Please select one of the following short answer prompts:*(Max 250)

Vanderbilt offers a community where students find balance between their academic and social experiences. Please briefly elaborate on how one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences has influenced you.

Vanderbilt University values learning through contrasting points of view. We understand that our differences, and our respect for alternative views and voices, are our greatest source of strength. Please reflect on conversations you’ve had with people who have expressed viewpoints different from your own. How did these conversations/experiences influence you?

Student comments:

The activity teaches me how to explore unknown

“I am sorry that I cannot answer this question.”

“It’s okay!” The senior couples answered calmly and amiably, then stumbled mosey away.

They willingly accepted my limitation of knowledge, but why did I feel so frustrated? I gazed at their silhouette and bowed, sticking my eyesight on my glistering name tag “Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Volunteer Crescent.”

“But I worked as an instructor, I then have to be responsible to give them instruction.” I muttered to myself and then dig out the specific document from the cabinet, reading cautiously to compensate for my “loophole of knowledge.”

I was immersed in the fun facts about the animals’ specimens; serendipitously, an unexpected curiosity toward new knowledge sprouted from my head.

Before volunteering in the museum, a strong conviction that an appetite for knowledge is an instinct was deeply engraved in my heart–only “inherent scholars” were endowed with this capability. Without an extremely strong thirst for knowledge, when I first enter Beaty Biodiversity Museum as a volunteer, I just viewed myself as an outsider who could make efforts to direct visitors. However, my eagerness for knowledge was gradually ignited in such an environment.

Within a uniform, wearing a silvery name tag representing your identity as a volunteer, I, and other volunteers, who take over almost all responsibilities during shifts, view ourselves as part of the museum. Gradually, all visitors seem like my student, and I am the teacher hoping I could give them something valuable. Whenever seeing visitors gently stroke the fluffy owl specimen with sparkling eyes, appreciation for their curiosity and gentleness is saturated with my heart; whenever hearing any visitors apprehensively inquire whether the specimens were collected when they were still alive, I empathize with their feelings and explain them the ethic of collecting specimens. However, whenever I fail to answer the questions, an inexplicable sense of frustration encourage me make up for some knowledge that I do not know, so that our ability and position match to meet our desire to help others.

Consistently explore new knowledge and new methods to interact with visitors, I feel more and more satisfied. Documents then became my best companion when there isn’t any visitor around. Jotting down the notes from the resources, I learn a little every time; outreaching source for more complex questions from visitors, I learn a little bit more.  “Unknown”, thereby, is more traceable, instead of impenetrable.People’s questions and their reflections let me know where to go to the “unknown” . When people do not have a clear concept of knowledge, the unknown is terrible and irregular. But Beaty makes me feel that the unknown is a paradise, a huge but regular knowledge system built by myself under the little questioning of others. Every critical inquiry is a path in the darkness, which converges into a broad way with flashlight, ushering me to the paradise with brightness.The valuable opportunity eliminate my confusion with the unknown but eager to explore the unknown.

I re-examine myself, realizing that curiosity for knowledge isn’t a talent, but an intuition within everyone, which only triggered when one takes up the responsibility.

The questions on this page are being asked by Carnegie Mellon University

Most students choose their intended major or area of study based on a passion or inspiration that’s developed over time – what passion or inspiration led you to choose this area of study?
(300 word maximum)*

Many students pursue college for a specific degree, career opportunity or personal goal. Whichever it may be, learning will be critical to achieve your ultimate goal. As you think ahead to the process of learning during your college years, how will you define a successful college experience?
(300 word maximum)*

Consider your application as a whole. What do you personally want to emphasize about your application for the admission committee’s consideration? Highlight something that’s important to you or something you haven’t had a chance to share. Tell us, don’t show us (no websites please). (300 word maximum)*

Student story

The doctor told my mother that if I had not been treated in a large Beijing hospitalI probably would not have survived. This event, which occurred when I was in primary school, changed my life.

