Below are application materials and supporting
documents I wrote for applications to graduate school
(UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, and Virginia Commonwealth
University), to college (Duke University), and to
the NC School of Science and Mathematics, in that
Feel free to read them and get ideas, but
if you want to use them to cheat when writing your
own application, be aware that schools now use software
to compare new applications to previous ones to weed
out cheaters. There really isn't any room for dishonesty
in academics. The whole point of being an academic
is to gather and present new and truthful knowledge
(not to make big bucks or gain lots of status and
fame, though if you're lucky that might come later--don't
count on it though). By plagiarizing your application
you're already starting your academic career wrong.
So just read my stuff to get ideas, but don't copy
if you're serious about getting in to wherever you
want to go.
Applying to Graduate School
of Purpose, Application to Duke University's Ecology
This was written only for this graduate program; UNC-Chapel
Hill had a different kind of application process and I was able
to email them with a similar essay. As of March 15 I haven't heard
from Duke yet, but I've already been accepted to UNC-Chapel Hill
Information to Accompany My Duke University Application
There was a section where I could submit accompanying
information for my Duke graduate school application, so I did. I
felt that since this was my second application to Duke and I'd heard
that applicants were being admitted with 3.8 GPAs and above, I needed
to explain my poor performance during my first semester at Duke.
It was the only thing responsible for lowering my overall GPA. I'm
guessing that didn't work since I haven't heard from Duke yet...
Shade, a Statement of Purpose (original version)
This was written during a period after I first applied
to Duke's biology program along with over 100 applicants, and didn't
get one of the 8 or so available spots. I began to think about doing
genetics/molecular biology instead since many more students get
accepted to those programs. However, though I was (and still am)
highly interested in the subject of genetic/molecular means of life
extension, after one month of working in a great virology lab with
a really caring advisor, David
Pickup, I sadly realized I didn't quite have the training or
the stamina to work long hours at a biomedical lab bench. There
isn't very much of an outlet for creativity when following lab protocols.
It was a troubling discovery for me since I have tons of interests,
and this was my biggest one in the field of biomedical science.
However, the experience taught me that at my core, I'm really a
physics and computer person who values her creativity and cares
deeply about nature. That's drawn me to landscape
After sending this revised
version of my statement of purpose (and while
working at the Pickup Lab), I was admitted to the
Human Genetics program at Virginia Commonwealth University.
In the end I had to turn that down. After long months
of consideration and researching ecology graduate
programs, I had made up my mind that ecology was what
I wanted to do for my career.
Sonoluminescence and Fusion
This paper accompanied my application for admission to Duke University.
I wonder if it significantly helped my application, since many students
from NCSSM apply to Duke but only a few get accepted. I was strongly
considering a major in physics and had wanted to explore the possibility
of tweaking the properties of sonoluminescent bubbles to achieve the
even higher temperatures required for nuclear fusion. Unfortunately
due to roommate troubles my first semester and a resulting abysmally
low GPA, my physics research prospects were undercut.
My fascination with sonoluminescent bubbles continues,
in a way, in my high-speed photographic studies of drops
and splashes. Sound waves cause water to cavitate and
form rapidly collapsing bubbles, but under the right
conditions a simple splash can also give rise to air
bubbles underwater. The air bubbles arise differently
than in sonoluminescence--they are pinched from the
surface rather than created by low pressure--but I've
come to learn that it's the idea of mechanical waves
being able to produce a variety of complex shapes and
interactions that has really intrigued me. In short,
I'm highly interested in wave dynamics. This in turn
has led me to be curious about how electromagnetic waves
(light) might do the same in 3D and higher dimensions.
So even though my prospects for sonoluminescence research
at Duke quickly died, my curiosity at the phenomenon
has led me down a different but related path.
Applying to NCSSM
Application Essay (click
here for completed version)
The first half is a general statement, and the rest
is the actual essay. This should give you an idea
of what kinds of things should be included in an application.
(I'm not saying that everything I've included should
be what prospective students should include, although
since I got admitted, perhaps some of these points might
be good points to talk about.)
- Supplement to My Application
I wrote this near the end of my sophomore year, while
still at my old high school. I did some new things,
and NCSSM wanted me to update them on those things so
they could see what I'd been doing during the entire
NCSSM admissions process. My guess is that they
wanted to make sure prospective students weren't slacking
off just before they were admitted.
Sixty hours of community service is an NCSSM graduation
requirement, and must be done either the summer before
coming to NCSSM, or the summer between the junior and
senior years. I chose to do mine at the Fayetteville,
NC Animal Haven before coming to NCSSM, so I could leave
my next summer open for research opportunities.
Ambition of Life
I think I must have written this just for a personal
portfolio I had, since I can't remember using it in
any other context. I took the portfolio to my
NCSSM interview just in case my interviewer wanted to
see some things I had done, but the portfolio turned
out not to be necessary for my particular interviewer.
(I don't know about other interviewers, however.)
This is a summary of stuff I did from ninth grade to
tenth grade. The date range on this paper says
1995 to 1999, but I think it should read 1995 to 1997
instead. (My portfolio was a 4-year portfolio,
and I had anticipated to make the Personal Perspective
span 4 years. However, upon going to NCSSM in
1997, I decided not to update this paper.)