Kat Huang Memoji of me making a peace sign

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My college essays

16 min read

tl;dr don't plagiarize, for both our sakes (but mostly your sake)

Regarding the possibility of others plagiarizing my work: I've already received all my decisions and committed to a school, so it doesn't harm me much or at all (in principle).

If you intentionally plagiarize, I hope you listen to your conscience and realize that dishonesty may give you a short-term advantage, but that integrity will lead you to more success in the long run. I've aimed to tell stories that I only I can tell, and you probably should too. All my writing directly reflects who I am, so if you copy it, you're probably not being yourself, and the person who's accepted into schools isn't really you. Plagiarism could cost you your diploma, acceptances, reputation, and career.

If you're concerned about unintentionally plagiarizing, my suggestions are to not have others' essays open as you write yours, and avoid using other essays as starting points for structure, vocabulary, or content. Start with content from your life, then polish the writing, which is just a vehicle for conveying the content.


1. We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it. (96/100 words)

Sometimes I get amused looks for doing lunge stretches and splits in odd places. “What?” I laugh, “I’ve been sitting forever—my quads are sore!” Exploring movement frees me both physically and mentally, allowing me to unplug, experience tangible progress—could my fingers extend this far past my toes two weeks ago?—and refuel my creativity. When I go to the gym, it’s not about “training insane” or comparing others’ “gains” to mine, but rather about choreographing and experimenting with flows of planks, diamond push ups, and single-leg squats. For me, movement represents the rawest form of expression.

2. Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (98/100 words)

Note: I've changed my intended major a bunch of times since writing this.

Course 6-7! (That’s excitement, not a factorial.) The breakneck growth of biological data—whether from 23andMe, robot-powered drug assays, or hospital patient records—presents an exhilarating journey for explorers equipped with the tools of computer science. For years, I’ve tackled bioinformatics problems, from analyzing anti-poison molecules to elucidating how DNA’s on-and-off switches help duplicated genes evolve new functions.

I’m equally fascinated by STS. More than ever, the politics of net neutrality, economics of environmental pollution, and social implications of cybersecurity influence our lives. Communicating science to diverse audiences and understanding its relationship to society are immensely important to me—and everyone.

3. At MIT, we bring people together to better the lives of others. MIT students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way in which you have contributed to your community, whether in your family, the classroom, your neighborhood, etc. (246/250 words)

The pastor smiled warmly and asked eleven-year-old me, “Are you a STEM person, or a humanities person?” Startled, I realized I didn’t know how to answer. Though the question was merely intended as small talk, it has stuck with me for years. Many of my friends have diverse interests, but never learn that they can combine them or pursue one without sacrificing others. Instead, we’re often pressured to choose between arbitrary sides: STEM versus humanities.

I have broken free from that pressure and want to help others do the same, so I founded Science & Us, an organization led by high schoolers across the state. We organize events where professionals help students create their own science communication works—anything explaining a STEM topic in an engaging, accessible way. Students chat with our workshop leaders: science diplomats, multimedia journalists, doctoral candidates, space librarians, science illustrators.

We empower participants to view the world’s interdisciplinary problems as challenges to solve, not be intimidated by. We enable them to approach, understand, and even teach difficult topics. Though our events are small to maximize one-on-one interactions, our impact on individuals is large—participants remain connected to peers and professionals and bring their lessons and creations back to their communities.

When I’m at a Science & Us event, what excites me most is when “humanities people” realize that extracting themes from dialogue and conclusions from evidence are perhaps not so disparate. The implied instructions for the pastor’s “select one” question have become “mark all that apply.”

4. Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (247/250 words)

Note: In my opinion, this was my most questionable essay. It didn't quite answer the prompt and the story could've been more confusing than memorable/endearing/relatable, but I think it was okay because the readers had the context of the rest of my application.