One day while doing my homework, I suddenly had a sharp pain in my stomach. I thought it was nothingserious and only took some diarrhea medication. However, the pain got worse, so much so that my mother had to take me to the hospital. It was not until I had an ultrasound that I found out that I had a perforated inflamed appendix, a condition that could lead to death. The only treatment was to take anti-inflammatory drugs, which need to be infused twice a day for a week, costing more than CNY 2000 for a single dose. While lying on the hospital bed, I fell unconscious from time to time. I thought I was going to die. After a week, had I recovered, and after I was discharged I felt that I was pulled back from the brink of death.

This “near death experience” made me realize how precious a healthy life is. I know that I owe my life to my family’s ability to pay the high medical bills. I wondered what life must be like for those who live in the countryside or in small towns, where hospitals and medical equipment are not as modern or as plentiful as in Beijing. I stopped wondering during one winter vacation to Myanmar with my mother and grandma and saw the inequality of medical care with my own eyes. In the city of Bagan, we waited with countless other people to watch hot air balloons rise at sunrise. However, my grandma’s chronic appendicitis flared up. We called a car to take us to the nearest medical clinic, but it was too primitive. When faced with the condition of my grandmother’s appendicitis, the local doctor said helplessly that he could only prescribe some painkillers since there were no anti-inflammatory drugs. We were so worried about her health that we had to end our trip early. Upon returning to China, we took her to a hospital, where her condition quickly improved.

After what happened to my grandma and me, I realized the magnitude of the inequality that separates those who have money from those who barely have enough to eat. The preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence says that all men are created equal, but these words written by Thomas Jefferson are a pious fraud. How can all people be created equal and have an equal right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” when those born into wealth have advantages thatthose born into poverty canbarely imagine. Access to good medical care, to clean water, to decent shelter does not apply to people on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder or to those in countries that are not fortunate to be part of the industrialized West. People in Beijing and Bagan could contract the same disease, but those in Myanmar would die for want of the kind of drugs and modern hospitals that are readily available in China’s capital.

Until the trip to Myanmar, I had wanted to become a professional cellist, and my future seemed set: enter the conservatory of music and then join an orchestra or become a famous soloist like Yo-Yo Ma.After the trip I had no choice but to reconsider my ambition in life. I remember what the famous American actress Mae West once said: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” If I only live once, I want to do something meaningful, something of value, not only for me but for others.

University of north Carolina at Chaphill

In addition to the essay you provided with your Common Application, please choose one of the prompts below and respond to 200-250 words. Your essay responses below should be different from your common app essay response.

Carolina aspires to build a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that students can only achieve their best when they learn alongside students from different backgrounds. In reading your responses, we hope to learn what being a member of such a community would mean to you.

Please choose your first essay prompt.*

Describe an aspect of your identity and how this has shaped your life experiences or impacted your daily interactions with others?

Describe a peer who is making a difference in your school or community. What actions has that peer taken? How has their work made a difference in your life?

Former UNC-Chapel Hill employee, community service member, and civil rights activist Esphur Foster once said “We are nothing without our history.” How does history shape who you are?



How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago. (290-300 WORDS)

University of Michigan

  1. Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it. (Required for all applicants; minimum 100 words/maximum 300 words)
  2. Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? (Required for all applicants; minimum 100 words /maximum 550 words)

Student’s other essays

Completed PS for my writer to understands more about me.


In music, bassline is the lowest-pitched part, and the defining foundation. In a broader sense, bassline describes my roles in multiple contexts. As a veteran cellist, I perform basslines in trios, ensembles and orchestras. As a strong, tall-built cheerleader, I take the base position and bring my fellows into the air. I am the tacit teammate, the reliable base of support, and the firm cookie crust under an airy cheesecake.

Pondering the dynamics between the bassline and other parts is to ponder the roles I play and my relationship with others. For example, in music, my cello’s part seemed inconspicuous in the whole picture, but I never take it easy, because an out-of-tune move could mislead the whole group! Compared with playing solo, playing with others made me less aware of my errors. Therefore, I stayed extra alert whenever I work with other musicians. I brought this spare-no-effort attitude to the other things I cared about, like doing stunts in cheerleading. Misplacing myself on the field could bring my fellow to fall. To throw flyers, I must watch my stance, compress all the force into a steady pulse, and deliver it timely and precisely.

