Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Personal Statement

My roommate needed help writing his personal statement for math grad school. His original version was a little lacking in personality. Here’s what I came up with:

“Bang!” went my backpack as I slammed it down on the kitchen table after a long day of school. I grabbed a banana from the counter and took a big bite.

“Mom, I’m late for sailing practice!” I yelled as I ran upstairs to change into my drysuit. It was a beautiful day in my upper middle class neighborhood of Miami—the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and the smell of Cuban food wafted gently on the breeze.

“But Jonny, don’t you need to do your math homework first?” my Swedish-born mother asked me with a hint of an accent. I rolled my eyes.

“Mom, you don’t understand me at all. Sailing comes first.”

It was true. Sailing had always come first. Ahead of school, ahead of family. I was so young that I thought feeling alive meant I was really living.

Out in the bay, I smiled broadly from behind my sunglasses. The water was nice and even, the sun was shining, and I hadn’t a care in the world. My sailing teammates and I rocked gently back and forth on the surface, turning bronze in the shining sun.

Suddenly, I heard a cry for help.

“Help! Help!”

I whipped around. An old woman had fallen off the edge of the dock and into the water. She wasn’t wearing a lifejacket and she didn’t look like she knew how to swim because she was flailing around and screaming for help. I needed to get over to her, and fast.

But how could I get my boat to move that quickly? How high should I raise the sail and in what direction? The sail was a triangle. If the length of the edge opposite the right angle was 7 feet, then how many degrees should the angle adjacent to the hypotenuse be extended? I tried to remember sine and cosine from that day’s math class, but my mind was completely blank. I hadn’t learned math, and now I learned the consequences.

Helpless, alongside my drunken teammates, I watched the old woman drown.

That night, I came home late, feeling wretched. Soundlessly, I threw myself into my estranged father’s arms. Never again would I put sailing before math and family.

It is this traumatizing experience that has led me to pursue graduate studies in the Mathematics Department of the University of Florida. A Master’s degree in mathematics would not only extend my undergraduate foundation and allow me to progress to a doctoral degree, it would also prevent another terrible tragedy like this one.

3 comments:

sf said...

nice one. i would accept him/you.

sf said...

also, check this out:
http://www.slate.com/id/2206835/

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