背景： State: Massachusetts, USA High School: Public school, 306 students in graduating class Ethnicity: Asian Gender: Female GPA: 3.95 out of 4.0 SAT / ACT: n/a SAT Subject Tests Taken: n/a Extracurriculars: Model United Nations president, Working to Help the Homeless president, Belmontian (community service club) secretary, Speech and Debate founder and president Awards: AP National Scholar, Belmont High School Book Award, Belmont Latin Book Award, high honor roll Major: Psychology
"Ut Italiam laeti Latiumque petamus"
"Sandra, would you mind reading the next few lines and translating them for us?"
The professor glanced at me, a kind glimmer in his bespectacled eyes. I gulped. I was in a classroom of eighteen, five of whom were high school Latin teachers. And I was supposed to recite and translate Livy's Ab Urbe condita — with elisions! After fumbling through a few words and mistaking a verb for a noun, I finished the first sentence. I skimmed the second line, looking for the main verb. Singular. I searched for a singular noun and pieced the two together. Then, I noticed an accusative and added it as a direct object. As I continued, a burst of exhilaration shot through my body. My eyes darted across the page, finding a verb, a noun, and objects. I reached the end of the passage and grinned, relief pulsing in my veins.
"Very good!" The professor beamed at me before selecting his next victim.
A few months ago, I never would have imagined myself sitting in Harvard's Boylston Hall this summer for six hours a week, cherishing the ancient literature of Rome. Even though the professor decided I was eligible for the course despite not taking the prerequisite, I was still nervous. I worked hard in the class, and it reminded me just how much I love the language.
Translating has always given me great pleasure and great pain. It is much like completing a jigsaw puzzle. Next, I look for phrases that connect the entire clause — does this adjective match this noun? Does this puzzle piece have the right shape? The middle of the sentence is the trickiest, full of convoluted dependent clauses, pieces colored ambiguously and with curves and edges on all four sides. I am sometimes tangled in the syntax, one of the worst feelings in the world. After analyzing every word, I try to rearrange the pieces so they fit together. When they finally do, I am filled with a satisfaction like no other. Translating forces me to rattle my brain, looking for grammatical rules hidden in my mind's nooks and crannies. It pushes my intellectual boundaries. No other language is as precise, using inflection to express gender, number, and case in just one word. When I pull apart a sentence, I am simultaneously divulging the secrets of an ancient civilization. Renowned scholars are telling the stories of their time through these words! No other language is as meticulous. Every line follows the same meter and the arrangement of every word is with a purpose. The story of Pyramus and Thisbe includes a sentence where the word "wall" is places between the words "Pyramus" and "Thisbe" to visually show the lovers' separation. Translating is like life itself; the words are not in logical order. One cannot expect the subject of a sentence to appear at the beginning of a clause, just like one cannot plan the chronology of life. Like the delayed verb, we do not always know what is happening in our lives; we just know it is happening.
When translating we notice the nouns, the adjectives, and the conjunctions just like we see the people, senses, and connections of our lives. However, we often do not know what we are doing and ask ourselves the age-old question: Why are we here? Perhaps we are here to learn, to teach, to help, to serve, to lead, or just to live. We travel through life to decide what our purpose is, and it is that suspense and our unknown destinies that make the journey so irresistibly beautiful. I feel that same suspense and unknown when I translate, because I am beautifully struggling to unlock a past I know very little of. It is unbelievably exhilarating.
Thus, I question why others consider Latin a dead language. It is alive in all of the Western world. The Romance languages of French, Spanish, and Italian all have Latin origins. Without Latin, I would not be able to write this essay! It is alive in the stories it tells. You may see an apple and associate it with orchards, juice, pie, and fall. When I see an apple, I think of the apple of discord thrown by Eris that ultimately caused the Trojan War. This event, albeit destructive and terrifying, leads to the flight of Aeneas and eventually, his founding of Rome.
I study Latin for its rewarding return, incredible precision, intellectual challenge, rich history and culture, and deep influence on our world. I study Latin to show others how beautiful it is, to encourage the world that it should be valued. I study Latin to lead our society, like Aeneas did, toward a new city, a new dawn where everyone appreciates a mental trial of wits, everyone marvels at a vibrant past, and no one wonders whether Latin is dead or not.
What is most striking about Sandra's essay was not the fact that she was taking a class alongside high school Latin teachers, or that she was taking a summer class at Harvard. Rather, it was how in-depth Sandra went into her thought process when translating Latin. It became clear from the vivid detail with which she described her translating process that she takes it rather seriously, and it is always a pleasure to read application essays that make such passion clear.
