“Wait List Supplement” by Pen-Yuan Hsing
Wait List Letter
This is not an application essay, but it is a letter that Pen-Yuan wrote after being placed on the wait list. Pen-Yuan tried to address topics not covered in the Common Application and was ultimately accepted to Duke.
Mr. _, Dean
Duke University Office of Undergraduate Admissions
2138 Campus Drive Box 90586
Durham, nC, USA 27708-0586
Dear Mr. _,
Boy! Was I disappointed to receive your letter! However, I do welcome the chance to explain more clearly my values, passions and reasons why I think Duke is my first choice.
My application and recommendation letters stated my scientific accomplishments. The passive thermoacoustic cooling device we presented at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) won the Best of Team Category and First Award, among numerous other special prizes. We patented this device and are working with Taiwan’s Compal Corporation, your computer could very well be using parts built by them, to iron out a few more problems and to eventually share this revolutionary product with the world. now I would like to talk about more about just who Pen-Yuan Hsing is.
My education started in the US when I was 7. Having come from Taiwan, faced with enormous cultural and language barriers, I had to learn to adapt. Overcoming loneliness and self-conflict, I made lifelong friends and English became in many ways my mother tongue. returning to Taiwan in fourth grade mirrored this difficult transition. Some may find me quiet and reserved, it’s because I learned to listen, and understand. Yet when the time comes, I do take the initiative and let my voice be heard, as my friends, teachers and parents can so often attest.
Years later, I was unanimously elected as the head of Taipei Wetnet, a student-run organization that promotes environmental education and awareness. We hold seasonal conferences on environmental matters for students from all over northern Taiwan to participate. One story really struck a chord in me.
For many years the Waimushan coastline was littered with thousands of plastic beads used in the fabrication of plastic products. Wildlife there mistook the beads as food and stuffed themselves to death. One can see many half-decomposed animals filled with plastic beads in their bodies. Our organization filed a report to local authorities requesting an investigation. The mayor learned of this and bought truckloads of sand to cover up the beach. This successful “cleanup” of the coast got him re-elected a second term in office. Two months later, the extra layer of sand was washed away by tides, re-exposing the plastic beads and animals started dying again. We weren’t willing to settle for that. People do not realize that whatever harm we do to the environment is ultimately done on ourselves. This is what Taipei Wetnet tries to convey in all of our activities. We started as just a few friends taking an excursion to the beach, but now Taipei Wetnet has impact on the national level. We had meetings on environmental policy and education with officials from the presidential level. I am grateful to have been the head of Taipei Wetnet during this extraordinary time. Of course, all my accomplishments, science projects and environmental activities, do have their share of difficulties and setbacks. It is through them that I learned the most.
For a student to do these things in Taiwan’s test-score-oriented culture is considered a highly risky venture. My science project didn’t win for several years in a row; I was warned to either stick to the traditional path of cramming and testing, or “face the consequences.” Under tremendous social pressure, I persisted, having faith that the skills I gained are more important. I like the apprehension of waiting for data to collect and the eventual thrill of seeing things finally turn out right, especially an experiment you labored on for countless nights. I like the satisfaction that what you are doing is making a difference in the world, such as the life changing experience of participating in Taipei Wetnet’s activities. Last year, my work was finally recognized in the world’s largest scientific gathering, the Intel ISEF. They even named a celestial object after me, the “minor planet” Hsingpenyuan, with others like Einstein and Cleopatra. While gratifying, this experience only made me more humble and dedicated. The average lifespan of a Taiwanese male is around 70 years. Almost through one-third of it, I do not want to waste the rest trying to be someone else. This is why my first choice is Duke.
What first caught my eye was the Focus Program, with its interdisciplinary education and service learning opportunities. In fact, the first paper I co-authored and presented was about Taipei Wetnet’s experience in environmental service learning. A course in Duke’s special research Service-Learning program will definitely be one I plan to take.
I am also very interested in Duke’s environmental science major. In many schools, it would be great if it even has a minor in environmental science or policy. In that case, they often lack actual hands-on training and accumulation of field experience. However, the nicholas School’s course and curriculum not only offers a solid education in basic science, it also provides ample opportunity for field study through unique facilities such as the Marine Lab and the Duke Forest. This is exactly what I think how we should learn about the environment, by actually doing something and seeing change. With Duke’s unique opportunities, I can continue to do research starting from my first year. (Also worth mentioning is the mild weather, definitely a plus for a Taiwanese student like me!)
I look forward to becoming a Blue Devils fan, and perhaps even get a Kville experience. I also love reading science fiction and playing the piano. One great story I read was The Days Between by Allen Steele, it’s about a man who suddenly woke up alone on a spacecraft that is still 200 years from its destination. Steele’s vivid description of how the character coped with loneliness and his determination to survive resonated within me. This also happens when I listen to Chopin. I try to rush home before 10 each night, the unofficial time limit for playing music in our apartment, to play the piano. Chopin’s music, torn with great strife and conflict, yet with a romantically optimistic touch, is something I could relate to, that I can share my feelings with. I would love to take a Piano Course if I may come to Duke.
My unique qualities and experiences, so diverse yet intrinsically intertwined, allowed me to become the first Taiwanese student ever to receive the Ministry of Education’s full scholarship award to study abroad. With full backing of this scholarship, I strongly believe that armed with a strong Duke education, I will be able to make a difference in the world.
Finally, I would like to express my deepest thanks for all the time and effort you have placed in the application process. My mother is a professor at the national Taiwan University who is agonizing right now over their undergraduate applications. This, along with my own background and experience helped me understand how difficult it must be to make an admission decision, as it has the potential to change the future of the world.
cc: Ms. _
Coordinator of International Admissions