Problem Solving Sample 1

Essay Prompt

Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

Sample Essay

"I don't draft quarterbacks early." That was one of the strategic decisions I made going into my second season of fantasy football. A season that I intended to dominate.

Becoming a fantasy football champion might not seem like the type of problem that every parent hopes their child wishes to solve. "Fantasy football champion" just doesn't have the same ring as "doctor who cured cancer" when parents discuss their children's accomplishments, but it was important to me. I was determined to emerge as champion by using four strategies to defeat 11 middle-aged adults, one of whom was my dad.

Strategy 1: Research. During the dog days of summer, I sifted through information from a seemingly endless number of websites, learning every player's strengths and weaknesses, including identifying who was injured and who was the most susceptible to injury. I was particularly concerned about health issues because my first season's performance suffered as a result of running backs who were sidelined.

Strategy 2: Mock Drafts. Armed with a massive amount of information, I worked my way through several mock drafts. I ultimately settled on a straightforward sequence for drafting players. In the early rounds, I would go for running backs and wide receivers. I would grab my quarterback about halfway through and then finish with my defensive team and a kicker. In the last days before the draft, I plotted out exactly which players I was going to take in each round.

Strategy 3: Stick to the Draft Strategy. When draft day came, I was ready and eager to get started. I raced home from school, grabbed my laptop, and headed into the family game room where my dad was already set up in front of dual monitors. I opened the draft window on my computer and logged in to be ready when the draft began. When my first pick came around, I was surprised to see a running back that I had not anticipated being available for me to draft. I gleefully clicked the draft button and grabbed him. My dad had the pick two spots after me; he did the predictable and drafted a quarterback. The rest of the draft progressed pretty much as my mock drafts had. Ultimately, my preparation paid off. I was rewarded with a top-tier quarterback in the eighth round and had a solid team to start the season.

Strategy 4: Be Prepared to Change the Roster. Things went well for me in the opening weeks of the season. I won six of my first seven matchups. But I had a minor scare in week four. My quarterback was struggling with back issues and was questionable to play for an undesignated amount of time. Luckily, I had kept up with my research, and I knew the trade I wanted to make. I talked my dad into trading me a more reliable quarterback. Three weeks later, I saw an opportunity to improve my team. I dropped a lackluster running back and picked up the one and only Odell Beckham, Jr. As the playoffs approached, I negotiated another trade with my dad to get back the same quarterback I had originally drafted.

Come the end of the regular season, my dad and I each sat at the top of our respective divisions. Playoffs time. It was do or die. Thanks to the strategies I had employed, I had a championship-caliber roster. Sure, my dad had the MVP quarterback (the one he chose in the first round). But guess who won the championship that year? That's right—the guy who waited until the eighth round to draft his quarterback. And while I haven't actually overheard them yet, I'm pretty sure my parents brag to their friends about their son, the fantasy football champion.

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