Princeton Application #5

Common Application Essay: Ka-Ching

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

“Ka-ching!” Success! This was not a real cash register but the sound of a notification from the Etsy app on my phone. I eagerly read the screen. “One new order.” Someone bought something I created! A childish glee coursed through me as I opened the Etsy app.

This adventure began two years ago when I clicked the “Publish” button on my new Etsy shop. (, a virtual marketplace, accommodates everyone from budding entrepreneurs to experienced sellers.) Soon came the first order, and I was hooked. At first, my shop in the cloud sold art prints built of simply two components: ink and cardstock. But with increasing confidence, I experimented with new styles, concepts, and materials. My shop expanded to offer a selection of products including wedding invitations, iPhone cases, and business-logo designs.

To create a market for my products and services, I opened two Instagram accounts. I contacted Instagram users with anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 followers to sponsor my shop, which meant they would post photos of my art and share their followers with me in return for free products. Many more “Ka-chings!” rang out as my little business burgeoned into an international enterprise with customers in Australia, Canada, and England. I grew with it. I began to take risks. I acted on other ideas, including building a professional photography business.

My shop, created as a hobby, soon opened up new opportunities. I’ve collaborated with several entrepreneurs, including the winner of the international Starbucks White Cup Contest. My art has been published in Ama-gi Magazine and I’ve licensed my designs to businesses nationwide: a clothing store, a phone case shop, and a paper goods company. Most recently,, a jewelry company featured on, asked me to sponsor their company because they want access to my customer base. I will showcase their products on my Instagram accounts.

Although I enjoy designing, I relish the “Ka-ching!” and what it means to me. It represents non-monetary rewards: confidence, because I made important business decisions; productivity, because I worked within a tight schedule to deliver quality products; and excitement, because my Etsy success has inspired me to chase other opportunities. I’ve also learned some real-life skills: communicating effectively with customers, enjoying focused work, researching marketing techniques, brainstorming product ideas, organizing my time, and taking risks with my own money. Most significantly, I experienced how a few bold ideas and diligence can translate into confidence and the joy of achievement.

In the beginning, my business wasn’t very lucrative. I earned far less per hour than the minimum wage. But the “Ka-ching!” is not about money, it’s about total strangers around the world giving me a vote of confidence for my hard work with every dollar they spend.

They say that there is a profound link between sense and memory. Everyone experiences this with a familiar smell or sound because the same section of the brain that holds memories also has sensory processing ability. For me, that cash register sound always recalls the thrilling sense of achievement, assurance, and connection with other people. That is the power of “Ka-ching!”


Princeton Supplement Essay

Write about a person, event, or experience that helped you define one of your values or in some way changed how you approach the world. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Common Application. (250-650 words.)

“Always strive to do the hardest thing.” These words were spoken at our awards assembly a week after our high school’s mock trial team won the Idaho State Mock Trial Championship. The intensity of mock trial has been the turning point of my life so far.

A mock trial competition is between two teams of eight students arguing a hypothetical court case. The teams present either the plaintiff or defense side in a trial held in an actual courtroom. The case consists of 70 pages of material, including six witness statements, exhibits, and rules of evidence. Students act as attorneys, who present opening and closing statements as well as direct and cross examinations, or as witnesses, who must portray their characters believably in the heat of a trial. I have competed as both an attorney and as a witness.

The preparation for the Idaho State Mock Trial Championship seems endless, lasting from November to March. It is an arduous cycle of writing and rewriting witness examinations, only to have them ripped apart at practice by my coaches. An exam consists of a series of questions that the attorney asks the witness. To conduct an examination, one must build a logical foundation of questions, upon which important facts from the witness’ statement can be pulled out and used as arguments. After several weeks of repeatedly honing our exams, our team crafts the arguments based on the evidence. We develop a case theory and weave that through everything we present.

But this describes only the preparation. The trial itself is a whole different game. Attorneys must be able to articulate every subtle nuance of the case so that, in an objection fight, we can defend our witness and sway the jury. Attorneys sit on the edge of their plush swivel chairs, ready to object at any given moment before it’s too late. Our preparation enables us to respond well in unanticipated situations during the trial.

I have also played a witness. I was both a German doctor (complete with an accent) who specialized in post-traumatic stress disorder and a DEA agent who was shot while on duty. I learned how to fully embody my character and create a three-dimensional persona that’s not only believable, but entertaining. We must scrutinize every aspect of our character and bring the words in our statement to life.

But again, that’s only the behind-the-scenes work.

The two-hour-long trial is where we are truly tested. Witnesses must know their characters so well that they can answer unanticipated questions during their cross examinations. We must remain calm and unflappable in the midst of an accusatory, and sometimes argumentative, cross.

After four months and 130 hours of grueling preparation, the eight team members are so well-versed in mock trial jargon and so familiar with the case materials that we can anticipate problems and overcome them. Team work is a huge part. Directing attorneys must know their own witnesses and team members must be able to cover their teammates’ weaknesses. The attorneys fill their counsel table with notes on legal pads for the benefit of the other attorneys. During a round, no help from our coach is allowed. We are on our own.

I’m now in my fourth year of mock trial. Twice, my team has won the Idaho championship and then competed in the national championship.

The tools I’ve learned through mock trial will benefit me for the rest of my life. I went into this ready to work hard, but I came out much more confident and experienced. The skills I picked up along the way are ingrained in me: diligence, persistence, and attentiveness. Because of mock trial, I always strive to do the hardest thing.

Standardized Test Scores:

  • SAT Composite: 2260
  • SAT Subject Tests
    • Chemistry: 700
    • Math 1: 780
    • Math 2: 790

AP Test Scores: N/A

School Record and Class Ranking:

  • Cumulative Rank: Not provided/unranked
  • Cumulative GPA:
    • 4.0 (unweighted)


  • Summa Cum Laude
  • Faculty Commendations
  • Mock Trial State Champion
  • Mock Trial National Competitor

Extracurriculars and Volunteer Experience:


  • Volleyball
  • Cross Country
  • Theater
  • Peer Tutoring
  • Class Treasurer
  • Mock Trial


  • Feed the Need (packaged food for local families)
  • Volunteer baker at Cookie Company
  • Charity School of Dance ballet TA

Published in Full College Applications, Full Princeton Applications That Worked

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