My Personal Statement: Duke University, Tufts University & Case Western - Timothy G.

20 MAR 2021

In the essay that got him into Duke, Tufts and Case Western, Timothy drew comparisons between two of his passions: running and coding. He described how both hobbies taught him to solve problems one piece at a time, weaving the two metaphors together to tell a compelling story about overcoming obstacles.

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…

Reaching The Summit

The gate creaked closed behind me as I stepped out onto the pavement. The sun was beginning to peek over the horizon, casting a gentle yellow light through the trees above me. I took a deep breath and stretched, the brisk morning air calming my growing excitement. The world felt silent and empty, and the only thing that mattered was me and the road ahead. I set off at an easy pace, savouring my surroundings with each stride. I didn’t plan where I was going, but that’s what made it exciting. The best way to explore was to get lost.

In fact, that attitude did not just apply to my running - it mirrored my approach to learning too. I have always loved to create things, and I began to see coding as the perfect outlet. Soaking up every resource I could find online and in the library, each of my projects became more ambitious than the last. I taught myself the skills I needed as I went, losing myself completely in the exciting world of technology.

The sun continued to rise and I was no longer under the cover of trees. I felt the harsh heat drain my energy. Looking ahead, I felt apprehensive – a long track winding up a steep hill that was notorious amongst runners. Aside from turning around, there was no other way home. I locked my gaze onto the road ahead and pushed forward.

At the same time, I was working on my latest project – a timetabling application for my school. I had experienced first-hand the painstaking process teachers had to endure to create lesson schedules manually, and identified the opportunity to solve a real-world problem. I dived into it head-first, losing myself in a world of graph theory, genetic algorithms and advanced databases, but soon my overzealous approach began to backfire. The program became bloated and disorganized; my lack of planning made further progress seem impossible.

Leaning over and gasping for air, I stopped under a solitary tree. I was barely halfway, but I felt exhausted. I didn’t want to turn back now, but I was so tired I could hardly stand. At that moment, the idea of reaching the top felt impossible. Fitter runners had tried and failed to beat this hill, and despite my exhaustion, I could see that throwing myself at the problem wasn’t going to work. I needed a plan to stack the odds in my favor.

I stood up, noting the incline of each part of the track; where to conserve energy and where to put in all my effort. I divided the route into smaller parts; each bend became a milestone and each step took me closer to the top. Before I knew it, I was looking down to where I started, feeling tired but flushed with success.

Once home, I deleted my first attempt and started from scratch. The way I managed to reach the top of that hill was to plan thoroughly, and this was what I needed to do for my project to succeed. Just like that run, it was challenging and I spent countless hours working on it. I solved the problem in sections, and the feeling of success that followed was completely worth it. I would never have thought that the inspiration I needed to solve my coding dilemma lay in running, but that lesson has stuck. Now, when I can’t see the way forward, I step back, break down the problem, and tackle it piece by piece until I reach my goal. There’s always a way to reach the summit, it’s just a matter of finding it.

NEXT WEEK: Read the essay that got Talia S. into LSE and King’s College London!

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