That said, there are times where Sandra's writing appears to deliberately make something engaging when there is no need. For example, “One cannot expect the subject of a sentence to appear at the beginning of a clause, just like one cannot plan the chronology of life” seemed to be an intentionally poetic sentence made to fit Sandra's claim that “translating is like life itself.” Overall, the simile works, but you should not feel forced to make dramatic claims in your essay. If you write about something that you are passionate about, that should naturally become clear in the way you write.
背景： State: New Jersey, USA High School: Private day school, 130 students in graduating class Ethnicity: Asian Gender: Male GPA: 4.0 out of 4.0 SAT / ACT: R: 770, W: 750, Math 800 SAT Subject Tests Taken: Math 2, Chem, US History Extracurriculars: Varsity Soccer, Orchestra, Finance organization Awards: Cum Laude Major: Applied Math
I stood frozen in the produce aisle at ShopRite, wondering which of the five varieties of oranges to buy. Valencia, blood orange, organic, Florida navel – what were the differences? When I asked my mom which variety she was looking for, she responded curtly, “It’s your choice. Pick what you want.” The thing was, I didn’t know what I wanted.
For my parents, this level of freedom – even in the orange section of the grocery store — is somewhat unique to the United States. The lingering policies of the Cultural Revolution in 1970s China dictated life choices for my parents; growing up in poverty, their families’ sole concern was putting food on the table. As a result of economic disadvantage, higher education became my parents’ life goal. “If I didn’t make it to college,” my dad told me, “I would have been trapped in that godforsaken village for the rest of my life” (only one-tenth of his high school ever made it). My parents didn’t have a choice: my mom’s entire life revolved around studying, and my dad was spanked into shape at home. Sports, music, or entertainment were out of the question – my parents’ only option was to work hard and dream of a choice in America.
The miraculous thing is that my parents, having no freedom of choice for the better part of twenty years, still had the vision to grant me choice in the United States. Unfortunately, this is not common, even in our beloved land of opportunity. All I have to do is talk to my closest childhood friends - children of other Asian-American immigrants – to see the glass walls that cultural and familial expectation have erected around their lives. For some of them, playing the piano is an obligation, not a hobby, and medical school is the only career option.
Oddly enough, I had always felt a bit left out when I was younger – why weren’t my parents signing me up for American Math Competitions and middle school summer research programs, when all my friends were doing them? I’ve come to realize, though, that having the choice to do the things I’m interested in brings out an enthusiasm I can explore passionately and fully. My many hobbies – playing soccer with our neighbor in my backyard, fiddling around with Mendelssohn on my violin, or even talking to my friend about our latest stock picks – all have come from me, and I’m forever grateful to my parents for that.
The contrast between my parents’ lives and mine is shocking. In the United States, I have so many paths available to me that I sometimes can’t even choose. I don’t even know what kind of oranges to buy, yet oranges – or any other fruit - were precious delicacies to my dad as a child. I can dream of attending a school like Harvard and studying whatever I want, whether it be math, economics, or even philosophy or biochemistry – a non-existent choice for my parents, who were assigned majors by their universities. I can even dream of becoming an entrepreneur, which I see as exploration and self-destiny in its purest form. I can be sure that wherever my true passions take me, my parents will support the choices that I make, as they have for seventeen years.
Most importantly, though, I value that Harvard, with its centuries-long devotion to educating the full person, fosters the same sense of choice for its students that I have come to so deeply appreciate in my parents. I am exhilarated to have the freedom to define my own academic journey and, looking forward, for this upcoming four-year odyssey to lay the groundwork for a lifetime of exploration. For me, thankfully, it’s all possible - but only because of the sacrifice and vision of my parents.
Kevin begins his essay with an anecdote, a tried and true method of grabbing readers’ attention. Through the colorful imagery of choosing oranges in the store, Kevin begins to construct a theme of self-direction.
References to his parents' past show Kevin’s appreciation for their struggles as well as his broader awareness of global issues. This contextualizes not only his application, but also his mindset. We see Kevin reflect on his childhood, his initial mental perturbation about not being like other children finally reconciled with his understanding of his unique opportunity. Kevin further shows his self-awareness of his freedom to pursue his own interests — a strong choice, as many colleges desire intellectually curious students.
Kevin closes his essay with a return to his anecdote about choosing images in the store, a full-circle imagery method which helps to underscore his essay's theme. He makes clear that he would make the most of his college education, and just as importantly, that he appreciates the values of the school to which he's applying. Kevin ends his essay on an uplifting, mature note, reflecting what kind of student he would be on campus.