It was fascinating to see how my bassline interacted with others. As a base, my steadiness complements our flyer’s fragility; my force was transformed into flyers’ moves. Playing cello, I loved to feel how my mellow, thick tone compensates for the violin’s brightness and neutralizes its high-pitched sharpness. I spent hours adjusting my positioning and bow techniques, just to see the changes in my subtle but tangible impact on other parts. “Play staccato like playing your heartbeats!” This was my favorite advice from a conductor. I filled my basslines with energy and danced with the vibes, even when I’m just playing low-pitched riffs or holding up the flyers. I don’t doubt my impact although I seem to attract less attention on the stage.

As I grew up, the idea of bassline became complicated, as I slowly rediscovered it in the stories my mother started to share with me. Mom was an intellectual property lawyer who refused to stop taking “those not-fancy civil rights lawsuits and stuff”, like helping her old neighbors obtain government-subsidized shelters after a major gas explosion. Like Scheherazade in One Thousand and One Nights, mom captivated me with stories. She collected them from her childhood in the waning HuanYanLi neighborhood of Tianjin, China, a community built in the early 1950s for state-owned factory workers.

From her stories, I slowly pictured together a whirlpool: the young and capable struggled to float and escape; the old ones lost their secured positions and fainted on the ocean floor. I couldn’t help missing my grandpa when mom told me how she, as a kid, helped her father sort the fishes he caught from the local rivers, so they could pay bills. I felt stunned and angry when hearing that my mom was once denied of being my grandmother’s daughter. A red-armband community worker insisted on fining her 5 Yuan, for stealing a “public-property flower”, and grandma couldn’t afford it.

I found mom’s whirlpool stories as dreadful as they were fascinating because they were the piercingly deep bassline of the world I was situated in. Moreover, mom’s efforts to help those left in the deep brought me to think about what I wanted to do. Trebles are fancy, but one only gets to see every flower when both feet are firmly grounded. Now, undertaking many bassline tasks, I want to see where my down-to-earth approach would eventually bring me to. It could be me precisely filling out every prescription in the pharmacy. It could be me engaging those shy, quiet, nervous visitors who hesitated to ask for help at the Beaty Museum where I volunteered. My bassline efforts are not yet the most prominent, but they lay a solid foundation for the parts dwelling atop, including my future.


What academic areas are you interested in exploring in college? (200 words)

Because I am interested in biology, I want to learn the technology behind treating diseases, medicine and biological research. I clearly remember the emergency my grandma faced when she had a sudden pain in her stomach area due to chronic appendicitis, and the local clinic in Bagan, Myanmar, didn’t have the anti-inflammatory medicine she needed. I also remember the scene when my mother heard that my perforated appendix (a severe medical emergency) was removed in time because she would have lost me if not for the good medical conditions in Beijing. What is life like for those living in the countryside or small cities where medical conditions ae far below the standard in Beijing? From these two episodes, I decided to do something meaningful with my life so that people in underdeveloped regions could have healthier lives. In addition to my biology class, I have studied biology after school and passed the AP Biology exam. I became a volunteer at a local pharmacy and learned some useful facts about medications. As part of my general interest in biology, I am also interested in biology-related fields such as genetics, cell and developmental biology, neuroscience, and ecology.


Please answer one of the following questions: If you could witness a historic event (past, present and future) first-hand, what would it be, and why? Please provide your response to your second short answer essay here: (150 words)

If there is a historical event that I could witness first-hand, it must be the end of the current pandemic. The ongoing pandemic infected hundreds of millions of people and led to the deaths more than six million. Moreover, as many as 225 million lost their jobs when governments imposed lockdowns. I think everyone wants this pandemic to end as soon as possible. The end of the pandemic would be exciting because I would see the absolute end of mask wearing and people not longer living in fear of becoming infected and dying. People will return to the way their lives used to be, all shops will remove “social distancing” signs, and we can travel around the world freely. Most importantly, no one will die from this pandemic.



Who you are

I am the firm cookie crust under a cheesecake. I am the tacit teammate and the reliable base of support. I take charge of the lowest-pitched part, the defining foundation of the music, as I perform basslines in trios, ensembles, and orchestras.

