: 22

The average ACT score at University of Washington is 22. This score makes University of Washington Moderately Competitive for ACT scores.

The 25th percentile ACT score is 26, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 31.

Even though University of Washington likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 26 or below, you’ll have a harder time getting in, unless you have something else impressive in your application.

ACT Score Sending Policy

If you’re taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.

Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.

This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school’s ACT requirement of 22 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you’re happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.

ACT Superscore Policy

By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.

We weren’t able to find the school’s exact ACT policy, which most likely means that it does not Superscore. Regardless, you can choose your single best ACT score to send in to University of Washington, so you should prep until you reach our recommended target ACT score of 22.

Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and ACT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you’ll study smarter and make huge score improvements.

SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirements

Both the SAT and ACT have a Writing section that includes an essay.

University of Washington requires you to take the SAT/ACT Writing section. They’ll use this as another factor in their admissions consideration.

SAT Subject Test Requirements

Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.

We did not find information that University of Washington requires SAT subject tests, and so most likely it does not. At least 6 months before applying, you should still doublecheck just to make sure, so you have enough time to take the test.

Final Admissions Verdict

Because this school is moderately selective, strong academic performance will almost guarantee you admission. Scoring a 2020 SAT or a 31 ACT or above will nearly guarantee you admission. Because the school admits 53% of all applicants, being far above average raises the admission rate for you to nearly 100%.

If you can achieve a high SAT/ACT score, the rest of your application essentially doesn’t matter. You still need to meet the rest of the application requirements, and your GPA shouldn’t be too far off from the school average of 3.78. But you won’t need dazzling extracurriculars and breathtaking letters of recommendation to get in. You can get in based on the merits of your score alone.

But if your score is a 1650 SAT or a 26 ACT and below, you have a good chance of being one of the unlucky few to be rejected.

Admissions Calculator

Here’s our custom admissions calculator. Plug in your numbers to see what your chances of getting in are.

How would your chances improve with a better score?

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Application Requirements

Every school requires an application with the bare essentials – high school transcript and GPA, application form, and other core information. Many schools, as explained above, also require SAT and ACT scores, as well as letters of recommendation, application essays, and interviews. We’ll cover the exact requirements of University of Washington here.

How to write a great college essay

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Think about how many college-entry essays are read each year by admissions counselors. Imagine how their eyes must glaze over after they’ve read a few dozen essays. You don’t want yours to sound like everyone else’s.

The people reviewing the essays are looking for a better understanding of you than they can get from your GPA, your SAT scores or other information on your application. A good essay can raise a so-so application higher, and a poor essay can diminish an otherwise stellar application.

These pointers will help you make your essay stand out from the crowd.

  • Tell a story. Make your point by telling a story about something that has happened to you or that made an impression on you. A vivid telling of an important moment in your life is far better than listing all your accomplishments (which will be in the rest of the application, anyway).
  • Capture the reader’s attention. Pay particular attention to the beginning of your essay. Hints of something dramatic or unusual to come later in the essay will help keep your reader’s interest.
  • Be yourself. Don’t try to sound like a college student. Sound like yourself. No one expects you to be perfect or brilliant. The university is interested in who you are and how you think.
  • Set the tone. Your essay should be friendly, but not too casual. Use complete sentences, and don’t resort to slang. Clear out all the clichés. A clever turn-of-phrase or metaphor is appreciated by the committee members. But don’t over-do the comedy; a little humor goes a long way.
  • Be concise. Write in as few words as possible. Take out words and phrases that don’t add anything to a thought. Be on the lookout for too many adjectives.
  • Use active voice. Search through your essay for variations of the verb “to be.” Change these passive verbs to active verbs. Moving the subject to the beginning of the sentence also helps to eliminate passive voice.
  • Be specific. Rather than this: “I want to help people.” Try this: “I want to be like my mom, who is the first person you think of when you’re hurt, feeling down or in trouble.”
  • Don’t try to impress. Long sentences and big words do not enhance your essay — especially if you use a word incorrectly. Stick to words you’re sure of; it never hurts to look them up to make sure they mean what you think they mean.
  • Take “I” out. If you write “I” more than a few times, go back and rewrite to eliminate most of them. It’s difficult, since you are writing a personal essay, but too many “I’s” are a sign of a poor writer.
  • Proofread and revise. Ask your parents, teachers and friends to read your essay and tell you frankly what they think. They may have specific grammar or spelling corrections, or suggestions about the direction of your story. Or they may be able to point out anything that’s not clear. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice, of course, but if a criticism rings true, pay attention.
  • Let it simmer. After you’ve finished your essay, set it aside for a few days, and then read it again. Coming back to it after an absence will allow you to read it fresh, just the way the admissions committee will. You’d be surprised how often a paragraph that seemed perfect last week will seem muddled or overly dramatic this week.

