Columbia University application, short essays

July 30, 2012
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Essay 2 prompt -
Please tell us what academic class has been your favorite and why

At first, I loved chemistry because it felt like magic: extraordinary and inexplicable. After a while, I began to love chemistry because it did not feel like magic at all: no longer inexplicable, only extraordinary. Chemistry amazed me because I could watch things change right before my eyes. I loved the neat bottles in the lab cabinets, containing ingredients for transformation, and looking at the periodic table at the front of the room, knowing that everything I have ever seen can be broken down into those 118 boxes. Whereas math or physics problems took place on paper in fascinating but imaginary worlds, chemistry was something I could see, touch, even taste.

At first I thought that I loved chemistry because of my teacher. He was quirky and fun, personifying the elements and referring to H2O as "wawa." However, I am in advanced chemistry now with a different teacher and I can confirm my attachment to the subject matter. Advanced chemistry is hard. When I do a problem at home then flip to the back of my textbook and see my answer there, I often do some sort of celebratory dance in the privacy of my own room. Sometimes I have to do a problem three or four times to get the answer I need. Chemistry can be a struggle, but I try to remind myself about things like absolute zero, neutrinos that defy the Theory of Relativity, and the fusion of supernovae, and I am inspired by all the chemistry in the world that is still magic to us.

Essay 3 prompt - For applicants to Columbia College, please tell us what attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Application Data section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have interest at this time, but have not yet selected as a major interest.

Many people say that looking into a vast, starry sky can make them feel small and insignificant. When I look into the night sky, I feel as if I span eons, connected to every other person in history that has ever marveled at constellations or watched a meteor shower. Staring into space makes me feel full of potential, because to me space represents an infinite amount of opportunity and discovery that I aspire to be a part of.

During my sophomore year, we were asked to make a presentation on any subject relating to chemistry. I chose supernovae, the deaths of stars that result in some of the most violent explosions in the known universe. I interviewed an astrophysicist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and poured over data on fusion and critical mass. What I learned about the supernovae that fascinates me the most is that, when they occur, they blast tons and tons of material and gasses into space, and in doing so often create a nebula, a cloud of dust and gas that is a perfect environment for the creation of new stars. This idea of rebirth occurring in the aftermath of even the most violent destruction is what initially fascinated me about the chemistry of space.

Recently, I read an article about a new study that concluded that neutrinos (miniscule particles) travel faster than the speed of light. It is discoveries like this that really pique my interest in what remains mysterious in our universe, from the tiniest particles to the most powerful of explosions.

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