In the eighth grade, Gabriel wanted a way to take notes more quickly. He developed his own shorthand, Gastropodese, now a collection of more than 250 symbols that he still uses. This was just one indication of Gabriel’s creativeness. As he applied to colleges, he wrote about solving math problems in Jack London Square, the importance of paper and his desire to become a cheese aficionado. His creativity is perhaps one of the reasons that he is incredibly gifted in mathematics. A graduate of Oakland Technical High School, he earned awards from competitions including the American Regions Math League and International Math Olympiad and won third place in the national Intel Science Talent Search for his project HOMOLOGY OF NARROW POSETS. He wrote this essay to gain admission to Cornell but chose to attend Harvard University.
The Slice of Life - Cornell University
For years I have harbored a secret desire to become a cheese aficionado. This is not entirely arbitrary. Cheese, as an independent entity outside of any broader alimentary context, is at once worldly and whimsical. It provides the ideal complement to that side of my personality that has historically been dominant. My experiences have been largely rooted in the world of the abstract and the intellectual. Mathematics, music, writing and the like have given me a certain sense of detachment from reality. While I have historically enjoyed this detachment, there is always a desire to diversify. Eating cheese is a direct immersion in the world of the senses where things are taken at face value. You don’t analyze cheese. You just eat it – a refreshingly simple outlook on life.
At the same time, cheese offers the opportunity to express my individuality. There are plenty of more popular ways to get in touch with the earth, from cleaning to gardening to fishing, but I eschew the familiar. Cheese means uniqueness or some approximation thereof. It also means independent imagination. Why be always bound to accepted notions of what is useful, what is interesting, what is respected? To take - for purely recreational purposes - something normally perceived as just one component of the kitchen and to turn it into a paradigm of its own requires both will and creativity.
And there is precedent. I like cheese. There are few sources of greater immediate gratification than munching a mozzarella, swallowing a Swiss or consuming a Camembert. My first encounter with a Parmesan - a solid block, not the Kraft grated stuff - was a revelation. Still, these are all among the more ordinary and pedestrian types of cheese. I feel a certain guilt in ignorance. I enjoy cheese, yet I have never gone beyond the average supermarket shelf to discover what infinitely more exciting flavors this world might hold. I have dreamed of remedying this discontentment, of ambling over to the local Barnes & Noble and finding a guidebook on cheeses and then of procuring samples of each, one by one, until I had developed a genuine familiarity with the world of cheese. Thus far, time and expense have seemed prohibitive. But there are always more opportunities.
Only after beginning the application process did it occur to me that Cornell is a highly appropriate place to pursue an interest in cheese. It would be logically connected to the existing dairy tradition. I don’t know what food-oriented student organizations exist to back up my interest, but what with the famous wine-tasting course (to say nothing of the food programs at the college of Agriculture and Life Sciences), the university has at least a vaguely relevant academic tradition established. A large and diverse place, such as Cornell University, would be the most receptive setting for such an esoteric hobby.
The benefits of making cheese an acknowledged and regular part of my existence are essentially twofold. On one hand, it would mean realizing and developing a passion that has long been latent. On the other hand, it would be an integration of a new element into my personality, one that would simultaneously contrast with the existing elements and embody the same spirit of creative distinctiveness that I endeavor to infuse in the rest of my life. I define myself by what I do. I imagine being asked at parties…“What do you do?" “I am a mathematician," I would reply, including suitable detail. If pressed for more, “I also compose music, write poetry, code software, solve cryptic crosswords and play a mean game of Anagrams." After pausing an instant, I would add, “And I eat cheese."
Why This Essay Succeeded…
Gabriel’s essay is proof that virtually any topic can make a successful essay. He takes an everyday item (a food derived from mold no less!) and gives it meaning. Gabriel convincingly explains why cheese is significant to him and what it represents. While the essay is superficially about cheese, the reader really learns more about him.
There is an honest quality to Gabriel’s essay. He does not try to present his interest as something more than it is. He does not pass himself off as a connoisseur with a vast knowledge of exotic cheese. He is just an amateur who truly enjoys eating cheese - something we can all relate to.
At the end of his essay, Gabriel includes a connection between Cornell and its academic programs and his love for cheese. While not essential, showing why a university is a strong fit to you is a good idea as long as it is appropriate for your topic.