Writing your personal statement

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You are required to complete a Personal Statement as part of your freshman application. This is a critical part of your application, both for admission and scholarship consideration. Here are some tips on how to write a great college essay.

Personal statement (max 600 words)

Content, as well as form, spelling, grammar, and punctuation, will be considered. You should write your statement first in a word processing program (such as Word) or a text editor, and then copy/paste it into the application text box. Formatting such as italics and underlines may be lost.

The Personal Statement is our best means of getting to know you. The Personal Statement is a very important part of the application for admission to UW Tacoma.

Students must choose one of the following prompts:

1.) Tell us a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.

2.) Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.

3.) An essay topic of your choice. If you have written another admissions essay that captures what you want the UW Tacoma Admissions Committee to know about, feel free to share it with us. Be sure to include the topic or question you answered.

Other comments (optional)

If there is anything else you think we should know, you can include that in the “Other Comments” section of the application.

Personal statement

All applicants must write a personal statement and submit it with the application for admission.

The personal statement should be a comprehensive narrative essay outlining significant aspects of your academic and personal history, particularly those that provide context for your academic achievements and educational choices. Quality of writing and depth of content both contribute toward a meaningful and relevant personal statement.

I. Address the following topics:

A. Academic Elements (required)

  • Academic History
    • Tell us about your college career to date, describing your performance, educational path and choices.
    • Explain any situations that may have had a significant positive or negative impact on your academic progress and/or curricular choices. If you transferred multiple times, had a significant break in your education, or changed career paths, explain.
    • What are the specific reasons you wish to leave your most recent college/university and/or program of study?
  • Your Major and/or Career Goals
    • Tell us about your intended major and career aspirations.
  • Are you prepared to enter your intended major at this time? If not, describe your plans for preparing for the major. What led you to choose this major? If you are still undecided, why? What type of career are you most likely to pursue after finishing your education?
  • How will the UW help you attain your academic, career, and/or personal goals?

B. Personal Elements (required)

  • Cultural Understanding
    • Thoughtfully describe the ways in which culture had an impact on your life and what you have learned about yourself and society as a result. How has your own cultural history enriched and/or challenged you?
    • NOTE: Culture may be defined broadly. Cultural understanding is often drawn from the ethnic background, customs, values, and ideas of a person’s immediate family, community, and/or social environment in which they live.
  • Educational Challenges / Personal Hardships (if applicable)
    • Describe any personal or imposed challenges or hardships you have overcome in pursuing your education.
    • Examples: a serious illness, a disability, first generation in your family to attend college, significant financial hardship or responsibilities associated with balancing work, family and school.
  • Community, Military, or Volunteer Service (if applicable)
    • Describe your community, Military, or volunteer service, including leadership, awards, or increased levels of responsibility.
  • Experiential Learning (if applicable)
    • Describe your involvement in research, artistic endeavors, and work (paid or volunteer), as they have contributed to your academic, career or personal goals.

Additional Comments (optional)

Do you have a compelling academic or personal need to attend the Seattle campus of the University of Washington at this time? Is there anything else you would like us to know?

II. Personal Statement Format

Content as well as form, spelling, grammar, and punctuation, will be considered. Suggested length is 750-1000 words.

  • Online: You should write your statement first in a word processing program (such as Word) or a text editor, and then copy/paste it into the text box provided. All line breaks remain. However, some formatting may be lost, such as bold, italics and underlines. This will not affect the evaluation of your application!
  • PDF: Type or write your statement on 8.5×11” white paper. Double-space your lines, and use only one side of each sheet. Print your name, the words “Personal Statement,” and the date at the top of each page, and attach the pages to your application.

University of Washington (UW) 2017-18 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

University of Washington 2017-2018 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: One 300 word essay (required), one 200 word essay (optional).

Short Response

Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the University of Washington. (300 max)

Ah, the infamous “community” essay. Many schools ask students about their communities because they want to know how applicants relate to the people around them, forge connections, and commune with their peers. In this particular instance, the question calls attention to family as well, so consider how the people who you are related to (or those who you consider family even if they’re not bound to you by blood) have influenced your life and worldview. Maybe you’re very involved in your local synagogue, polka dancing club, or environmental organization. University of Washington wants to know about your life beyond the classroom and how you will continue those activities and interests on their campus. Why do you invest in the people you invest in?

