1. Princeton Supplement, Dory Fish, Biology, Yale 2015
    1. Acceptances with these essay(s): Princeton, Yale
  2. Princeton Supplement, Hieronymus, Undecided
    1. Acceptances with these essay(s): Princeton
  3. Princeton Supplements,Anatolia, Undecided, Princeton 2016
    1. Acceptances with these essay(s): Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Penn, Columbia, UChicago, Northwestern, Duke

Princeton Supplement, Dory Fish, Biology, Yale 2015
  1. Acceptances with these essay(s): Princeton, Yale

She wore a fluffy elf cap—powder pink, of course—and at barely an arm’s length, she already
sported wispy hair and delicate fingers and toes. Still, her puffy eyes seemed too big for her tiny visage,
which seemed curled into an eternal…scowl? Gingerly, I poked one chubby cheek. “Not cute at all,” I
thought disappointedly as I gazed at my one-day-old sister for the first time. In my impressionable
twelve-year-old mind, I’d always imagined baby sisters to be doll-faced angels, the photoshopped kind
found on Huggies boxes. So my disillusionment was expected, or so I thought. I would hardly
understand what siblinghood entailed until this “little bundle of joy” was long here to stay. Bundle of
joy, indeed. Well, joy is wondrously nuanced, I would soon discover.

It took a while, but my initial bewilderment dissipated in time as I eagerly—perhaps even too
eagerly—fell into the big sister and third parent role. At first, I wanted her childhood to be seamless in
ways mine was not. It was the little things I taught her at first—that Lego structures built with the
smallest piece at the bottom would probably not last, that the laws of physics indicated that bicycles
were meant to be pedaled or else they would topple over. I’d dreamed of someday dueting Brahms’
Hungarian Dances with my sister, and, caught up in my own fantasy, I boldly assumed that my passions
were to become her passions, my unrequited dreams and accomplishments hers, my perfectionism the
same driving force that would serve her as well.

But despite my “teaching,” it dawned upon me that I was no match for her individuality—or her
contagious mirth, for that matter. There is a certain unchecked innocence about her that could only come
from one who was not infallible and did not strive to be so. I could not help but be captivated by her
ability to laugh off even my sternest criticisms during a piano lesson; her carefree disposition constantly
reminded me, in an uncanny, transcendental sort of way, to trust in the world and in myself a bit more.
During the Perseids meteor shower, when my sister insisted on accompanying me in my childhood
hobby of stargazing, I could only laugh at her childish conception of meteors to be glittery embodiments
of “Tinker Bells” flashing across the sky. Yet as I watched her enraptured gaze fixated at who-knowswhere
on the horizon, I realized that for her, no idea is too far-fetched, no solution too impossible. With
this pervasive mindset, I’m able to approach ideas from a new angle, to take risks when caught in an
experimental muddle, to concoct unconventional designs in the newspaper. It is with this candid and
inquisitive mentality that I ask “why?” to questions with no answers, to be earnest, to live.

Because of my sister I’ve learned to love bread crusts, the ends of ice cream cones—and
everything else that needed to be consumed in her wake. Because of my sister, I bypassed moody
teenagerhood. Because of my sister, I realized the beauty and simplicity of a child’s reality.

And from that first day I saw her, I have not scowled since.

Princeton Supplement, Hieronymus, Undecided
  1. Acceptances with these essay(s): Princeton

Break your wrist. Feel your bone cracking, your sinew twisting, your nerves splitting. You slipped while doing roundhouse kicks and landed on your wrist instead. The paper-thin padding of the dojo does nothing to cushion the impact with the concrete beneath. The master wraps your broken wrist in the board, which you still managed to break, and some duct tape.
You feel pain.
The truth in that last sentence is sneakier than it looks, because pain needs someone to feel it. Comb the universe atom by atom, and you will not find a single atom of pain; it is, rather, an experience. One who gets rid of the thought of pain will be rid of the pain itself. That is why a doctor with the authoritative voice and a charismatic quack can both relieve pain: they eliminate not the nerve signals which inform the brain that a wrist is broken, but the thoughts in the brain which tell the consciousness that it is in pain.
Have this delicious piece of cake. It is rich and luscious and velvety and smooth, the best piece of cake you have ever had. Have another slice. A third. A fourth. A forty-eighth.
How do you feel about cake now?
Anything can cause pain. But I can keep my perspective. Like Solomon looking at his ring, I remember: “this too, shall pass.” A broken wrist. A spell of vomiting. Acute embarrassment. A triumphant score on a test. All these, and more, shall pass. I can still punch a board in two. I can still enjoy cake. I can still get out in front of an audience and speak. I can still try to humble myself. And what if I do lose something permanently? I lose my wrist: I gain a topic of conversation and thought.
It is not quite a Stoic philosophy. A Stoic believes that virtue, as in the improvement of moral fortitude, is necessary and sufficient for happiness. I do not believe that. A dog may be happy, and truly happy at that, with a bone. I could be truly happy with a slice of cake, eaten on a comfy couch in front of a fireplace away from a torrential rainstorm without a care in the world, like Omar Kayaam with his “jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou,” no matter how unvirtuous I may be.

