Princeton is a lifeline. Messing up and starting

Princeton essay FIXXXX


“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” — Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne

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As a small child, I adored Winnie the Pooh, a plump yellow bear with a fondness for red crop tops. Pooh’s attempts to get his paws on delicious honey often end in disaster. (In one such scenario, he pretends to be a raincloud and floats by way of balloon to a beehive up in a tree. Go figure.) Though he is a self-professed “bear with little brain,” Pooh stands out from other anthropomorphic cartoon characters for being constantly happy. Even in sticky situations—some involving honey, and some without—whether he’s escaping angry bees or trapped between Rabbit’s front door, Pooh’s modus operandi is to stay positive and “think, think, think” his way out.

This worldview resonated with me in high school. If I could only have one trait, I would choose continuous optimism, because I share Pooh’s unfailing tendency to constantly make mistakes. For instance: in my kitchen, baking endeavors are baking blunders. While lime juice, egg whites, and condensed milk thicken into the perfect creamy filling, substituting whipped cream for the milk makes a key lime puddle, not pie. I mistake salt for sugar, vinegar for soy sauce, flour for baking powder. Sunken sponge cakes and burnt bundts are common goods; I won’t even mention the terrible tear-stained tortes. Still, if I hadn’t confused Nutella for fudge sauce, I would never have discovered a more decadent, hazelnut-infused variation of the chocolate citrus custard.

Academic forays are just as messy. On the first day of my research internship, I spent hours on the microscope imaging sparkling quantum dots, blissfully unaware that I was actually gazing at a fluorescent lump of dust. When I write fiction, I’d pilot a superficially dazzling plot that crashes after a few strategic jabs. At university-hosted poetry readings, I would get hopelessly lost on campus…yes, even with a map.

Not surprisingly, messing up can be utterly demoralizing. My first submission to (and rejection from) a professional publication had the comment, “Your writing just sucks.” Still, in such moments of despair, Pooh’s reminder to “try, try, again” is a lifeline. Messing up and starting over is the only way to improve. After a literary rejection, I re-read my story to identify weak points, to engineer potential fixes and send them off to friends for review, and to edit over and over. I am proud to say that while many of my stories have faced repeated denials, each piece nevertheless found a journal to call home.

Looking at defeat not through disappointment, but through the optimistic and optimizing lens of trying again, is the best lesson I’ve ever learned. Without persistence, I would never have loved spicy food, single particle tracking, or Salman Rushdie. It’s no surprise that my interests are so discordant and different—repeated trial and error is the only way to fully engage in them. In high school, I was obsessed with computer science for its clarity, the way a clean solution slips to light through nothing but logic. I tinkered with (and sometimes broke) red-green-blue LED circuits on breadboards, learned HTML/CSS to code an animated calendar for my blog, and spent hours cackling over cow-themed problems on the USA Computing Olympiad. Had I not immersed myself so deeply in STEM, I wouldn’t be able to so determinedly declare an interest in English today. Though I still find computer science engaging, I can’t deny the immeasurable joy of shaping words on paper into vibrant narratives that come alive, or reading the influential texts that have started movements, made laws, broken laws, changed minds, and touched lives. Narratives like Winnie the Pooh’s have revolutionized my entire mindset. 

Still, I expect to continue making mistakes in the future. Like Pooh Bear, I look forward to bumbling and singing my way through the grand adventure of life.  (650)






UC hicago – Describe your armor.

It’s hard to believe that my best suit of armor is a meshed satchel of dried leaves. Plop a tea bag into a glass and pour boiling water, and that’s where magic happens. Faint red and violet smears part the clear solution as potpourri leaves dance within their pyramidal net. A brief stir, and suddenly the liquid blooms into amber-gold brilliance, while a heady aroma of spice and honey spirals into the air as steam. The tea tastes like sun soaking into my skin, slowly energizing my senses as light filters in through the kitchen blinds. 

            Before obliterating a pesky bug in my MATLAB code, defending the viability of US-Cuban economic sanctions in a debate round, or simply attempting to wake up in cold winter mornings, drinking a good cup of tea is crucial battle preparation for the day ahead. Growing up, I have learned to relish in taking on academic challenges, from piloting a novice writing mentorship to leaping into Latin American literature research. Each obstacle is new and exciting–it infuses zest into my day. Nothing exhilarates me more than a single hard-won success after a series of continuous defeats.

In earlier years, I hurtled into action with much enthusiasm and no thought. Thus, some battles (e.g. grappling with my taller sibling for the remote control, chasing the cat down for a much-needed bath) brought no victory, and I have accrued more than a few bumps and scrapes in the process. Blood was shed, tears were wept, and I learned to plan my strategies beforehand. Teatime, then, became prime time for silence and stillness. It’s the lull before the storm as I plan my gambit, recover from fallback, and consider the pros and cons of potential strategies with all the experience of a seasoned general over the burbling of my Hello Kitty kettle. Better than any steel-plated armor, a warm beverage at hand serves as the bedrock for progress. 