Apollo’s pretty cute, I thought after watching the long-anticipated movie adaptation of my favorite book: Percy Jackson. I searched up his actor and ended up on a (totally PG) YouTube montage of Greek male models. However, it wasn’t their chiseled muscles that grabbed my attention, but rather the steady rhythm and mysterious tone of the accompanying song. My eleven-year-old self decided that looking up a translation wouldn’t suffice, so I spent the next three years deciphering Greek news articles and chatting with native speakers online. Around that age, I also decided to overhaul the layout and appearance of my Tumblr webpage, so I probed the inner workings of thousands of lines of code until I could write my own.

Building websites and learning Greek idioms was fun, but eventually I became eager to identify a grander motivation to continue pursuing them. At thirteen, I sat down to define my life’s purpose on a Google Docs file. Though now I would certainly select a more sophisticated typeface than Comfortaa, the words—carefully chosen and characteristically concise—still resonate with me.

I grew up in a home where my parents gave me the freedom and, thus, unspoken encouragement to explore what piqued my curiosity. At thirteen, I declared my mission to be developing skills to help others. Clichéd? Perhaps. Naïve? Possibly. But a worthy and inspiring cause, nonetheless. Today, this purpose is a beacon guiding me as I tackle challenges—from decoding Greek to translating programming languages—with boldness, determination, and excitement.

5. Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (249/250 words)

I entered high school excited to join a supportive and collaborative learning community, but what I experienced challenged my expectations.

A boy forgot his student ID at home, so the security guard scolded him. He wasn’t allowed to get lunch. A girl arrived at school late. The teacher chastised her for disrespecting his time and disrupting learning, then sent her to a desk outside. I was told by a teacher, “You have everything against you for getting into top schools. You’re Asian.”

I’m heartbroken when I encounter the harsh, disrespectful ways some teachers and administrators treat students. I worry that my peers will resent learning for the rest of their lives because of unengaging, miserable school experiences.

I’ve cried and hyperventilated watching unfair incidents, because I know what it feels like. I lose sleep wondering how administrators at an educational institution can be so opposed to education. For a time, I became irritable and apathetic, and lost hope in the possibility of the school improving.

Recently, a friend showed me an email from our former teacher, who thanked her for her enthusiasm and kindness. It made me pause and wonder what my teachers will remember me for. It wasn’t fair to treat this life-changing teacher and every genuine, compassionate teacher with anything less than my best, simply because I had seen and felt wrongs. Though I can’t control others, I can choose how I react. Kindness isn’t as loud as harsh shouting, but it resonates farther. I choose kindness.

Additional Information

Note: I think the bIg fLeX tone of my writing here was okay because the majority of my other writing had hella personality. I'd personally be pretty turned off if an entire application sounded this factual. I also made several efforts to emphasize that what I've achieved is unusual for my school (though it's commonplace at many other schools).

Self-studying: I taught myself Latin before high school and became the first student at my school to take Honors Latin 2 as a freshman. During my sophomore year, I self-studied AP Statistics and AP Computer Science A out of interest for the subjects. I took an online discrete math course the following summer and also independently learned the fundamentals of calculus, allowing me to take AP Calculus BC as a junior, which happens about once every year or two at my school. As a senior, I elected to take Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra online, which has not been done for about a decade at Lowell High. I chose to study each subject for a different reason, but they have all developed my resourcefulness, diligence, and most importantly, love of learning.

Science research: As far as I know, I’m the only student from my school who participates in science fairs. Despite the relative lack of resources for this activity at Lowell High, I’ve completed several research projects, some at local universities (Harvard, UMass Lowell), with a teacher, and independently. As a freshman, I proposed an idea to a microbiology teacher. We investigated the effect of burned plastic on bacterial transformation, a process that contributes to antibiotic resistance, and published the findings in the Journal of Emerging Investigators. During my junior year, I independently built models using machine learning algorithms in R to classify DNA sequences as protein-coding or noncoding, an important step in genome annotation. In 2018, this project placed 4th at the Region IV (Northeastern MA) Science & Engineering Fair and 2nd at the Southern New England Junior Science & Humanities Symposium, qualifying for the National JSHS.



