50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays - Tanabe Gen, Tanabe Kelly 2009
“The Computer Doctor” by Mathew Griffin
Every time i drive into a client’s driveway, there’s always that moment. That moment where I must shed any doubt I have and become adamant. That moment where I realize that, people are depending on me, and I must do my best to help them. And that moment where, with tool bag to my side, I must prepare to face whatever problem is waiting for me in their house. This time is no different. As with the hundreds of other problems I’ve faced, I must remember that every problem has a solution, and I can find it.
When I am greeted by a middle-aged woman as I approach the house, my remaining doubts evaporate. Once I see the individual I am about to help I become saturated with resolve. However, all she will see from me is a smile as I ask her how she is. I then ask her what the problem is, and she leads me to her computer. She tells me that her computer is shutting down randomly, and then leaves as I begin to work.
With a simple push of the power button, the process begins.
Unfortunately, for this case, just as quickly as it starts—the computer shuts off. never discouraged, I dismantle it to look for obvious signs of damage. However, everything here appears normal: wires secure, circuits shining.
But there’s another test that may work. Eyes focused on the inside of the computer, I turn it on again. I have only a moment before it suc-cumbs to its ailment again. Additionally, each time it starts could be damaging, so I have to make this count. When the sound of electricity surging through the computer begins, I immediately notice a vital fan failing to twirl: the computer is simply overheating. With a quick pull of the power I anesthetize the computer and operate. Using a replace-ment and screwdriver from my bag, I give the computer a new fan.
Then, I start the computer nervously, but it starts perfectly.
My confidence and determination sweat off as accomplishment. I quickly look for the woman. She can tell I solved her problem as I walk towards her with a grin, and she smiles too.
This case is one of the hundreds I’ve solved over the past few years, all without a single failure to find a practical solution. I started my business because after seeing how grossly overcharged the community was by corporate technicians, I believed it would be a practical and great way for me to help the community and have a job. After fixing computers for my school for a year, school officials quickly noticed and spread word of my work, allowing my business to spread like wildfire throughout the local communities. With determination (and some creativity) I’ve solved some very unordinary and strange problems. I’d like to use this same willpower to help people in even better ways. no matter how impossible the problems I encounter may seem I will always remember what I tell myself when I fix computers: every problem must have a solution, and I can find it.
Mathew’s essay is powerful because he doesn’t just tell us about his entrepreneurship venture but actually gives us a sense that he’s taking us to his work by narrating the process. This essay is also strong because Mathew demonstrates attributes that are desirable for an aspiring doctor—determination, problem-solving skills, and an eagerness to help others—using an example unrelated to the sciences and medicine. Since Mathew also wrote about science and medicine in “Exploring Life’s Intricacies” (Chapter 19) and “Addressing Injustices” (Chapter 5), this essay diversifies his portfolio of essays while still connecting well with the overall theme of applying specifically to a premedical program.
Mathew’s narrative grips us from the very beginning. He begins with a suspenseful sentence: “Every time I drive into a client’s driveway, there’s always that moment.” The immediate question that comes to mind is this: “What moment?” The image of a high school student driving to a client’s house also raises our curiosity about what job this mature and responsible high school student is doing. Essays that challenge our expectations are often the most memorable: in Mathew’s case, most high school students are studying; those who run their own businesses are rare.
The essay underscores the importance of Mathew’s business. We can see this as he explains, “. . . people are depending on me, and I must do my best to help them.” Matthew demonstrates his commitment to this vow as he describes his process of determining the computer’s problem. The use of “doctor” terminology helps connect this essay to Mathew’s career goal and provides a coherent metaphor for the paper. For instance, he mentions his “tool bag,” which is reminiscent of a doctor’s instrument bag, and writes about the computer as if it were a patient: “I anesthetize the computer and operate.” This essay not only builds suspense and has us cheering for Mathew as he works to solve the problem, but the writing also allows us to share in the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment he feels at accomplishing his goal.
The final paragraph does a wonderful job of providing a more expansive context for the story we have just read. In essays that focus on one specific incident, it is often helpful to include a more general conclusion so that readers can understand the broader objective of this anecdote. Mathew does that well when he writes, “This case is one of the hundreds I’ve solved over the past few years, all without a single failure to find a practical solution.” Mathew’s mention of the school officials who recommended his work adds extra credibility to his business and cleverly provides an informal recommendation to attest to his determination and creativity.