1
Supplemental Essay

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.

"Runners take your marks, get set, collaborate?"

When one attempts to characterize the sport of cross-country, the term 'teammates' rarely comes to mind. More commonly, the activity is associated with words such as 'champion' or 'competitor', both singular nouns. Therefore, it is not difficult to imagine the extent of my surprise when, stepping into my first-ever cross-country practice as a lanky ninth-grader, I witnessed the sense of camaraderie present among the more established members of the team. Despite my acknowledgement of these runners as teammates, I held my opposing views of cross-country and of collaboration at the poles of my mind, convinced that the two were terminally incompatible. Stubbornly clinging to this black-and-white philosophy, I carried it with me throughout the season's inaugural meet, unaware of the burden that such a dichotomous perspective created. Instead of tuning into the motivated cheering of coaches, I tuned into the laborious pumping of my arms, resultant of the intensity of the race.

Opposed to focusing on the changes in pace effected by my teammates, I chose to focus on the chafing around my ankles, resultant of an ill-fitting pair of racing spikes. Intent of ensuring my own success, I willfully ignored the reality that, although my teammates were assuming the role of rivals, my teammates were simultaneously assuming the role of collaborators, purposefully striving to ensure the success of one another. Consequently, the competing teams engaging in cooperative conduct similarly happened to be the teams with the greatest overall achievement at that first meet.

While witnessing the success of collaborative teams certainly set into motion a transformation of my polarized perspective in regards to cross-country, the true catalytic factor materialized itself as the interactions carried out between my teammates and I. As the season progressed, and as I gradually gained awareness of the team's nuanced character, I noticed that the strengths of one teammate served to supplement the weaknesses of another. Where one teammate may have fallen short on rhythm near the conclusion of a race, for example, another teammate would provide a blazing final 'kick'. Equipped with a transformative understanding of team dynamics, I ultimately came to realize that cooperative achievement arises not from compromise, but rather from the constructive amalgamation of distinctive individual qualities.

As I toe the starting line of an undefined future, I will undoubtedly carry these indelible lessons with me throughout the entirety of life's most daunting race.

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Supplemental Essay

For applicants to Columbia College, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time.

Studying computer science gives me the opportunity to be in a field that evolves so quickly I can always be on the forefront and do cutting-edge work. This summer at an ad-tech company, I moved the data science team’s analysis programs to a novel cluster-computing engine (Kubernetes), which can manage and distribute tasks across thousands of computers at once. Kubernetes is so new that barely any information has circulated about it. Because of this novelty, I was able to publish the first existing documentation of a data science pipeline in Kubernetes.

Computer science can also automate the manual drudgery of life. For example: to manage my clubs, I’ve written a program that checks for emails from members with excuses for missing meetings and automatically logs their absences.

Since computers have become the platform for every science, coding allows me to contribute to numerous fields. When I started at Einstein College of Medicine last year, I knew nothing about computational biology. Our project showed me that basic programming was all I needed to find fascinating results in the mostly unstudied mountains of genomic data.

As a person, I’m drawn to seemingly impossible challenges, in particular, the quest to teach machines and create mechanical consciousness. When I started taking online courses in AI, I became fascinated by the gradient descent method in machine learning. The method casts complex input data (e.g. photos) as thousand-dimensional surfaces and attempts to descend to the lowest points (minima) of those surfaces. It works best on data with underlying patterns, like pictures of human faces. This indicates that, in some way, the very nature of what a ‘face’ is, what unique structure is shared by nearly all faces, is found in the minima that AI models descend towards. My dream is to do foundational artificial intelligence research.

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Personal Statement Essay

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The three, small, purple seeds sat on the brown soil. Ten feet from me I could see my grandpa with his yunta and donkeys. They were in unison: the two donkeys, the plow, and him. My grandpa commanded; the donkeys obeyed. I began to feel tired. Exhausted. My neck was being pierced by the Mexican sun as I dropped seeds for hours.

I can’t complain; I wanted to do this.

I placed three tiny seeds, imagining the corn stalk growing while the pumpkin vines wrapped around it; both sprouting, trying to bear fruit. I clenched a fistful of dirt and placed it on them. “Más,” my grandpa told me as he quickly flooded the seeds with life-giving dirt.

Covered. Completely trapped.

