My Personal Statement: Columbia University - Cenon C.

12 MAR 2021

Cenon got accepted to Columbia University with his essay about how growing up in a multigenerational and multicultural household taught him to appreciate different opinions and perspectives, as well as the value of strong bonds when facing obstacles and adversity.

This essay is part of a collection of personal statements written by Crimson students who were accepted to their top-choice universities in the US and UK. By bringing together nearly 25 of our best students’ essays, we want to provide inspiration for future students with the same aspirations and goals. This series will showcase the wonderful variety in our student’s essay creations — powered by their personal voice and supported by their dedicated Crimson essay mentors. Ready to be inspired? Let’s go…


It is Friday evening and the stage is set with the "Glorified Podium of Discussion" in the middle of the living room.

First on the docket is "Weekly Fast Fact." At the sound of the gavel my grandfather declares, "If you are ever in need of a quick repair, there is only one item for every job: duct tape. Duct tape fixes everything!" Or so I was told.

Three pieces of particle board, half a roll of duct tape, and some TLC came together to create the "Glorified Podium of Discussion." Every Friday, for the past four years, my family has gathered to hold our personal family Congress TED Talk in the comfort of our home. It all began when we sat down to watch the primary election debates leading up to the 2016 presidential election and tensions began rising in the room.

Living in a multigenerational and multicultural household, I have been fortunate to be exposed to a full spectrum of views, opinions, and ideas that have bound my family together. Whether it be an evaluative look at United States foreign policy, a critique of a new movie-musical dance number, or a history lesson in space exploration, we have talked about it.

Of all the topics my family has discussed, there is one that has stuck with me: duct tape. The creative versatility of duct tape has transformed into the binding metaphor for family unity in my life. Every week I look forward to taping together the gap between clashing views, and this is only possible with communication. While there is a lack of meaningful dialogue in society, my living room represents the reverse microcosm of encouraging, informative conversation.

Over the last seventeen years, I have had to become an expert in duct tape ingenuity - due to seven moves. I have had to give up roots in one city in exchange for a clean slate of unveiled opportunities and new relationships in the next.

Often, people are astonished when I name all the cities in which I have lived, but, in all honesty, the outcome of each move outweighs the frustrating process of packing up boxes, taping them shut, and hoping they arrive at the next destination. Moving from one city to another requires me to create new long-distance friendships, adapt to new school environments, and learn the "ins and outs" of an entire new community, while also giving me ample practice to reflect on my personal experiences. I carry with me an unyielding desire to adapt and understand the communities I call home by directly facing adversity.

After each move, the makeshift podium requires more duct tape to keep its integrity; in contrast, the past seven years have aided the growth of my emotional and psychological integrity on which I continued to build. My identity has also grown through my connection with my family in relation to the places we have lived. From taking part in a Mother's Against Drunk Driving forum, hosting an annual Dragon Boat Racing Festival, or attending NASA's lecture in the final days of the Pluto New Horizon Mission, I am able to tape together my experiences and lessons into a cohesive whole, bettering the person I wish to be.

My grandpa was wrong; duct tape cannot fix the entirety of the world's problems, yet I assert the discussions with my family have aided in a clearer understanding of who I am, one family TED Talk at a time.

Although my living room has changed many times, the importance of family unity has been developed by meaningful discussions. When it comes to facing adversity, I believe the "Glorified Podium of Discussion" has equipped me with skills for real world application. Obstacles will be the fuel of my ambition as I continue to strive for success with the skills developed in my living room.

NEXT WEEK: Read the essay that got Timothy G. into Duke, Tufts and Case Western!


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