  1. Science & Us (scienceandus.org) Founder

    • 11th, 12th
    • 8 hrs/week
    • 45 weeks/year
    • Lead team of 8 to organize biannual workshops teaching peers how to communicate STEM to diverse audiences and about careers bridging STEM and society. Collaborate with Communicating Science at MIT for our 2nd event, received Harvard/MIT COOP $1000 grant!
  2. MAHacks (mahacks.com) Co-Director

    • 11th, 12th
    • 4 hours/week
    • 40 weeks/year
    • Lead team of 9 to plan free events for 100 high schoolers to brainstorm, design, code, share projects. Negotiate with companies to provide mentorship prizes that encourage sustainable, impactful projects and building entrepreneurial skills.
  3. Science Fair and Research

    • 10th, 11th, 12th
    • 4 hours/week
    • 40 weeks/year
    • Harvard internship: Experimented to improve fabrication process of nanoscale lasers, simulated semiconductors w/ quantum dots/wells. UMass Lowell internships: Molecular dynamics simulations of potential anti-botulism drug; analyze effects of DNA methylation on duplicate gene survival and evolution.
  4. FRC Team 5962 (mvrobotics.net) Co-Captain

    • 11th, 12th
    • 15 hours/week
    • 30 weeks/year
    • Earned New England Chairman’s Award as 3rd-year team, qualified for World Championship ‘18. Organize fundraisers, community outreach initiatives. Teach engineering, business, branding skills. Work closely w/ Merrimack Valley Robotics non-profit board.


Summer Activity, Approximate Dates of Participation, Approximate Hours per Week (if applicable)

  • UMass Lowell/MA Life Sci Center Intern; July 2018 - August 2018; 40
  • Harvard Hu Group Applied Physics Intern; July 2017; 30
  • Biogen Adventures in Biotechnology (1-week); July 2017; 30
  • Lowell High Compass Program TA; July 2016; 20


Job, Employer, Dates of Employment, Hours per Week

Bioinformatics Intern; UMass Lowell/MA Life Sci; June 2018 - present; 40 (summer), 4 (school year)


List any scholastic distinctions you have won (and include year(s) of achievement) since entering high school and indicate the level of distinction.

  1. Junior Science & Humanities Symposium Finalist '18 - National
  2. MA Soc for Medical Research Contest 1st Place '18 - State
  3. MA Sci/Eng Fair 3rd Place '17, Honorable Mention '16 - State
  4. NCWIT Aspirations in Computing MA Winner '18 - State
  5. National Latin Exam Perfect Paper '16, Gold Medal '15-7 - National

List any non-scholastic distinctions you have won (and include year(s) of achievement) since entering high school and indicate the level of distinction.

  1. FIRST Robotics New England Chairman's Award '18 - State
  2. Sci Media Summit (sciencemediasummit.org) HS Fellow '18 - International
  3. ComSciCon (comscicon.org) Workshop Invited Guest '18 - International
  4. UMass Lowell Model UN Outstanding Delegate '17 - Regional
  5. SheHacks (1000+ attendees) Disaster Relief Prize '18 - International


Note: I believe that scores can keep applicants out (if they're low), but won't get you in. Therefore, they just need to be high enough to convey that you can perform well academically, and the rest of your focus should be on becoming and being an interesting, decent person.


  • January 2017 (sophomore year): 790 Math, 720 R/W, 7/6/7 essay
  • November 2017 (junior year): 790 Math, 730 R/W
  • Superscore: 1530/1600

SAT Subject Tests

  • Math Level 2 (June 2018, junior year): 800
  • Chemistry (June 2018, junior year): 760


Note: I don't think this has any effect on the application unless you have suspiciously low scores lol, it's totally optional to submit thes and they're unofficial anyway

  • AP Computer Science A (self-study), 2017, 5
  • AP Statistics (self-study), 2017, 4
  • AP European History, 2017, 3
  • AP Calculus BC, 2018, 5
  • AP Physics 1, 2018, 4
  • AP Latin, 2019
  • AP English Literature and Composition, 2019
  • AP US History, 2019
  • AP Psychology, 2019


