Common App Essay

college-essay-300x199Here is my Common App essay. I tried to make it different, memorable, and slightly risky b/c admissions officers are swamped with thousands of essays that all sound the same.

1. 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:

I shit my pants. It’s happened in front of friends, family, that cute girl who later became my girlfriend. It’s taken place during a cross country race, on the soccer pitch before a game, and right before swimming a 50-Free forcing me to step down and miss my race. To me, it’s a fact of life, an omnipresent little devil of a medical condition on my shoulder. Since seventh grade, I’ve been adapting to my ulcerative colitis. To me, it’s an ever-present haze of fatigue, an awareness of every restroom in my vicinity, an extra pair of shorts in my car, and over twenty different failed medications during the course of five years, but I cope. I remain patient; I know what can happen; I educate myself and those around me; I overcome.

I mention my disease not as a ploy, but as a “background. that is so central to [my] identity that [I] believe [my] application would be incomplete without it.” I hope not to misrepresent myself as a teenager tragically debilitated by some disease. As writer Firoozeh Dumas would put it, my colitis is merely one of the “spices in my kitchen pantry.” Most people would never know and never guess. I am usually thought of as that ‘first-generation, Russian/Jewish twin from Georgia who’s the captain of the cross country and soccer teams, perhaps, soon-to-be swim team captain, 3 year Class VP, school tour guide, has his name on a publication in Analytical Chemistry, and will likely be class valedictorian.’ But the colitis is nevertheless a fact of my life and being unable to avoid it, I have learned from it and come to understand its effects on my life while recognizing the nuances.

“Show versus tell” in college essays, that’s the name of the game, right? I’d rather not show you, as the deeply buried hipster in me says that’s too mainstream. Instead I’ll summarize the paragraph that I chose not to actually write, because here I can get away with telling rather than showing. Why? Because in the process, I’ll spare you some hogwash story depicting a boy in love with food who is desperately ripped away from the fare he loves by a ruthless colon disorder that shows no mercy. And here’s that summary, in reality, my disease isn’t that dramatic. No berries, no seeds, no red meat, no drugs, no alcohol, and no future as the next Anthony Bourdain eating my way around the world for this poor chap, but I’m a pretty damn lucky kid with infinite possibilities beckoning me to leap forward into the abyss.

As I look back on my essay, maybe ‘cope’ is not the right word. The definition serves my purpose, but the essence of the word doesn’t. Undoubtedly, I deal with the mild tribulation, but I like to think that I’m conquering the little devil. Hell, I may have to stop once or twice during the process, but I’m still running along. Albeit an awkward run, and the finish line remains far away- but thankfully I’m addicted to the thrill of running.


As Promised, Here We Go, Valedictory Address

Here’s the most recent thing I’ve written. A few things I’ve learned from Guy Raz’s TED Radio Hour over the years encapsulated and broadcasted.

On a side note, Robert Downey Junior was the commencement speaker at our graduation, I’ll upload a pic later, it was pretty cool. While I have your attention though, his whole narcissistic, douchey persona thing just seemed too forced. Didn’t really find out what the guy is actually like, and I feel sort of sad for him that he has to put on this act.

Pace GraduationRDJ graduation


Anyways… The Speech, I wish I could post a video, b/c I’m told I speak better than I write, but I don’t have access to one.


I ended the most recent speech I made, a speech on passion, with lessons that NPR’s TED Radio hour neatly summed up… and being the nerd that I am, I thought it fitting to start things off tonight in much the same way. I’m going to communicate the three most profound thing that I’ve learned in my short 18 years on this planet. I’m now realizing that’s a weird way to say my age, b/c it implies I was on some other planet before this.


I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t really have a right to give people advice. This podium maybe gives me an illusion of a right, but it is in the end… just an illusion.

That’s not going to stop me though, I’m still going to attempt to share with you some philosophy. But take it with a grain of salt.


So my first bit of wisdom. Things change.