My grandfather has been doing this ever since he was a little boy. Fifty-five years later and he still works hard on the field. There isn’t much else to in the small town of Temalac, Guerrero. All he could do was adapt; something my parents never did. They sacrificed everything and left their home, never to return again. With no knowledge of what would come tomorrow, with only their clothes on their backs, they immigrated to the US. They had to work on unknown soil, hoping their dedication will help sprout the new seeds they’d soon plant. They did this for me. They wanted me to worry about my education, not if there would be enough rain to satisfy the thirst of the crops.

I have a thirst.

A thirst to be the vessel for my family into a better future. I must be the crop that feeds them. All these thoughts rushed into my soul as I looked back down the aluminum bucket. I could never be a farmer. I’m grateful my parents were.

They planted a seed. A tiny seed with no instructions but to succeed. I’m the first-born son of two immigrant parents. I had a clean sheet to become anything. I could’ve fallen into my town’s influence, joined a gang, and become another statistic. Regardless of the dirt I come from, I began to sprout. Ever since I was eight years old I was entrusted with responsibilities. We were lucky that school was a three-minute walk; yet it was a stressful journey for a child. I had to wake up my brother, give him breakfast, make sure his clothes were ready, and that he was doing well in school.

Growing up, I was always fell behind in school. I had to take summer classes to match my peers’ intellect; while others were reading to learn, I was merely learning to read. My parents weren’t able to teach me English; I grew up solely developing my Spanish accent. My bilingual brain hadn't yet matured and lacked the English tongue. Entrusting a child to be the translator-of-all-matters for his parents robs him of his childhood. I had to help my parents navigate an English system unknown to them. From the day I learned to speak I had to learn to advocate not just for myself, but for my parents.

I’m the type of person my family tree hasn’t seen. Staying in high school, getting good grades, and being a responsible individual are aspects that make people around me think that I have sprouted. But I have not yet bloomed into the being I wish to become. In fact, I have merely tunneled my roots onto the Earth; roots that have been solidified by the determination my parents instilled in me as a child. Nothing I ever accomplished was handed to me. It’s the fact that I have come this far without the advantages other students have that fills me with pride.

1
Personal Statement Essay

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

"If I'll have to be around the old people, I'm not working there. I just don't feel comfortable around them. I mean, I can't even understand what they're saying half the time!"

Dismissively, I rejected my father's nagging proposal that I apply for a summer job at a local long-term care center, arguing that I'd lose my patience much too quickly in attempting to interact with elderly residents. However, with my father being, well, my father, I reluctantly filled out a job application, reluctantly attended an interview, and, 5 days later, reluctantly commuted to an orientation for my position as a 'resident partner'. Although I initially viewed the job as a prison sentence which I had been condemned to serve for 8 hours per day, the care center would eventually come to serve as a clarion call, challenging each and every preconceived notion I held in regards to a globally misunderstood population, and by extension facilitate the development of a more socially conscious personal character.

From the moment I stepped foot in the care center that would soon become a home-away-from-home for the length of my summer, the entirety of my perspective concerning senior citizens was entirely turned upon its head. These elderly persons were nothing near the stereotypical portrayals of the generational group which I had taken at face value and had accepted to be unalterably true; these individuals appeared to be exactly that: individuals. These individuals laughed as if no-one were watching, grinning from ear to ear. These individuals wore expressions of abandonment, fighting against tears of sorrow. These individuals engaged in enthusiastic conversation with acquaintances, recounting the latest achievement of a granddaughter. These individuals engaged in solitary introspection, attempting (albeit unsuccessfully) to piece together distant memories of a late wife. Where I had inserted my simplistic view of senior citizens as a static monolith, these individuals showcased a mosaic of human emotion, destroying the ideological box I had structured around their collective identity.

Nonetheless, while the past notions which I had nurtured were quickly deprived of their vitality as a direct consequence of the myriad behaviors exhibited by the care center's residents, I developed a more comprehensive and impactful understanding of the elderly population through my interactions with residents suffering from neural afflictions, namely a frail, endearing woman named Constance.

Resultant of the frequency with which Constance and her wheelchair seemed to bump into me, it happened that a friendship blossomed between she and I. Revealing to me one afternoon that she had endured a stroke decades ago, Constance passively lamented the implications of such an experience, among which existed a speech impediment compromising the ease with which she could engage in conversation. For some odd reason or another, this confession served as a catalyst, utterly decimating any remnant of my elementary view in regards to this social demographic. Perhaps owing to the intimate nature of such a statement, or perhaps owing to the period of introspection such a statement encouraged within me, Constance's words facilitated a realization of the depth of the innumerably varied experiences undergone by senior citizens. Not only did Constance demonstrate to me the dynamic, rounded character of elderly individuals; Constance unwittingly offered me a glimpse into the unfortunate reality that neural diseases are deeply misunderstood, resulting in the reduction of afflicted persons to the definition and symptoms of their disease.