Additional Information About Yourself or Your Circumstances (Optional, 200 word max)

This prompt is an opportunity for you to explain anything else from your life that is not addressed elsewhere on the application, and that you think would be a valuable contribution to the package you’re presenting. This can be the explanation of a complication, like an illness that caused you to miss school and impacted your grades. It can also be a place for you to talk about how you’ve taught yourself piano in your spare time — something that might not show up in your official activities list. What else might admissions officers want or need to know about you? You have an additional 200 words at your disposal to speak to them in your own voice, so use them as long as what you’re writing isn’t simply filler — if that’s the case, it’s better just to leave this blank. That said, we’re confident you can find something to highlight here!

Writing section

These are the prompts for 2018. The essays are a required and important part of your application for admission.

A. Essay (Required)

At the University of Washington, we consider the college essay as our opportunity to see the person behind the transcripts and the numbers. Some of the best statements are written as personal stories. In general, concise, straightforward writing is best, and that good essays are often 300 to 400 words in length.

The UW will accept any of the five Coalition prompts.

Choose from the options listed below.

  1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  2. Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  3. Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  4. What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give younger siblings or friends (assuming they would listen to you)?
  5. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

B. Short Response (Required)

Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the University of Washington.

Keep in mind that the University of Washington strives to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, values, and viewpoints.

C. Additional Information About Yourself or Your Circumstances (Optional)

You are not required to write anything in this section, but you may include additional information if something has particular significance to you. For example, you may use this space if:

  • You are hoping to be placed in a specific major soon
  • A personal or professional goal is particularly important to you
  • You have experienced personal hardships in attaining your education
  • Your activities have been limited because of work or family obligations
  • You have experienced unusual limitations or opportunities unique to the schools you attended

D. Additional Space (Optional)

You may use this space if you need to further explain or clarify answers you have given elsewhere in this application, or if you wish to share information that may assist the Office of Admissions. If appropriate, include the application question number to which your comment(s) refer.

My UW essays

Here are all the essays I wrote for admission to the University of Washington. The UW application actually did not allow unicode characters like smart quotes and em-dashes, nor did it accept italics, so the essays as displayed here are in their intended form, not as they were submitted. Note that I don’t necessarily agree with all of what’s said below anymore (hence the belief tag).

Thanks to KL for the extensive feedback I received while writing these essays. I also received minor feedback from others.

General admission essays

Personal Statement

Prompt B. Tell us a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.

Having lived both in the United States and Japan, I have suffered the common problem of balancing one’s identity: whether to stay essentially in one land and occasionally poke one’s head out to say hello to the other; whether to play the eclectic magician and pull from both roots the cure to the disease of nationalism; whether to proclaim one’s allegiance to humanity and humanity alone, thus avoiding the question altogether. It would be wholly dishonest to say I have dealt with the problem well; but in my personal experience I have seen transformations of my thought, whose culmination isn’t so trite as “I have gained useful experiences from both cultures”!

But allow me to declare that I will approach this topic from the more fragile, Japanese side. My childhood, from years three to ten, was spent in Japan. Strangely, though I lived in Tōkyō—the center of action—my mind recalls almost a pastoral perfection from this period. This does not imply any geographic quality, but rather that life, because of my innocence, seemed detached: the summertime fireworks, with the delicious smoke, were severed from the piling of dark leaves and playing with sticks, and both of these were separate from the long walk along the river with friends, chasing after a milk bottle cap.

Fly forward five years from my last year in Japan, and we are three years behind the present: there is a change; I live in Bothell; the mind is forming an opinion. During a summer visit to Tōkyō, I saw the sultry streets of my old home clearer than in any previous year, with all its ugly connectedness obvious: the odor of cigarettes and urine painted on every surface; people lined up to feed the machines of pleasure with their overtime pay; everyone buying a train ticket to go nowhere and do nothing, only to find a nervous comfort in their own nests again. This impression, almost oddly artistic by now, so thoroughly shattered the idyllic vision of my childhood city that despite the urgings of my family, I did not return to Japan the following year.

Though I would not discover the works of the author Ōe Kenzaburō until much later, I can see now that I was in the process of being uprooted by what Ōe calls the Ambiguous: a dissonance engendered by two contradictory impressions. This particular incarnation of the Ambiguous occupied me for two years, and for these years my only contacts with Japan were conversations with my Japanese mother, and the Japanese school that I attended on Saturdays, which was steadily becoming for me an annoyance. But (if the continued anachronism is to be pardoned) Ōe had spent his life in Japan, so for him the Ambiguous was unavoidable; for me, the situation was quite different: having spent half of my life in the US by this time, I saw myself a refugee, a vehement critic of that derelict nation, who through reason alone had justified the superiority of the country with the global language.

