It seems that Jonathan could have lived in another time, even another century. He is impassioned by Arthurian legend, the geometry of Euclid and the astronomy of Ptolemy. Likewise, he won the New York Classical Club Latin Sight-Translation Contest three times, placed Summa Cum Laude in the National Latin Exam three times and tutored peers in Latin. A graduate of Regis High School, he plans to become a professor in the classics.
Arthuriana - Harvard University
On a certain day I was eating lunch with my friends Tom and Peter and we were discussing which of our classmates were characters…that is, people who distinguished themselves with a unique and often slightly eccentric trait. At one point Tom turned to me and told me that I was not a character. I intended to object, but Peter voiced his disagreement first, responding that my incorporation of ancient and medieval values into my modern life indeed defined me and qualified me as a character. I was rather pleased by this recognition of my personality.
This defining preference for things which predate the Protestant Reformation derives from the reactions which I experienced while reading some selections from Sir Thomas Malory’s LE MORTE D’ARTHUR. I enjoyed it so much that I soon decided to read a complete version. The search for an unabridged edition took me to a few different libraries and stores and at last I borrowed one from my grandparents’ library. Based on my enjoyment of the short version, I expected that I would like the full version even more. Indeed, from the point when I opened the first page of that book, I was completely obsessed with it. I read it everywhere…during the summer, I finished the whole book twice and over the past four years, I have reread my favorite parts countless times. The primary reason why I read it so much was for the pleasure, but subconsciously I think I was reading it to imitate it.
Immediately, the book drove me to learn more about Arthurian legend, history and literature. Arthuriana became a hobby that I pursued with intense zeal. I bought and read many books on the topic, sometimes going to tremendous lengths to find them. I made special orders from bookstores, spent hours in the big research library in Manhattan and searched for online dealers of used books since many of the titles I wanted to read were out-of-print.
Malory’s book also inspired my curiosity toward medieval culture in general, especially its moral ideals. I have found certain qualities of the code of chivalry to be universally admirable: trust, loyalty, truth, honor and helping people in need. I have tried to instill them in my own character with practices such as not cheating, avoiding falsehoods and tutoring other students. Many a one would let another have one’s seat on the subway, but I do so because I think to myself that is what a knight would do.
Like Sir Galahad, though, I also realize that holiness is important. The chapter about the Quest for the Holy Grail showed me the value of a more intimate relationship with God, especially through daily prayer and acceptance of His will. Reflecting on this now, I see that this change had more meaning than just a desire to be prepared in case the Holy Grail should miraculously return to earth. In the example of those who found the Grail, I discovered what I had been seeking: a real culmination for all the learning I received in Catholic school. The book was my personal guide to a spirituality that I found lacking in my experiences with the modern world.
Captivated by such medieval interests, I jumped at the chance to take Latin at Regis, and it has been my favorite subject because it is a major key to unlocking the ideas of past ages. I have totally immersed myself in Latin and further love my ancient Greek which I started this year. Beyond classical grammar, though, I have undertaken the relearning of geometry from Euclid, music theory from Pythagoras and Aristoxenes and astronomy from Ptolemy. When everyone in my physics class had to do a book report on a work in that subject, everyone was reading Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein or the like, but I read Physics by Aristotle. This gave me more pleasure and personal satisfaction than everything else I did for physics because it was an interdisciplinary experience linking science and classics.
In the school’s chess club, where love for one of the oldest known games is typical, people have called me especially traditional on account of my preference for the classical openings. Similarly, I prefer the early medieval, Christian, Uncial style of calligraphy and in this script. I have copied the books of Habakkuk, Jonah and Zephaniah as they were written in St. Jerom’s Latin Vulgate. My hobby of archery, which I practice very informally, is yet another way in which I have defined myself as one who seeks to relive and revive ancient and medieval ways.
Why This Essay Succeeded…
One of the questions admission officers ask themselves after reading an essay is, “Would I like to meet this student?" Some even ask, “Would I like to be this student’s roommate?" After reading Jonathan’s essay, the admission officers resoundingly said, “Yes!" Both in his style of writing and choice of topic, Jonathan creates such a unique portrait of himself that you can’t help but want to learn more.
What makes his essay so powerful is that Jonathan is able to share so much about himself. In addition to describing his passion for his favorite book, he also uses the title to convey his personal philosophy, academic interests and extracurricular activities. This is a lot to include in an essay, but he does so seamlessly.
After reading Jonathan’s essay, you may think that you must have a truly unique personality to make an impression on the admission officers. The truth is that you don’t have to be interested in Arthuriana as Jonathan is. It’s important to remember that even if you think of yourself as normal, you have something interesting within you. The key is to figure out what that is and how to share it in your essay. When you are done writing your essay, have someone else read it and ask them: “If you were an admission officer would this essay, make you want to meet me?"
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