Harvard University Application Essay: about Academics

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College Admission Essay on Academics

Essay by Andrew Rist

I can say with certainty that there is nothing that has more of a positive effect on my life than Latin. Of course other things have grabbed my interest over the years, like poetry, math, singing, and women, but my true passion is for the Classics. I never would have thought that a civilization that lived over two thousand years ago could have excited me, but I have learned that many of the problems and concerns of Classical society are still widely applicable to our modern society. For example, in Plato's Republic, Socrates seeks the true definition of justice. Just like Socrates, we could never actually put such an abstract idea into a few words, but we still seek simplicity, as Socrates did. In Classics I see the basis for the majority of Western Civilization, and I yearn to explore it further.

I stumbled into this odyssey of classical discovery that I now call my life in the seventh grade. My Latin teacher was unusually eager to urge students into participating in Latin Club. I admit that she forced me into it, but from the very first time I competed I never regretted it. In middle school, Latin filled the void in my mind that was begging me to care about something, anything, so I kept working at the Classics, hoping I could keep the void full.

After middle school, I faced the inevitable transition to high school. My transition was rocky. Austin High is a huge school where I knew only a few people. On top of my trouble fitting in at this impersonal school, I found that the Latin program at Austin High was weak. My teacher had other problems to deal with and most of my classmates were too high to care. I realized how truly blessed I had been at my middle school. I decided to take more of a leadership role in the Latin program than I had in middle school. Unlike my middle school, Austin High tended to send only two or three people to Latin conventions. I was in charge of making sure the three of us got where we had to be during conventions.

My freshman year was also the first year I won a spot on the statebound Certamen team, which became a nationals-bound Certamen team when we won out over teams from San Antonio and Houston at the State competition. In this game of buzzers that tested both thumb-speed and Classical knowledge, I excelled, and our team took Third Place at Nationals. It was at Nationals that I had a close look at the students of St. Andrew's Episcopal School. Due to necessity, I traveled to Kentucky with St. Andrew's for Nationals. It felt like I fit with them. They impressed me with how close all the students were, both with each other and with their teachers, including one that, like me, was new to their community.

By the end of that summer I knew that I wanted more than anything to be a part of the St. Andrew's community. I toured the school, but even before that I think I was decided: if at all possible I wanted to go to St. Andrew's. Thanks to the efforts of my parents and the Latin teacher I enrolled at St. Andrew's for my sophomore year, and I have never looked back. As a result of this change I started working harder in every subject at school, thus my grades went up, even in courses that were more intellectually challenging than the ones I had previously taken at Austin High. I also improved in my favorite area. At the Texas State Junior Classical League convention I was shocked to find that I had been named Texas Latin Student of the Year for having the highest score on the decathlon, a test that tested a range of subjects related to Classical civilization, such as Latin grammar, mythology, history, and literature.

My junior year was even better. Although classes were even more difficult, nevertheless I enjoyed the challenge and continued to excel. In Latin, where some thought I had little room to improve, I continued to climb. Again, I was named Texas Latin Student of the year; I got a 5 on the Catullus-Ovid Latin Literature AP; but the achievement I am most proud of came during the summer at the National Latin Convention in Richmond, Virginia. Not only did my Certamen team win first place, taking home the Maureen O'Donnell Traveling Trophy, but I had the highest score on the national decathlon, which came not only with a $500 scholarship, but also the title of Best Latin Student in the Nation. My parents, Latin teachers, and friends could not have been more proud.

Rome may have fallen 1,500 years ago, but I cannot help but think that the Classics live on. People still want to know the meaning of justice and they often consult Plato in their search. I want to find the answers in Classics like so many before me. The Classics may not have been my first love, but they will be something that will stay with me forever.

Andrew Rist attends Harvard University.

Essay Review

A passion for Latin

Latin is the last subject that most students would choose for an essay—which is why it's a great topic. Author Andrew Rist is a true Latin junkie, and he makes a convincing case for the importance of Latin in his life. Though his national honors are impressive, Andrew's commitment to Latin while attending three different schools stands out even more. Says Andrew, "The only advice I would give people writing essays is to follow their passion. Otherwise your essay will be lifeless."

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