Armed with a newfound awareness of the subtle dehumanization suffered by those found in circumstances mirroring Constance's, my interest in the function and coordination of the brain and its activity was magnified. Moreover, my tentative decision to pursue a career in neurology—in order to reduce the marginalization of elderly individuals by means of amplifying general knowledge concerning neurological diseases—was solidified.

Regardless of whether this aspiration comes to pass, or I head down a different path, it will remain true that I left my summer job with so much more than a paycheck.

1
Supplemental Essay

List a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community.

Filled with activity around the clock. A place to come home to.

Loving.

Trying to get past locked doors (literal and metaphorical).

Offering intellectual freedom and curiosity, without forcing specialization. Accommodating students who are unwilling to wait to make a difference. Willing to look critically at itself.

Socially conscious and politically active.

Firey.

Never taking its eye off the national or global stage.

Buzzing with so much life it flows beyond the campus into the outside world.

So much life that sometimes it intimidates, that it yearns for more hours in the day. With too many options to choose from, Too much to do in four years.

Filled with clever eyes that see new ideas in the lessons of history.

Diverse.

Diverse of origin, of culture, of opinion, of religion, of personality, Diverse like an international center of thought and ideas and passions. An urban wonderland.

Supporting of extraordinary ambitions.

1
Personal Statement Essay

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Watching my coach demonstrate the drill, it seemed so simple. But when I tried to do the Carioca drill (it sounds like “karaoke”, but doesn’t involve wailing into a microphone - it’s more like shuffling sideways while doing the Irish jig), everything fell apart.

Left foot back, right foot in front, left foot...where does it go again? Too late, I realized - I tripped over my feet and fell flat on my face as my teammates started laughing. “Saad, let’s see you dance again!” my teammate called out to me as we got ready to repeat the drill on the way back.

Everyone grinned and watched in anticipation. I swallowed my pride and tried to Carioca in the other direction and stumbled yet again, as my teammates continued to laugh. “There’s no way I’m going to be able to do this drill”, I thought to myself.

As the practices wore on, the drill changed. Instead of being called Cariocas, the drills were now named after me - “Saads”. Pretty ironic, right? At the start of every practice, I would try the Carioca like everybody else and miserably fail. I would stumble, or trip, or, worse, I would end up doing a full frontal.

In order to avoid embarrassment, I began doing the drills as fast as possible. My “diving in head first” approach (literally and figuratively) definitely wasn’t working. Then at the start of the new season, I tried something different. As everyone quickly did the Carioca across the field, I slowly put each foot in front of the next. It was painstakingly slow, and everyone laughed as I practically crawled across the field. I began doing this every practice. It was a painful process - everyone laughed day after day as I tried to slowly work on perfecting Cariocas. With each practice, I got better. I gradually began stumbling over my own feet less. Until one day, I was doing them at full speed.

I’ve become more flexible and quicker on my feet now that I can do Cariocas and not just physically. Presentations used to be my least favorite part of a class - I remember the feeling of dread as I would prepare to present in front of a crowd. Like the Cariocas that were causing me to stumble on the field, I would try to rush through presentations as fast as possible in order to “get it over with”. It was like the pattern of the Cariocas, but instead of my feet, it was my mouth that made me afraid I would look clumsy. Like the Cariocas, avoiding or rushing through the problem wasn’t helping me. Instead, I practiced talking in front of stuffed animals, then in front of the mirror, and before I knew it, I was giving a presentation at a Future Business Leaders of America conference in front of judges who gave me great reviews.

Other places off of the lacrosse field, I found myself stumbling there also – interacting with customers at Kohl’s or with patients at the hospital. Instead of tripping over my feet with customers, now working at Kohl’s I find myself being able to connect and assist customers much better – something that seemed so easy to do, but I always tried to rush through because of my fear of embarrassment. I had become a robot programmed to ask how someone's day was, instead of actually engaging and meeting new, interesting, complex people.

Now, I can “Carioca” with them, as well as all of the patients at the hospital I volunteer at. I’ve stopped tripping over my own feet, and it’s led to me not being afraid to connect and interact with patients and customers or present in front of large crowds. Life is just one long Carioca – you might stumble at first, but if you keep pushing, the right feet will find themselves in the right place.

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Personal Statement Essay

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

“How do you keep going after days like this?” a tear-stricken woman asked me after watching me put all my effort into attempting to resuscitate her husband after he had committed suicide. I‘ve grappled with my answer to her question for many years, but I may finally have one.

