Why College X - My path to engineering

Essay Prompt

Scientific exploration clearly excites you. Beyond our 3:1 student-to-faculty ratio and our intense focus on research opportunities, how do you believe Caltech will best fuel your intellectual curiosity and help you meet your goals? (500 word max)

Sample Essay

My path to engineering is a relatively straight line through a series of summer experiences starting with a visit to an orphanage in Soweto during a family vacation. I was in fifth grade and I spent most of the visit playing with the kids. I offered one little boy a piece of bubble gum. I had never seen anyone get this excited about gum. That’s when I realized what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to help people all over the globe.

Fast forward to middle school, where I discovered that my academic strength was math and learned about engineering thanks to two summers of Explo at Wellesley and Explo Yale. At Explo Wellesley, I took aeronautical engineering in a class of all boys (somewhat ironic to be the only girl in a course at Wellesley). We built rockets, and my wing design, which decreased the rocket’s height, but increased its length, was a winner. I took particular pleasure in the victory because all the boys were caught by surprise that “the girl” won.

It was the summer after my tenth grade year that it all came together in a realistic and achievable vision for my future. That summer, I participated in a month long program in the Dominican Republic focused on sustainability in the developing world. There we built biomass stoves for families in need -- a sustainable solution conceived by some engineer. My path to my dream was obvious: I would become an engineer who helped people all over the globe.

So last summer, when I was admitted to a highly selective, fully paid for, four-week program in science and mathematics, I did not hesitate. While there, I worked alongside really, really, really smart kids and was challenged by hard-core professors. By the end, I had the satisfaction of building a robot that followed me.

What all these summer experiences have in common is that I was motivated by and learned as much from the people around me as I did from any “official teacher.” I expect and hope that Caltech will be a community much like the summer camps I’ve attended. It will be full of really, really, really smart and motivated students who will challenge and help me in class, in the laboratory, in the dining hall, in the residence hall. And we all will be taught by world-class faculty who will push us and help us in equal measure. A 24-7 community of people who are as excited by figuring out math, science and life as I am. For me, it doesn’t get any better than that.

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