All As (A = 90-100 range) in the highest level classes I could take/make my school let me take


None because I'm lazy and had no biq projeccccs I deemed worthy of showing lol (briefly considered doing Research and/or Maker portfolios)

Bonus: Boston University essays

Kilachand Honors College offers a challenging liberal arts education grounded in critical and creative thinking and interdisciplinary problem-solving. What do you think this approach means? Reflect on what has been missing in your education to date, giving at least one concrete example to support your response. How would Kilachand's interdisciplinary curriculum fulfill your academic, creative, intellectual, and/or professional goals?

In middle school, curiosity led me to build websites and self-study Greek, but what inspired me to continue was the potential impact of these hobbies. I created websites for individuals to communicate their identities with more people than ever before. However, despite the world wide web's apparent universality, my broadened linguistic perspective revealed remaining obstacles toward optimizing websites for worldwide audiences. Across cultures, colors carry different connotations, layouts must suit languages that read right-to-left or left-to-right, and users' perceptions of domains tangibly influence revenue. (Would you be more inclined to order products from a .com or co.jp site?)

Interdisciplinary approaches, such as connecting programming languages and natural languages to their impact on people, are something I value and seek from my college experience. Today's pressing problems are - simply put - complex. Healthcare, for instance, is an amalgam of biomedical discoveries, politics on local and international stages, psychology of doctors' biases and performance, and economic strategies of public and private insurance providers. To improve our world, we need interdisciplinary knowledge, skills, perspectives, and teams. Kilachand's curriculum is a way for my peers and I to become the world's leaders and problem-solvers.

The discussion-based seminars of Kilachand fill a fundamental gap in my education: its one-way nature. Often, completing assessments feels like coloring in coloring books and receiving a number - days or weeks later - that apparently quantifies my ability. This is especially relevant when I take tests on Scantrons and am not provided an opportunity to review the questions after receiving a graded sheet of meaningless bubbles. Though it may not be intentional, it indicates that self-assessment, a practice crucial to improvement and taking ownership of knowledge, is not prioritized enough.

An exception to this is an elective I took this fall: Seminar in American Diversity. In preparation for sharing personal stories to be published in a book, as a podcast, and potentially performed live, we wrote "bio poems" about ourselves. Though I had done bio poems before, this was the first one I ever got back, and there were comments all over it. My teacher had read it! Really read it. She hinted at interpretations of the mere eleven lines I hadn't thought of, prompting thoughtful consideration. "Katherine… who loves learning, writing, stretching," I described myself. She circled the last word: "Intriguing choice - could have so many meanings!" I had only meant doing the splits, but she was right. This timely, two-way exchange is powerful because it catalyzes change and growth. Though it was rare in high school, it is commonplace in Kilachand, and I know I want to hear others' opinions and remain open to change.

Currently, I am drawn to the science communication field, which connects science and the public through journalism, museums, outreach programs, and more. I am also interested in founding a startup that utilizes technology and data to solve social issues. An interdisciplinary education in the Kilachand Honors College is crucial to both pathways. The Power, Politics, and Ethics of Storytelling course will hone my ability to use stories to evoke empathy and emotional connections to technical concepts. Since Kilachand unites students across multiple schools at BU, I look forward to learning from students and professors in science, engineering, humanities, business, and beyond.

Doing, thinking, and being across traditional boundaries is an inseparable aspect of my personality and goals. What I hope to gain from my higher education is an improved ability, knowledge, and network to positively change the world, which can only be accomplished through the creative fusions of diverse ideas. On a more individual level, identifying connections and putting ideas into action is what fascinates and excites me.

What about being a student at Boston University most excites you?

At SheHacks, a thousand-person hackathon in the GSU, my team built an app to help first responders identify aid requests on social media during natural disasters. In 36 hours, we designed and debugged, took a face mask break, and won the Best Disaster Relief prize, donating $250 to a Puerto Rican nonprofit rebuilding after Hurricane Maria.