Though I have conquered many a foe, time remains my greatest enemy. As someone with a variety of interests, from modulo operations to Márquez to moon-gazing, I’ve found myself tugged in a million directions when confronted with the binary nature of choice. There is no black-and-white path to follow in a polychromatic world teeming with vibrant detours, and the clock is forever ticking. Mornings, I’m guzzling down perk-up chai and fiddling with the red-green-blue LED light circuit on my breadboard, trying not to break yet another fragile transistor chip. Free periods are spent revising my magical realist story about homebrewed drinks steeped with reverse-aging properties. By lunchtime, I’m promoting the Computing & Design Club and selling pearl tea for club funds; afternoons are firmly ensconced in heated intellectual crossfires with my debate partner. Evenings, I’m delving into the subversive literary nature of Laura Esquivel’s Como agua para chocolate, and I’m falling asleep by ten to the airy fragrance of chamomile and the concluding trumpet trill of Saturday Night Live. 

Humanities or science? Bergamot or oolong? Artistic design or logical argumentation? Iced or hot? I cannot accept the dichotomy of the exclusive “or” and restrict myself to one pursuit. I have long since feuded with the opportunity cost of time, but drinking tea has taught me that I can both diversify and specialize. Just as tea exists simultaneously in different forms (black, green, vanilla, jasmine, earl gray, citrus-spritzed, half-full, all gone), so can my interests in multiple tantalizing flavors. This amalgamation of activities results in a satisfying, nuanced composition — one flavor base predominating, yes, and the other accents more subtle but no less true. Perhaps as I age, my palate preference will alter and the ideal ingredient ratio will change: more milk, less sugar, skip the ice. Yet my life presently remains the perfect blend of interests, and an aromatic cup of tea empowers me to protect any castle, fight any fire-breathing dragon, and readily embrace the possibilities of the world. 



Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate — and us — know you better. (100 to 250 words)


FOR SALE: One (1) Female Roommate, Brand New


PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Black hair, dark eyes, approximately 5’1 (short in stature, big in heart). Made in the USA. Can be found prodding p-sets by the Packard building or consuming near-toxic quantities of caffeine at the CoHo.    



–       Responds to “Jacqueline,” “Jackie,” or “Pocket poet!” Can easily pick up new nicknames.

–       Self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur. Will sample this delicious beverage in all variations (black, cold drip, espresso, latte, vanilla-infused, half-off, overpriced). Keeps the coffee machine stocked at all times for your convenience.

–       Enjoys puns and plants. She keeps an old peppermint herb named Herbert on her desk. Though slightly bedraggled and bug-bitten, Herbert is nevertheless in mint condition — sorry, couldn’t resist.

–       Indulges in late-night ramblings over the clear link between cats and mortality in English literature. For instance: Why do cats have nine lives? Why did curiosity kill the cat? Why is the archetypal “cat lady” a wizened old spinster? And why does Schrödinger’s cat only exist in a paradoxical state between alive and dead?



–       Snores in her sleep. Loudly.

–       Gets lost hiking the Stanford Dish…yes, even with a map.

–       Will jump into pointless fruit vs. vegetable debates over the common tomato (disregarding Nix v. Hedden, of course).


PRICE: Free of charge. Friendship is priceless, after all. Product comes with complimentary earplugs and Starbucks gift card, plus a four-year guarantee to be, in her own words, “your best roommate, not your worst room-hate.” If interested, please contact the Housing Assignments Office.   



Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100 to 250 words)


Morristown, New Jersey. I have few recollections of my hometown, but the ones I have are as clear as day: the pop-pop of shimmery eels convulsing on white ice. A gleaming fringe of choir bells. The thickness of frozen cheesecake slabs straight from the fridge. Stone cows huddling in gardens. My grandmother pronouncing “strawberry” with four syllables at the A. Mama’s perpetually blurred fingers sifting rice from water. Carnations that looked alight with fire. My ankles warm and swelling with mosquito bites. The best lemon soda I’ve ever drunk—bottle cap hiss followed by sweet citrus fizz.

But what most defines Morristown in my memory was the inseparable tension between socioeconomic classes. Growing up, my immigrant parents lived in foliaged, red-bricked apartments, squeezed next to poor homeless shelters and rich sheltered homes. The complexes were sky-high because property taxes were even higher. And though Morristown’s public schools were polished and well-funded, the town’s crime rate surpassed the state average.

Morristown colored my perception of privilege when we later moved to San Jose. Silicon Valley was a cultural shock: glitzy, affluent, and unapologetically insular. Income groups live centrifuged in clusters, polarized from each other. Still, feelings of distrust between the powerful and marginalized, the wealthy and impoverished, remain heavy, tangible, and significant outside the Silicon Valley bubble. By trying to consolidate my Morristown memories into difficult dialogue, I find that the personal and the political intertwine. I write to remind and remember in the hopes of catalyzing the awareness for change.