But a slower change came in the autumn of last year: I began to renew my interest in Japan. It is difficult for me to ascertain exactly what caused this change, but two possibilities seem the most likely. First, my increasing frustration with one of my passions, mathematics, convinced me to find an alternative topic of research, so that I could shift back and forth. Second, my interest in literature as an art led me to an obvious starting point: works written in Japanese. But by now the obstacle is obvious: my ability to use the language had thinly escaped destruction. Thus began my intense study of Japan. And here I am, one year later: I am still reading Ōe; I have returned to Japan; I am unsure what the solution is, but endurance—what Ōe calls nintai—is my tentative answer.

Word count: 648/650.

Short Response

Prompt 1. The University of Washington seeks to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. How would you contribute to this community?

The word “contribute” invokes in me a discomfort. On the surface, I see zealous students eager to spread their message, and demanding adults prodding them. And below, there is universal indifference, a kind of despair. But I cannot hold inside of me such ostentatious deceit—at least, not for long. For if I value one thing, it is small honesty.

I like to see myself as a stone, sunk at the bottom of a deep and sedulous river. I am breathless, and yet I ever so slightly hold back the current. This current—call it “intolerance” or “apathy”—swims in each of us, and, if we are unlucky, overtakes us. It cannot but seek the lowest elevation. On this riverbed, I am, by any definition, insignificant: I am just a small salience stuck in the mud. But I shall stand resolutely, open to any lifeless provocation; and given time, some others may join, forming a diminutive dam of detritus. No doubt some will become dislodged, and no doubt of those that are left, each of us is unimportant individually. But there is a chance, perhaps, that a fisherman on the bank will notice the current slowing; if not, all is well: the debris can feel it slowing.

Can one observe this river in reality? To be sure, the river exists, but its current is more chaotic; it is harder, then, to spot a pronounced thread. But one context in which I daily encounter it is what may be termed “educational desperation”. Being at times slightly better at navigating class material, I am sometimes asked questions. It may be a quick clarification for a passage in a novel, or an explanation of some concept in chemistry, or tips in computing a tricky integral. The current of questions is strong, and although I want to help, I know that answering these questions will have no effect on the current. To fight the current, one must strive for true understanding, not just a number. Curiosity is a requirement.

At times also I read a Japanese book at school. Then, occasionally, someone will ask me questions: “What language is this?” “So are you reading Sartre in Japanese?” “And which way do the words go?” Most of the time, the conversation will end quickly, and the inquirer will leave with nothing more than the added knowledge that some languages are written in different directions. But even this I find superior to helping with schoolwork, for I respond to a specific curiosity. These questions, moreover, can turn into more: it can propel someone into a promising study of Japanese writing or culture; this is the “true way”, in Kafka’s sense.

By being a stubborn stone in the river, that is, by quietly assisting those wanting to discover and understand, I believe I accomplish something important. In this sense, “contribute” becomes genuine, and becomes something I want to do in high school, university, and beyond.

Honors essays

Interdisciplinarity essay

Honors 1. Why do you want to incorporate our interdisciplinary liberal arts curriculum into your undergraduate experience? What contributions will you make to our community?

Bertrand Russell wrote in the prologue to his Autobiography of three passions that guided his life: love, intellectual curiosity, and pity for the suffering. In educating oneself, although all three of these passions are important, one’s focus does become more intellectual. What is essential, then, is to allow oneself the freedom of moving between passions while also focusing on specific goals.

Even within intellectual pursuits there are perceived categorizations that can severely limit self-actualization. One such categorization is between the humanities and the sciences. I have always focused my studies on one or the other: when engrossed in the abstract beauty of set theory, I am less aware of literature; when I am engaged in studying James Joyce’s works, I do less mathematical proofs. A certain shift in focus is healthy, but a total severance is catastrophic, for being too narrow renders the mind provincial.

The other harmful categorization I see is between absorption and creation. Intellectual curiosity can mean seeking useful information; however, research is only half of the experience. It is important also to use one’s creativity, to apply one’s learning to bring about something new. Creativity is not simply completing assigned work: it means reading a mathematical proof and trying to attain a more general result; it means reading Joyce and trying to emulate his interior monologues.