SheHacks, founded by a BU student and women from surrounding universities, represents BU's ability to collaborate to create exceptional experiences that positively impact participants and solve global issues. At BU, I hope to apply skills gleaned from Hub courses and leverage the university's worldwide network to start my own initiatives.

Through JSHS, a science fair at the Photonics Center, I advanced to the national fair, a life-changing opportunity. Hosting JSHS shows BU's support for research, which I intend to continue through UROP. I'm especially interested in the focuses on Data Science and Engineering Biology, since my latest project involves analyzing DNA methylation data to understand evolutionary mechanisms.

At JSHS, I met Cynthia Brossman, coordinator of several STEM programs at BU. With her assistance, I successfully founded an organization called Science&Us, holding our first event at the Metcalf Science Center. With one of the few science writing programs in the world and a focus on interdisciplinary learning, BU proved to be the perfect place to bring together 40 high schoolers to learn about fields and careers bridging STEM with society.

These experiences are merely glimpses of what's to come in my future at BU.

Bonus: Tufts University essays

1. What excites you about Tufts' intellectually playful community? In short, "Why Tufts?"

I can't wait to explore the worlds of foreign languages and cultures, the riveting tales of humanity's past, and beauty of mathematics and logic - all while pursuing rigorous yet creative projects and studies in engineering. The interdisciplinary culture at Tufts supports what I believe to be the optimal way for myself to prepare for the "real world" - learning, experiencing, and doing boundlessly.

I hope to engage in undergraduate research through opportunities like the Summer Scholars Program and attend seminars and colloquia in biology, computer science, and more. The breakneck growth of biological data - whether from 23andMe, robot-powered drug assays, or hospital patient records - presents an exhilarating journey for explorers equipped with the tools of computer science. For years, I've tackled bioinformatics problems, from analyzing anti-poison molecules to elucidating how DNA's on-and-off switches help duplicated genes evolve new functions. I'm also interested in applying what I learn in science and engineering to the world. Taking part in a study abroad program not only grants me novel perspectives, but also leads to more nuanced, effective solutions for communities across the globe.

Additionally, the Science, Technology, and Society minor at Tufts, one of the few in the country, excites me. More than ever, the politics of net neutrality, economics of environmental pollution, and social implications of cybersecurity influence our lives. Communicating science to diverse audiences and understanding its relationship to society are immensely important to me - and everyone. I aim to combine an STS minor with a technical major and coursework in social entrepreneurship.

2. Whether you've built blanket forts or circuit boards, created slam poetry or mixed media installations, tell us: What have you invented, engineered, produced, or designed? Or what do you hope to?

At the end of the hackathon, my friends and I were excited to continue our project. Then, life got in the way: too little time, too many product flaws. This isn't an isolated case. Although hackathons - weekend-long events for designing, coding, and sharing projects from scratch - can be breeding grounds for innovation, they're often not focused on sustainability. With MAHacks, a high school hackathon in Boston, that changes.

I organized MAHacks-III and co-directed MAHacks-IV as a junior and senior. However, I hated the first hackathon I attended as a freshman. I was made fun of, felt ignored by the organizers, and was confused by mentors' explanations. What changed? I continued attending hackathons to meet people and implement ideas. After winning MAHacks-II, the director encouraged me to apply to be an organizer, explaining that after he saw most hackathon projects abandoned, he started MAHacks to encourage sustainable, impactful projects. I realized I could drive change by joining the team.

Since then, I've created an ecosystem where participants, from first-time coders to advanced developers, feel comfortable and supported. I noticed that many participants dive into ideas without market research, so I introduced tracks: talks and workshops introducing real problems in different fields. I coordinated experience-based prizes for promising teams: job shadows and office tours at local companies, or lunch with a CEO. From the start, students target well-defined social, environmental, or industry challenges. At the end of the hackathon, experienced entrepreneurs and technologists are ready to inspire, encourage, and enable the next steps.