Yesterday both Mr. Gannon [head of upper school] and Mrs. Anderson [class dean] said similar things and

I know that’s not the most bold statement of knowledge you’ve ever heard, but we greatly underestimate how much they change.


If I’m going to make this sentimental and relatable, Pace has changed. When I started 13 years ago, we had no middle school, they were just building the Inman Center, the brand new Upper School… well obviously that didn’t exist, we didn’t have a football team, Mr. Assaf wasn’t here, and the pool was covered in a bubble.


But what else? The weather changes, stocks change, the news changes, culture changes, politics changes, we… we change.


Yet, as Psychologist Dan Gilbert said it in his TED Talk, “We walk around with the illusion that history, our personal history, has just come to an end. That we have just now become the people that we were always meant to be and will be for the rest of our lives”


This is called the end of history illusion, and it has many effects.


[One consequence is that we end up] overpaying for the opportunity to indulge our current preferences (pause) because we overestimate their stability.”

“This is why, for example, young people pay good money to get tattoos removed that that teenagers paid good money to get”


As Gilbert said, Psychologists believe this stems from the “ease of remembering versus the difficulty of imagining. We mistakenly believe that since something is hard to imagine, it’s not likely to happen.”

Yet regardless of our inability to imagine who we will be in the future, we must recognize that we’ll change.


The people that we are now… the way we see the world, our political beliefs, what we want to do for a living, our emotional and physical desires… (pause ) they’re not the same as they will be. And they will continue to change.

As Ms. Smith so aptly put it when she was helping me write this speech, they will continue to change until we die.


There are fundamental patterns that govern our behavior, patterns that govern change itself… but they themselves change! It’s fractals and fractals and fractals of self-changing change and I know (pause) that Dr. Kasulis is over there smiling because my knowledge of fractals is her doing! (point to her)


So hopefully by this point, I’ve been able to prove to you that the world changes. It changes more than we think we it does b/c we want to tell ourselves that there is order to this universe, that there is tranquility in our lives so that we can sleep easy at night. Yet it seems that the only constant we can rely on, is the constant of change


When I wrote my first draft of this speech, it came off as too deterministic, too pessimistic about the role of human beings in this maelstrom of change. Perhaps I unintentionally likened us to a small sailboat tossed around by the winds of change.

But the winds of change are manipulable by man, manipulable by us. Just as we have been able to conquer many other aspects of nature, we can chart our own courses across this sea.

So there’s my second point today.

If things change, be an agent of change, b/c we most certainly have the resources to do so.

I certainly don’t think our parents would dish out a half of a million dollars on a K-12-College education, if they didn’t believe that it would make us greater promoters of change.


But there is another consequence to change that we should also consider.


We must realize that with change, everything we encounter, both the physical and emotional, becomes more transient.


So learn to live in the moment, and that is my third and final piece of “wisdom”


In this transience, we must learn to live in the moment and appreciate it for what it is, be grateful for what it is, and we will be happier as a result.

If life is going great, and it certainly is for me, be grateful, because it will change… maybe for the better… maybe for the worse.

If the times are dark and the horizon shady, don’t lose hope… because things will change.


In the words of Brother David Steindl-Rast in his TED Talk

“Stop, look, and go… be truly grateful”

He speaks to all of us, saying that (pause) “It is not the happy people that are grateful, but the grateful people that are happy. If you are grateful, you are not fearful, if you are not fearful, you are not violent.

If you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people. It doesn’t make for equality, but it makes for equal respect.” (longer pause)


So at the end of the day, recognize that change happens… a lot.

Learn to live in the moment, to appreciate your present reality for what it is… to be grateful for what you have been given, and be thankful for what is to come,

But also thrive on that change and be the agent of your own change,

Because at the end of the day, all of us here have been given so much and it is our duty to give back.


Thank you




Hey Again

Well, it’s been about two years since I last posted. Not really sure what’s prompting me to post, but I woke up this morning with the idea in my head.

