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JHU Supplemental Essay (about doing a math competition with middle schoolers)

mikeyt14 1 / -  
Dec 31, 2018   #1

Johns Hopkins essay

Write a brief essay (300-400 words) in which you respond to the following question.

Successful students at Johns Hopkins make the biggest impact by collaborating with others, including peers, mentors, and professors. Talk about a time, in or outside the classroom, when you worked with others and what you learned from the experience.

It was a whole new experience for me, attending a math competition hosted at an institution. In the October of my tenth grade, I attended the Caltech-Harvey Mudd Math Tournament (CHMMT) as a member of the A-star program's Orange County team. I never met my team until the day of the competition, but given A-star's reputation I anticipated a team of mathematical gurus, from USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) qualifiers to national medalists. Yet, when I arrived at the entrance, I was greeted by a group of five smiling middle schoolers. I was perplexed. Middle schoolers? In a prestigious mathematics competition written for ambitious high schoolers? I was skeptical.

But in no time, I realized these weren't just kids. The moment I met them, their radiant curiosity and masterful understanding of mathematics wowed me. While I was in school learning to solve systems of equations, one teammate, Andre, was explaining how to calculate the value of one imaginary unit raised to the power of another imaginary unit. Another teammate, Wesley, was obsessing over the beauties of the nine-point circle. The competition hasn't even started and yet I've already learned so much from these "kids".

During the team round, each team was seated in its own room with a whiteboard and a set of ten problems to solve collaboratively in sixty minutes. As soon as the round started, the incredible mathematical capabilities of my team members began to unfold, as they would attack the problems with enthusiasm and aggression with words of collaboration flying across the room at incredible rates. In my school, I tutored mathematics to people several years younger than me, but that day I found myself at the other side of the desk. During the competition, I was actively learning from these "kids", attentive to their every word and revamping my mathematical arsenal. But at the end of the day, I left with more than just raw mathematical knowledge; I gained the realization that the ability to shape minds can come from anywhere.

i kinda wrote this one on a rush. not sure what to think, because i am always biased towards my own work. please be as critical as possible.


widdendream 1 / 1 2  
Dec 31, 2018   #2
"I attended the Caltech-Harvey ..."
Since you are working under such a limited word count, I feel that a lot of words were used for all of these names, none of which are really important to the essay. I get that the essay is building up the expectation for something prestigious (only to be met by middle schoolers!) but I think "I anticipated a team of mathematical gurus, from USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) qualifiers to national medalists." does the trick (also, acronym USAMO not needed because you don't ever mention it again).

I would also focus less on the specifics of the math that the middle schoolers knew; again, I realize this is to emphasize how good they were, I would pull up one example and make it really short yet impactful. This essay should be more about you and how you felt/learned.

Again in the third paragraph, you're still talking about the kids. The reader doesn't really need to know the specifics of how the contest was run, so I would cut out or shorten "each team was seated in its ...". What did you learn from the kids' "enthusiasm and aggression with words of ..."? The only sentence where I felt you really addressed what you learned is "... I gained the realization that the ability to ..." which doesn't really go into a lot of detail. How did this latter realization affect you? What other insights did you gain? Try to be more specific. Did it change how you approached learning? Did it inspire you to do something?

Also, this is just the way I write, and there's no need to take this advice; less adjectives (ie "radiant curiosity") and "flowery" language. I approach my writing from more of a professional, formal school essay/resume standpoint. This is just a stylistic, personal thing; but it fills up that precious precious word count, and for me PERSONALLY it doesn't really add much.

Overall, it's a pretty good essay, considering you wrote it in a rush. However, I think you need to be less of a "bystander" in this story (even if you were during the actual competition!). Talk about yourself more! Admissions doesn't really care about the tournament itself; they care about YOU and how you reflected upon this experience and developed as a person. Secondly, the prompt specifically mentions collaboration. The essay gives me the feeling that the writer (you) stayed at the sides of the room and kind of passively watched everything. You talk about being wowed by the kids; but how did you affect them? Did you teach them anything; if not math, leadership? Communication? Did you resolve conflicts? Don't be a bystander in your own story!

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