As a cellist, I see my significance in a band as far beyond the defining foundation. My input plays an irreplaceable role in balancing out the trebles. Like how I lift flyers in the cheerleading dance, I play cello to compensate for the violin’s brightness and neutralize its high-pitched sharpness. Through playing Beethoven’s German Dance, I’ve learned how Cello’s seemingly mundane low-pitched riffs are the feet movements that lay the foundation for the prominent arm gestures up in the air. Taking pride in my artistic value, I never doubt the significance of my role in a group, even though I seem to attract less attention than my peers seated in the center of the stage.

Scientific progress is made possible by many baseline performers, who proved what didn’t work to pave for what eventually did. Now, undertaking many bassline tasks, I want to see where my down-to-earth approach would eventually bring me. It could be me precisely filling out every prescription in the pharmacy. It could be me engaging those shy, quiet, nervous visitors who hesitated to ask for help at the Beaty Museum where I volunteered. My bassline efforts are not yet the most prominent, but they lay a solid foundation for the parts dwelling atop, including my future.

What is important to you

It is easy to lose ourselves in our lives and to assume that other people’s problems are less or that everyone has the same opportunities, it was my mother’s stories of her childhood that taught me that it is important to remain “down-to-earth” and to nourish my connection to those who have less.

Mom grew up in the waning HuanYanLi neighborhood in Tianjin, China, a community built in the early 1950s for state-owned factory workers who gradually lost their secured places over time. She compared that place to a whirlpool, where the young and capable floated up to the sun, while the rest sank to the bottom. She told me stories of collecting fish from the river to pay bills and how she was denied of being my grandmother’s daughter because a community worker insisted on fining her 5 dollars for “stealing a public property flower”. Mom stubborned her way out and became a successful intellectual property lawyer but stayed committed to “bassline civil lawsuits and legal assistance”.

Her efforts let me grow up with almost unrealistically perfect euphonies. I got to witness her commitment to “those left in the whirlpool” as she helped those affected by a major explosion in HuanYanli this last July. Every day thereafter I saw my mom staying up to do paperwork, make calls, and help her old neighbors receive government-subsidized shelters.

Her commitment and my cello somehow resonate and inspire me as I think about how one only gets to see every flower when both feet are firmly grounded.

Activities that are important to you

My iconic red vest and silver name tag “Volunteer-Crescent” marks me as an educational volunteer: someone who is there to help visitors learn more about the diverse specimens categorized in Beaty Museum’s collection. Being part of the Beaty community means to constantly connect with new people. If you stop by 2212 Main Mall, you will find me waving down the long ramp that leads to our exhibition floor. I’m the one who proudly presents you with a pizza-sized piece of whale baleen under the blue whale skeleton exhibit, the friendly guide who walks you through the forest of display cabinets, and the enthusiastic host who brings you to a roomful of educational specimens in the Discovery Lab, from fish fossils to fluffy owl wings. You will also see me shadowing and assisting our staff members, like Dr. Watson beside Holmes.

Beaty is where I got used to embracing inquiries. Visitors’ questions guided me to places I hadn’t considered. Some would ask why the whale’s bone had a spongy-like texture. Some worried whether the animals were “collected” while they were still alive. The more I empathized with visitors, the less I wanted to keep them lingering in the realm of the unknown. I delved into our file cabinets and paged our staff for help. Google became my best companion as I strove to keep my knowledge up with my desire to help.

I immersed myself in the fun facts and celebrated every “wow” whenever I successfully engaged someone with a once-unfamiliar specimen. Sometimes it could be a toddler building a “dino” with our blue whale flipper bone replicas. Sometimes it could be a shy 9th grader asking about joining our volunteer program. This was how I started to find the “unknown” as a paradise, and value curiosity as not a nature but rather something nurtured. Not knowing something gradually became starting line rather than a swamp. Uncertainty has become a state that inspires me to challenge myself to examine the clues I have and continuously seek out new clues. As an educational volunteer, I have learned to embrace uncertainty as part of my own learning process.

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