I wish I could truthfully say that I have grown accustomed to the catastrophic calls. I wish I could say the weight of the words “I’m sorry for your loss” lessens after saying them countless times to heartbroken families. But that is not the reality.

“Days like this” come often in emergency medicine; people call 911 on the worst day of their lives, when their baby stops breathing or their loved one suddenly collapses. Being one of the youngest medical responders ever certified in Connecticut, I have spent the majority of my adolescence running toward car crashes, flaming buildings, and into ditches while most sane people bolt in the opposite direction. While I am no stranger to cardiac arrest, severed limbs, and failing organs, it isn’t the mutilated patients that stand out in my memory, but the moments when I get a pulse back during CPR, the hugs from grateful family members, and the few, but treasured “thank you’s.”

This steel box that flies down the road at seventy miles per hour is where I grew up, where I fell in love with emergency medicine. It was a whole new world of insatiable curiosity and gut-wrenching adrenaline; where I became fascinated by the actions of Nitroglycerin, mesmerized by watching an IV drilled inside bone marrow, and captivated by the reversal of heroin overdoses. It exposed me to life in its rawest forms. Nothing says “always wear your seatbelt” like seeing a child trying to wake up her dad after he flew through the windshield; nothing shows the true depths of mental illness like responding to a teenager’s fifth attempt on her life. Every patient, every unique and precious life, presents a new puzzle—a new person to heal.

I never knew I had the courage to talk a suicidal sixteen-year-old boy down from the edge of a bridge, knowing that he could jump and take his life at any moment.

I never knew I had the strength to hold the hand of a dying man encased in the wreckage of his car while he spoke his last words to me.

I never knew I had the confidence to stand my ground and defend my treatment plan to those who saw me as less than capable because of my age or gender.

The emergency services brought me to places that I never could have imagined and introduced me to patients and people who broadened my worldview. I found myself in frigid rivers pulling unresponsive people into boats and laughing at the incredible sense of humor of a homeless man. It didn’t matter where people came from or who they were when they were on my stretcher, socioeconomic status and labels fell away. Whether I was performing CPR or helping a frail old woman off her kitchen floor, I knew I was changing a stranger’s life even if all I could offer was a hand to hold.

I have an innate passion to heal. I am continuously enthralled by the complexity and endless beauty of the human body and I could spend my whole life studying it, but I will only scrape the surface of its wonders. I could engineer cells to produce missing proteins; I could grow stem cell hearts, livers, and kidneys; I could create tumor destroying medications; I can heal people one person at a time until I help eliminate the word ‘incurable’ from the dictionary. I answer that catastrophic call day after day because to love medicine is to love humanity and no one has ever really lived until they have done something for someone who can never repay them.

1
Personal Statement Essay

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is…uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable. A couple of examples are that an equal number of pets are euthanized as are adopted each year and that cats roam the streets at night because they are actually looking for owners with better food. One of those statements is a horrible truth and the other is a thought I had in the shower. Either way, the point still stands. Uncomfortable truths are just that, uncomfortable. The answer to ‘Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist?’ is the most uncomfortable answer I can give, barring the current status of aboriginal street cats.

Sikhs like myself have borne the brunt of the backlash through our forced subjection to hate crimes, bullying, and job discrimination. In 2012, a misguided gunman took the lives of six Sikhs who were praying peacefully in their house of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Their families, through their tears, asked the nation, like I continue to ask myself, “Why?”

The uncomfortable truth is that as a society, we have not found a solution to the growing trend of extremism and hate crimes—we failed at the whole “freedom of religion” clause in the Bill of Rights. The media tells us that these crimes are carried out by individuals that are ignorant and motivated by hate. I would personally call them losers, but that would solve none of underlying system problems that have grown from anti-immigration rhetoric. When my cousin joined the US Army, he was told that he’d have to cut his beard and hair. Every time I tell that part of the story I can’t help but guffaw at how ridiculous it sounds. My then eleven-year-old angst came to a climactic fruition hearing those words—it was a call to action.

I helped to gather signatures for a petition to Robert Gates, then Secretary of Defense, pleading with him to allow Sikhs to serve without having to cut our hair. We garnered over 15,000 signatories, receiving generous media attention. We called and convinced our local congressional offices to support this issue. I created a Facebook page to help spread awareness, and helped to organize fundraisers to help fight this ban on our articles of faith. Our message is simple. Through service, we can push back against both hate and intolerance. But, if the largest employer in the U.S. does not allow us to serve with our articles of faith, then we will continue to be victimized as outsiders, contrary to the founding principles of our nation.