Perhaps it’s sort of a memorandum to the closing of one chapter of my life. I just finished up high school and will be heading to UPenn’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology next fall. M&T

The past two years have been busy to say the least.As a result, I have a lot of material, not necessarily intended for the blog, but still relatively good organizations of my thoughts and accomplishments that I feel should be shared. Whether or not they’re worth your time is another story…

I’ve got a lot of college essays, speeches I’ve written, quotes and thoughts, news commentary, TED related stuff, and Paul Graham essay related stuff headed your way if you’re reading so enjoy, I guess. And go Quakers!


Sex with Robots????????

Some very select few will rejoice, the rest will join me in an apprehensive, speechless confusion. When so many of us are already so occupied by sex with other humans (or perhaps thats just the attitude of a teenage boy), sex with a robot is already intruding upon our radars. 


When I was doing my usual nightly stroll through the wonders that make up the BBC News, I was slightly confused by an article titled “Will we ever want to have sex with robots?” And then the part of me that involved itself with an AI summer program naturally just had to check it out… naturally.

Well Roxxxy is a commercially available product that meshes AI into the human form. I’m just slightly… confused (confused isn’t the right word, speechless… I just don’t know what to think) that the first commercially available form of AI in a human body form that I’ve come across is for sexual purposes. (And I’m sure the creators would argue that she… no it is made for conversational purposes as well)

I understand that there exists a recluse element of our society that for some reason or another shuns the rest of society that would be interested in this $9,000 sex toy (or in the eyes of the creators “go[ing] beyond a simple sex aid and to provid[ing] companionship.”), but… actually for me right now there is no but… I’m still not really sure what to say so I’d rather not say anything at all. 

Read the article and formulate your own opinions b/c I’m having trouble with mine.

Politics for Thought

How would you feel if the country you lived in was run by a bunch of young adults from ages 18-25. Well you should feel the same because apparently, that is what is up.


This may be slightly exaggerated but at an undisclosed time ago, I was talking to an undisclosed friend, who works as an intern at an undisclosed governor’s office. Perhaps he was trying to make himself sound more important, but what I got from our conversation was that there is an army of interns working for every Senator or Congressman/Congresswoman and that this army runs our country.

If anyone watches House of Cards (which one ought to do), what does Frank Underwood do when he needs a bill drafted up? He gets America’s Youngest and brightest interns to do it for him.

frank underwood

According to my friend, the congressman/woman/senator (you get the point) is rarely in their office. The majority of their time is consumed by fundraising and taking phone calls for small grievances. A large chunk of their year isn’t even spent in D.C. The position of a senator/representative was made for someone who was expected to simultaneously be a farmer so they get most of the summer off too. Hell unless its an important matter, the congressperson/senator doesn’t even vote. If I understood my friend correctly, they just have their office submit ballots according to the congressperson/senator’s policies for the trivial bills.

When some important politician is making a speech on the hill to the floor on CSPAN, that floor is empty. Unless its a very very important bill, there is no way Mr./Miss. Politician BigShoes is going to be spending their time on the house or senate floor. So the politician is speaking to a mostly empty room as a political ploy so that the Headline News can read “Goody TwoShoes spoke to the House Floor Today about Duck Taxes.”

There is no way the 313.9 million people of the United States of America can be governed at the top level by 100 senator, 435 members of the House of Representatives, and a dozens of higher ups like the Obama or Bernanke. It takes an army of interns and other paid members of staff, it just so happens to be that the army of interns is a rag tag old bunch of college students.



Oh, lordy. Ladies and gentlemen, our EPGY AI class topic has made it to Hollywood!!!!!

Watch the trailer

But on November 20, 2013 Annapurna Pictures will release a film about a man (played by Joaquin Pheonix) who falls in love with his new AI operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Olivia Wilde and Amy Adams also make appearances.

I’m so excited I can’t even write straight. This is the Turing Test mixed with AI Ethics mixed with many of the other topics we learned at EPGY.