Although creativity need not be public, I believe by projecting my work outward I can most contribute. Authors like Ōe Kenzaburō masterfully quote other writers in their works, spreading important insights. But sharing need not be as elaborate; it can be simple, like the illumination of a line of verse, or an obvious yet ingenious trick in proving a theorem. Learning, I believe, is the constant exchange of useful information: one cannot do it alone, for knowledge must be shared.

“Lost its meaning” essay

Honors 2. Identify a word or phrase in common use that you believe has, “lost its meaning.” Explain what you think accounts for the loss of meaning and what might be done to restore appropriate meaning to the word or phrase you have identified.

No word in the English language has more exponentially deteriorated than the word “math”. The word generates an infinite conflict, for its whole geometry is false, and this can be proven algebraically. There are a few factors, but first we must ask “What do we now mean by ‘math’?” The conventional meaning is easy, for we all do “math”: we sit in a “math” class, listen to the teacher talk, scribble with a pen (hello Vi Hart!), “peruse” the “math” book. Now examine the inverse: who are the “mathematicians”? Do they go around reciting the digits of e or solving for the roots of a cubic function? Certainly not: that would be irrational.

The problem is that most people haven’t a clue what “math” really is. People think “math” is what they learn at school. But what they learn at school is … “computation”, which is what computers do (not humans). Real math isn’t a formula; it is an exploration. It is art in its highest form. Real math requires inquiry: how does a computer handle ones and zeroes? How can one deduce an optimal diet? Why does multiplication work in the first place? And so on: all questions that inspire curiosity.

What is in our power to solve this grave matter? To be perfectly honest, there is only an infinitesimal chance that we can contribute. But here is something that almost surely anyone can do: before spitting out, “I’m doing math” (with contempt), ask: “Am I really exploring ideas I am curious about?” If the answer is “No”, stop! Say “I’m doing some computations”. But most importantly: explore! Find an incongruity; seek, and sedulously pursue it. Don’t give up. Report to a friend your progress, and repeat ad infinitum!

Extracurriculars

I believe these were limited to 100 words each.

Seattle Japanese School and Studying Japanese. I have attended the Seattle Japanese School since fifth grade. I have consistently earned good grades, and have also participated in school-wide events like the annual Sports Festival. However, as the school alone is inadequate for leaning Japanese, I also read Japanese literature to increase my knowledge. Most recently, I have been reading the works of Ōe Kenzaburō. It has been stunning to see that the literary techniques I had learned for English could be replicated in Japanese. As Ōe often writes about post-WWII Japan, I have also been influenced by his thoughts on psychological confinement and humanism.

Independent study of mathematics. Not being satisfied by mathematics at school, I have been dedicating my time to understanding the reasons why various concepts in mathematics work. To understand why addition and multiplication work consistently, I read and did exercises in Terence Tao’s Analysis I; to see why numbers could be defined as sets, I began reading Bertrand Russell’s philosophy of mathematics and Paul Halmos’s Naive Set Theory; to understand why material implication is defined the way it is, I spent two years reading blogs, PDFs, and various books on logic. Through this, I have trained my mind to be methodical but also creative.

Aikido. I have been participating in the Japanese martial art of Aikido. My current rank is 5th Kyu. Training with the people in my Aikido class has increased my strength and awareness, and practicing the moves in the art has allowed me to react to the various attacks. Psychologically, it has also alleviated my phobias of eye- and bodily-contact. Furthermore the experience has enriched my life even outside of the class. When walking around at school, for example, or when I am in very crowded places, I have an increased awareness of my movements.

Tutoring (various). I have tutored people on various occasions. Last year in school, I tutored students studying Japanese. It is difficult to say how much impact I had, but I was able to help them complete their homework. This year in school I have been tutoring (in Spanish) students that recently arrived from Mexico. Since my command of Spanish is weak, the experience has been refreshing as I fumble for the desired expressions. Outside of school, I have volunteered for the Study Zone program at my local library. Through this I have helped the community by making homework a little more bearable.

Trail party at the Soaring Eagle Park. On three separate occasions, I helped out within a trail party at the Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish. The work consisted of various trail- maintenance tasks, such as digging trenches to carry eventual rain off the trail, clearing the foliage of a fallen tree, and replacing mud puddles with fresh soil. Learning about trail-maintenance and connecting with the other people there was enlightening. Moreover the raw physical exhaustion on all three days was intoxicating. Philosophically, knowing that all of my accomplishments would soon be washed clean by the rain was disconcerting but also oddly pleasing.

  • A few people I know have similarly posted their college application essays online, including Brian Tomasik.

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