May 22, 2008
By Alyssa Pilkons, Vernon, CT

(This is the essay I wrote in 2006 that got me into Hampshire College.)

I was sitting in first block pre-calculus class last year expecting my teacher to start with the notes as soon as the bell rang, like he usually does. Instead, he pulled out a Rubik’s cube. He claimed he could solve it, but the class was reluctant to believe him. Only geniuses could solve the Rubik’s cube, right?

But my teacher went on to solve the complicated toy before my very eyes, leaving me completely awestruck. The shock slowly wore off, and I became a little jealous. I decided I needed to learn how to solve the Rubik’s cube myself.

I purchased the cube at a local toy store, brought it home, and, full of anticipation, began to play around with it. Unfortunately, I soon became quite frustrated. How had my teacher solved it so fast in front of our class?

I took a break from the puzzle for a week or so, until one day when I became set on figuring it out. Sadly, I kept messing up the very last step which forced me to start over from the beginning again. However, I was quite determined. After five hours of trying, I finally solved it, which made me absolutely ecstatic.

But, of course, that was not enough for me. I decided to see if I could learn how to complete the cube solution faster than my pre-calculus teacher himself, the inspiration for my new skill. Solving it faster than him would be quite an accomplishment. I began practicing the cube; I memorized the solution and began to get faster and faster. Soon, I could completely solve the cube in three minutes.

At that point, I decided it was time; time to challenge my teacher to a “Rubik’s cube duel” as I referred to it. He agreed, and we both stood in front of my class one day during pre-calc, waiting as two volunteers mixed up our cubes. The mysterious puzzles were handed back to us, and somebody shouted “Go!”

Colors flashed as I began twisting the cube – the left, the top, finishing up the green side. Boys sitting in the front row took out their wallets and pretended to bet on who was going to win. I frantically twisted on, beginning on my final side. Taking a second to glance at my teacher, I noticed he looked confused, and he hadn’t gotten as far as I had yet. As I completed my final turn, I held out the cube and calmly declared, “I’m done.”

Solving the Rubik’s cube faster than my pre-calculus teacher was an amazing experience; it is something I will never forget. The achievement had special meaning because I not only learned a skill that I once thought was, in fact, impossible, but I learned how to do it better than my original inspiration. I love learning new things, and once I set my mind to goals, although they are often random and unconventional, I follow through as greatly as I possibly can.

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