Harvard Application #3



Common Application Essay: Why I Ride

Most of my friends asked me why I did it. It took four days and left me completely exhausted. What reason was there to embark on such a journey?

It all started the summer before my freshman year in high school when I rode my bike off of my grandma’s street for the first time and rode up into a neighboring subdivision. From then on I was hooked. I started riding all over the place; from the main drag in town up into the country along narrow roads I didn’t know existed.  

Over the next three years I rode more, got stronger, and fell in love with the sport of cycling. By the beginning of my junior year I could ride from Hilo up to Volcano and back, a 60 mile round trip. At this point the purpose of my riding had become fulfilling this crazy notion to ride around the island. I rode almost 2,000 miles during that year and through every mile I held in mind a determination to finish a trip around the island. I was dead-set on doing it and nothing was going to stop me.

As the ride came closer, I planned every step. It would take four days, cover 280 miles, and climb 20,000 vertical feet. The first day would take me the 80 miles from Hilo to South Point, next the 100 miles from South Point to Kona, third the 45 miles up to Hawi and up the Kohala Mountains to Waimea, and the last day the 55 miles back to Hilo.

Aside from a very saturated ride on the last day thanks to Tropical Storm Fausto’s remnants, the whole trip went off without a hitch. I knew exactly what was coming next until the very end. As I rode the final mile home I said to myself “well, I did it” and that was the last thought I gave it.

Over the month following my ride, I totally lost touch with cycling. I logged a total of zero miles on my bike. I had done what I set out to do, but now what? Will I just stop riding now that I’ve accomplished my goal? I had to ask myself, why had I wanted to ride around the island in the first place?

Then one afternoon with nothing better to do, I saddled up and rode up a hill near my house. As I plunged back down the hill I started noticing things: I noticed that peculiar whirring sound the wheels make at 30mph; I noticed the wind in my face; I noticed the deep green of the rolling pasturelands around me; I noticed the sun reflecting off of the ocean in the distance. And I noticed what great fun it was. That was why I did it. Before I ever had the notion to ride around the island, I had ridden for the fun of it.

In my fervor to ride around the island, I had forgotten the real reason that I ride. Rediscovering it was an epiphany for me. I learned that I cannot lose sight of why I’m doing something. Finite goals should never obscure the enjoyment I get from doing something. I shouldn’t ride just because I want to go around the island, I should also remember to ride for the thrill that I get from it. This is a philosophy I hope to keep in mind throughout my life. That is, I shouldn’t live focused only on getting a degree and a job. I should also live to enjoy life and all it has to offer, like flying down a hill bathed in the afternoon sun.

Supplement Essay: I See Things Differently

Being colorblind isn’t all bad. In fact, as of late it has allowed me to see more than I otherwise would have.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved airplanes. I’ve drawn them, read about them, built models of them, and watched them take off and land at the local airport. I can look up at a plane and identify it by shape, no color necessary! Naturally, ever since I learned that people make money playing with airplanes, I wanted to be a pilot.

As I got older though, I found that perhaps my colorblindness would prevent me from attaining my dream job. Last spring that I got myself formally tested. As it turned out, my red-green colorblindness was severe enough to keep me from flying commercially. Ever.

I soon fell into that common trap of, “why me?” Why did I have to be colorblind? I never asked to be colorblind. None of my friends want to be pilots; why couldn’t one of them have been colorblind?

Unfortunately, no amount of griping on my part would give me the ability to distinguish red and green; and so, as one might expect, there was a bit more inner searching to do: now what did I want to do with my life?   

Soon though, it dawned on me that just because I couldn’t fly them didn’t mean I had to give up airplanes. I thought back to the many books I’d read and the models I’d built. It was then that I realized there were all kinds of things I’d love to do that still related to aviation. I could become a historian and share the rich history of aviation with others, and in doing so perhaps bring someone else into the magical world that is flight. I could become an aeronautical engineer and design the airplanes of the future, or a physicist to devise new ways to fly faster and further, or a chemist to find new materials that would make planes lighter and stronger. I could herald in a new age of fuel efficiency, speed, and safety.

As I read up on these subjects I discovered much in addition to airplanes that interested me. Bernoulli’s principle that explained the generation of lift was all good and well, but Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was simply mind-blowingly beautiful and impressively hard to get my head around. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s stories of his flying adventures were entertaining, but reading his more famous work The Little Prince in French was maddeningly brilliant in the doors it opened for my language skills.

There is so much out there I am eager to learn more about; and, if my colorblindness hadn’t ruled out flying, I may never have realized it. My inability to distinguish a few of the colors allowed me to discover a multitude of the exciting things I could do with my life besides fly. I still don’t know what I’ll do with my life, but that is due to a happy overabundance of options. My eyes are open to a world of engrossing and electrifying topics ranging from relativity to French-literature. While I still look up if I hear an airplane, now I see the world a little differently.

Standardized Test Scores:

  • SAT Composite: 2190
  • ACT Composite: 35

AP Test Scores:

  1. Statistics: 4
  2. Calculus BC: 4
  3. Biology: 5
  4. Environmental Science: 4
  5. World History: 5
  6. United States History: 4
  7. English Language: 4
  8. English Composition: 4

School Record and Class Ranking:

  • Cumulative Rank: 1 of 304
  • Cumulative GPA:
    • 4.2
    • Unweighted: 4.0


  • 2015 National Merit Scholar Commendation
  • 1st Place SkillsUSA Applied Mathematics Competition 2014 (State Level)
  • Academic Golfer 2013



  • WHS LEO Club 2011-2015
    • Board Member 2014-2015
  • WHS Math League 2011-2015
    • Vice-President 2013-2014
    • President 2014-2015
  • National Honor Society 2013-2015
    • Treasurer 2014-2015
  • Science Bowl 2012-2015
  • Math Bowl 2012-2015
  • WHS Golf Team 2011-2013; 2014-2015
  • Recreational Cycling
  • Student Council 2012-2014
    • Chair of Commencement Cleanup 2012-2013
    • Chair of Phonebook Drive 2013-2014

Published in Full College Applications, Full Harvard Applications That Worked

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King's College London

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Brown University

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Harvard University

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