Princeton Supplements, Anatolia, Princeton 2016


I should have been on a train back home, hours ago. Instead, I was standing under the looming flicker of the departures board, weary of the word should. Suitcases packed, stacked and shipped, I had just enough to escape. I needed, more than anything, to escape. Sharp inhale. Dial.

“I’m going to Europe.” I announced. The words flowed breathlessly. The silence that followed seemed to stretch beyond speechlessness – I could hear the disbelief, the incredulity in the void. Then came the arguments and finally, the rush of acceptance. “Call us every day, okay? I mean it. Be safe. We love you.”

This departure from my ordinary life defined what I have come to view as a moment of triumph. Staunchly rooted in order and routine, quiet anxiety steadily mounted and just as steadily wore me down. It crescendoed to such volumes that it became unbearable to remain in the status quo. I knew where I should have been going, but I was still perpetually lost. Maybe it was fate, or maybe it was just well-timed marketing, but as I walked to the train station, suitcases in tow, an advertisement caught my eye: “Let Yourself Go”. And so, with saved earnings, a window of free time and luck with travel regulations, the question, rather than ‘why?’, became ‘why not?’.

Neither the tedium of airport bureaucracy nor the cramped seating dampened my lifted spirits. Not the type of person to pursue spur-of-the-moment intercontinental travel, I was giddy with the spirit of spontaneity. Wondering about what lies around the corner became far more liberating than knowing what rests ahead. This was freedom in the truest sense, unfettered by the limits of pragmatism.

In the weeks that followed, I witnessed Europe’s effortless charm by not only seeing the obligatory sights but also by talking with the people. For the first time, I was free to explore the broadness of the world as well as examine what had been the narrowness of my life. I felt that the segue of old-world cobblestone into sleek asphalt reflected my habit of restraint and my newfound abandon: two sides of the same road, joined into one path that paves my journeys, through Europe and through life. From the warmth and kindness of strangers who extended themselves, to exercising my self-reliance and ingenuity, my jaunt abroad left me no longer suffocating, but breathless.

My impromptu adventure created a haven from stress and a window into self-discovery. Kierkegaard once said, “To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself,” and my journey has enabled me to grasp the sense of his words. Mapping a life is impossible, despite my best efforts to do so. Life, in all of its glorious complexity, cannot be truncated to a Google calendar or a “to-do” list. Now, I see a day of possibilities instead of plans. By reclaiming my autonomy, I ultimately reclaimed my joie de vivre. As serendipities and misfortunes come and go without warning, a deviation from the word should brought me to unexpected places that have ultimately changed me for the better.

I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but through wanderlust I found my path. Now I find myself asking ‘why not?’.

Balancing Acts

The air was that of a stagnant summer, stifling hot and stubbornly unmoving. The dirt road that snaked through the idyllic Taiwanese countryside had rattled the old, blue pickup truck for over an hour before it had shuddered to a stop. Stepping out onto the muddy riverbank, I anticipated the surprise that my eccentric uncle had promised. There it sat: a Styrofoam boat, assembled out of scraps of discarded cups, packing material and blocks. “I made it myself,” he proclaimed proudly, boarding the boat. I followed with trepidation, but it astonishingly supported both his weight and mine with ease. “How?” I asked. He turned to me, his eyes twinkling, and said “Beauty lies in the balance.”

Growing up, I was always fearful of being too ‘American’ in front of my traditional family, or too ‘Taiwanese’ in front of my peers. Whenever I saw my relatives, they would always tease me about being an ‘ABC’ - American-born Chinese - the appearance of an Asian, with none of the cultural heritage. I could not follow the New Year’s traditions since they conflicted with the school calendar. I couldn’t avoid it either, because at the same time, my lunches of radish soup and stir-fried eggplant fascinated my classmates. As a child, I felt as if I had to categorize myself as either Taiwanese or American. Like a trapeze artist, I was swaying over two sides of the same line.

It wasn’t until I learned about the “American Dream” that I gained insight into my definition of self. As I took note of its tenets, I realized my parents were its embodiment. My mother and my father both grew up in abject poverty. My mother’s family ate little but rice every night for fifteen years to pay for her school fees, while my father wrote his assignments faintly since pencil lead was too expensive. The American Dream, for them, was a channel that personified egalitarianism and the possibility of prosperity, in which they could better their circumstances by virtue of sheer effort. I understood then that my identity was not a question of culture, rather, it was a question of character. I could define myself by my own parameters on my own terms. Part of my identity, I decided, was my heritage, one of a purposeful stride toward my potential. Every time I return to Taiwan, back to the family farm and its ramshackle sheds, it serves not only as a proud reminder of the distances one can go with hard work, but also as an anchor to one’s beginnings.

For me, the American Dream has been a philosophy I first inherited and then self-actualized. While my parents took it at face value, I tailored it to fit my own specifications. Instead of cultural labels, my identity pays homage to the optimism and ambition of the American Dream. I adopted a philosophy of diligence and commitment to the future from my parents, while still being rooted in my experiences and relishing the simple pleasures of Styrofoam boats.

After all, beauty lies in the balance.