Stanford University Admission Essay on Hobby or Interest

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Stanford University Admission Essay on Hobby or Interest

Essay by Brian Inouye

Every first Thursday of each month I always look around the Van Muren Hall gymnasium looking at the sixty- and seventy-year-old men and wonder what I am doing there with them. They have lived through world-shaping events like World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, yet I sit there and interact with them as if there were no differences at all. The reason? We simply share a similar hobby. For the last four years, I've built rubber-band-powered balsa airplanes alongside many of these old timers. It began in eighth grade, when I was randomly selected to be the model airplane builder for my Science Olympiad team for the event known as The Wright Stuff. In this event a competitor builds a tissue-covered, balsa plane to achieve a "best flight time." I was quite hesitant at the outset due to my lack of knowledge about the subject, but decided to forge ahead in order to help my team. In a stroke of good fortune, I stumbled over a phone number at a nearby hobby shop for the captain of the local flying club. After a simple call and meeting, I started working with my mentor, Chris Borland, a retired man of about sixty years of age.

I have never been a very dexterous person. When I was younger I engaged in sports activities and played with action figures, forever imagining new adventures. I never played with Legos or blocks like many other children which might have enhanced hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Plane building requires many minute changes of details that only calm, nimble, and patient hands can make. None of which I have. Numerous times I broke a plane by sanding too roughly or glued my fingers together while really trying to glue two pieces of wood. Most of these events ended with my driving an X-ACTO knife into my building board and a shout of expletives. Not until recently could I claim that I can adeptly use my hands. I have needed to take my time to build planes, gluing the pieces ever so precisely and making everything perfect. At first I was frustrated with myself since my mentor would finish a plane in four hours and it would take me twice as long, but he had also been building planes since he was a child. After realizing this, I became more accepting of the time and patience needed to build planes and began to allot a greater amount of time for building. Instead of doing fast, shoddy jobs, I sacrificed my regular basketball television viewing time and replaced it with spending more time building planes and perfecting my techniques. I also endured long nights to finish planes the same day I started, hoping to limit the variables such as humidity that could skew the structure while having to concentrate even more because of my fatigue.

This last year I spent more than fifty hours constructing four working planes for the regional, state, and national Science Olympiad competitions. I say "working" because I constructed many more planes, however only four were perfect enough for the competition; the others were abandoned. Through all this work, I almost gave up after the regional competition due to a horrific showing. My two best planes simply did not take off the ground as the balsa wheels got stuck in the carpeted floor of the Grand Ballroom at California State University at Sacramento. Finally, after my second failed flight I took the plane, sat down, and cried. I hated my plane. I hated myself for failing both my team and myself.

In retrospect it was this failure and embarrassment that became my motivation for the rest of the year. Constantly remembering that rare emotional breakdown and failure of my airplane to even lift off the ground, I was fueled to do better. I pledged myself that I would not fail again! I spent days and nights building planes, scrapping them if there was even a minor flaw. Finally, I rebuilt a plane, tested it, and took it to the national competition. My life, my self worth, and my pride were all tied up in this mixture of balsa wood and tissue paper. Upon arriving at the competition site I froze in fear when I noticed the carpeted surface that covered the center of the Ohio State University indoor track. Trembling, I tried to focus,remembering what my mentor said before I left Sacramento. "Just have fun." Recalling those three simple words cleared my head of doubt and fear and also cleansed my soul as I then casually strolled out onto the carpeted area and flew my plane. It stayed up for four minutes and nineteen seconds, twice as long as any of my planes have ever flown! I was elated and felt vindicated when I placed sixth in the national competition and was awarded a bronze medal.

Tackling this odd, anachronistic hobby has changed my life in many ways beyond doing well in the national competition. Studying and receiving good grades have always come fairly easily for me and it wasn't until this challenge that I learned to persevere and at the same time be patient and calm under pressure. My hands never seemed skillful enough and my luck never seemed to be there at the right time. I had to overcome many failures, but in the end,everything came together.

Brian Inouye attends Stanford University.

Essay Review

Taking fligHt with model airplanes

In the age of Xboxes and iPods, there is a certain charm in an essay about rubber-band-powered airplanes made out of balsa wood. A quixotic topic such as this is the perfect way to catch the eye of an admissions officer, especially when you have invested as much time and effort in the planes as author Brian Inouye. Brian is also an athlete, but in his words, he "quickly ruled out the clichéd 'learning from losing' or 'making the big play' sports stories." Says Brian, "Although my premise paralleled one of the overdone sports stories, I thought it was interesting that I learned the same lesson in something not involving athletics whatsoever."

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