I’m proud to say my cousin deployed to Afghanistan as the first Sikh to be granted a religious waiver in nearly a generation. He saved countless lives as a doctor on the front lines of war and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his efforts. But, (there’s always a but) Sikhs today still face a presumptive ban. Despite being in perfect—for the army’s sake—physical condition, I cannot join the US Army because of my hair.

So now the uncomfortable story that was the uncomfortable answer to an uncomfortable question comes to an uncomfortable ending. And, like all great uncomfortable answers, I never really answered the main question. I don’t have the answers to why people do the hateful things they do. But by wearing my turban proudly every morning, by answering questions when they come up, by being willing to talk about everything that is wrong, I become a personification of what is right. My solution to the systemic problem starts with me.

1
Supplemental Essay

At Brown, you will learn as much from your peers outside the classroom as in academic spaces. How will you contribute to the Brown community?

At my high school, I reinvigorated and reinvented the linguistics society with the help of a friend, transforming it from a dull discussion of past exam questions to a seminar-style session where I have presented and analysed various interesting aspects of language. In a similar vein, I intend to be a leader and an innovator at Brown, and to create opportunities for likeminded people to discuss shared interests such as linguistics. However, other than creating clubs, I hope to use my experience as a camp counselor and a diving coach to support others within the community, and to set a good example of dedication, energy, and compassion.

Additionally, I have volunteered as a Spanish teacher at a local primary school for three years. Volunteer service is something I would definitely like to continue to undertake at Brown, perhaps through the Community Corps that will allow me to help address social inequality within Providence, or as a teacher and classroom assistant in the Elementary Afterschool Mentoring program at D’Abate school. I can draw on my previous experience and knowledge to hopefully enrich the education of underprivileged children in the local community.

Finally, as an international student, I will bring an element of unique culture to Brown’s campus. Having grown up in the buzzing metropolis of London but visiting America frequently to see family, I have the privilege of a truly dual nationality, and the resultant worldview and cultural references that I hope will enrich the diverse Brown community.

0
Supplemental Essay

Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.

Last summer I participated in molecular biology research at Boston University. Surrounded by 39 other high school seniors, I perceived with new clarity how an inquisitive, curious mind must interact in an unapologetic manner. Entering lectures about the basics of molecular biology, most of us initially thought we knew a great deal about biology. I quickly realized my naivete, and once I accepted my own ignorance, I settled into a passive absorption mode. The looks on all our faces told the same story. Well, all of ours except Kelsey’s.

Brilliant and inquisitive, Kelsey exhibited no fear raising her hand and boldly asking questions. Even during the portions of the lectures when we were simply reviewing concepts of biology, she never ceased to question the current topic. The first few times she asked questions, I thought she had little background knowledge so she just needed clarification. Yet as the first week progressed, I realized that not only did she have the background information required for this course but also the grit and determination needed for success in research. The levels of her questions stumped our lecturer at times and he responded, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”

Often I just wanted to yell, “PUT YOUR HAND DOWN!!!”, as my tolerance for her constant inquiry began to erode while sitting through her questions and their subsequent answers. Due to her deep and thought-provoking questions, she became the class pariah; not necessarily because she was annoying but because of her resolute and indefatigable inquisitiveness. She was insatiable in her pursuit of knowledge, like a ribosome clinging to the endoplasmic reticulum.

Yet as the course progressed, I finally began to notice the value of Kelsey’s questions. She asked questions of importance, questions researchers must ask themselves every day. Her inquiries were thoughts no one else my age seemed to have. The depth and breadth of her ideas fascinated me, especially given that she was only sixteen.

Kelsey’s questions made me realize the importance of questioning preconceived notions.

Subsequently, I became aware of my own willingness to challenge concepts that were accepted and taught as seemingly concrete, and I recognized the danger of blindly absorbing information without disputing it. Seeing the scholarly nature of Kelsey’s intellectual curiosity, I began to emulate her queries during the final few weeks of the program. Not only did I get more out of the lectures, but I also gained the experience necessary to question ideas and facts and search for answers, a vital skill in every academic realm.

As a student with an interest in the sciences, I ask questions that may not have an obvious answer. As someone who strives for knowledge, I am willing to do research if what I am asking has no answer, but I do not simply possess an affinity toward knowledge. I wish to create it. Most young people cite coaches, teachers, or other adults as influential; however, for me, a peer-modeled approach to learning also has merit.

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