Here are all of my college essays. Don't try to copy them or whatever.
Common App: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
It was finally my turn for Show-and-Tell.
I patted my pocket, checking on my prized possession. Looking to the crowd, I counted thirteen preschoolers and one teacher—full attendance, as I had hoped; everyone needed to see this.
Eagerly, I rushed to the front and removed my friend from the ziplock bag in my pocket.
“Hi everyone, this is my new bir-,” I managed to say before all hell broke loose. “RYAN, YOU CANNOT BRING DEAD ANIMALS TO SCHOOL!”
I remember finding him on the street outside my apartment. I had seen birds before, but he was the first with a broken neck. Intrigued and inspired, I knew I had to share my discovery in class.
As my classmates screamed in hysteria, I realized it may have been a mistake.
Yet, the response excited me. I imagine I looked bizarre, slowly smiling as madness overtook the room—but I couldn’t help it. In that moment, amidst the cries of my classmates, I felt like the loudest person in the world. Never before had I seen a group of people so moved—and from my doing. At the age of four, I fell in love with Show- and-Tell.
Besides the bird, I found myself that day. The experience has grown from a simple memory to a lifelong mission. It is the same conviction that told Homer’s epics, gave MLK’s speeches, painted Dali’s works, shot Kubrick’s films: the aspiration to use one’s vision and voice to impact others.
This spirit takes me to the stage, pushing me to show through public speaking. Recognizing the political unawareness in my community, I sought to combat the problem head-on. Recognized as a skilled orator, I landed an opportunity to speak at Naperville’s Memorial Day Parade. There, I directly addressed the city about the need for civic education. Under the gaze of thousands, I felt right at home, promoting change by sharing my message.
My voice is not limited to spoken words, however. With my camera, I forage through the depths of my mind and express it all through photography. I do not intend to make my pieces pretty, only impactful. While my art has received awards, I find far greater satisfaction in seeing my audience’s reactions. At art shows, I sneak around, peeking through display panels to catch every double-take, shocked expression, and thoughtful stare—the signs of my ideas swaying theirs.
Film, too, is another way to share. Last summer, while taking classes in Seoul, I encountered a fascinating street performer—a drug dealer turned Christian evangelist, he had devoted his life to praising Jesus on the streets. Inspired, I took the initiative to film a documentary about him. After weeks of researching, interviewing, shooting, and editing, I finished a project I found worth sharing online. The acceptance into film festivals was rewarding, but I was prouder knowing that, like in preschool, I had found and shown the world a meaningful story.
I take on education with the same spirit. For me, all learning is research for my next exhibit—my next Show-and- Tell. As I study statistics, Veristic sculpture, or Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, I quickly see their potential applications. Outside of school, I eagerly attend film festivals, art galleries, and TEDx events, searching for both the subjects and techniques for my next productions. Knowing my education will someday affect others, I am constantly motivated to learn.
I lost the bird long ago, but Show-and-Tell has stayed with me for years—guiding my studies, leading my actions, giving me purpose. The contents and methods of my presentations have expanded, but the same goals remain. Be it in class, within myself, or on the streets, I look to discover. Be it with words, cameras, or bird carcasses, I strive to share. Be it as shock, inspiration, or screams, I aim to impact.
Every day, I look for dead birds—ideas worth sharing with the world. And when I find them, I Show-and-Tell.
Stanford Short Questions
Most significant challenge society faces In a world full of information, very few people listen. Due to differences in gender, race, age, culture, or opinion, we often ignore each other’s voices, preventing progress. No matter how far knowledge advances, there will be no use if nobody wants to hear it.
Last two summers In Korea, I audited classes in Advertising and Photojournalism at Hanyang University, filmed a short documentary, Youtube vlogged, and met a fascinatingly large amount of foreigners obsessed with Korean pop music. At home, I volunteered at a summer school, Camp Pride, and started organizing a TEDx event (coming in November!).
Historical moment or event One of Reverend George Whitefield's sermons. A master orator, he reportedly made audiences weep by merely enunciating the word “Mesopotamia” and even got the stingy Benjamin Franklin to empty his pockets for the offering. He truly mastered the art of speaking, and I’d love to see how he does it.
What five words best describe you? Listen, wait, and talk straight.
What do you read, listen to, or watch? Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - somehow makes the disturbing sound beautiful The Room directed by Tommy Wiseau - so bad but so watchable Freakonomics podcast - makes every car ride fascinating TED-Ed Youtube Channel - amazing lessons + amazing animations = amazing experience Reddit.com - front page of the internet
One thing you are looking forward to at Stanford Vlogging my life at Stanford. Everyone knows about the elite academics at Stanford (which I will cherish, of course), but few really see the special stuff: hikes to the dish, sports games, Frost concerts, amazing food, more amazing people. I want to share all of that Stanford with the world. Extra hour in the day Taking my mom's drawing lessons again. When I dropped 10 years of drawing experience to fully pursue photography in high school, I found my real voice—but I also lost a meaningful part of my childhood. With an extra hour, I could return to where it all started: drawing with mom.
Stanford Short Essays
Idea or experience that makes you excited about learning
My first Good Friday service—a annual service to mourn the crucifixion of Christ—was the greatest show I had ever seen.
It opened with an emotional musical performance, setting the tone for the rest of the night. In the second act, the pastor preached the gospel, speaking with so much power and conviction that everyone fell to their knees in prayer. For the finale, the lights dimmed for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ: 100+ minutes of incredibly graphic, gut-wrenching scenes of Christ’s torture and crucifixion. By the end of the night, the entire congregation was weeping, emotionally bombarded by the experience. Amazed, I wondered, How? Sitting in that service, I realized that Christianity is, in a way, the world’s greatest mass communications case study. Through Christians, Jesus’ words echo in books, sermons, music, art, movies, and television. Moved by faith and with the Church as their stage, Christians skillfully perform life-changing shows—a feat I can learn from. When giving speeches, I mirror how pastors conduct their sermons: controlling their volume, pace, and tone to sway the audience’s thoughts and emotions. When I make art, I recall how the graphic, unfiltered depictions of the crucifixion evoke the strongest responses. Following suit, my own grotesque photography discomforts audiences but also provokes thought. By studying Christian communication techniques, I can improve my own.
Some believe God is real and powerful. Others do not. But in the Church, his story and its telling undoubtedly make people feel—and I seek to find out how.
Note to future roommate
Communication is vital in any relationship, and ours will be no different. But don’t worry! I always try to speak purposefully, listen carefully, and text thoughtfully. However, there is one limit to my expression:
I never send emojis—and I beg that you do the same.
Of course, emojis are a revolutionary form of communication. They’re remarkably fun, expressive, and efficient. Unfortunately, after July 28th, 2017, I can only see them as the subjects of the insultingly bad, wholly unfunny, 50- million-dollar mistake that is The Emoji Movie (a generous 10% on Rotten Tomatoes). The Emoji Movie was an insult to comedy, film, and artistic expression as a whole. Every blandly-delivered line, blatant advertisement, and shameless poop joke was a stab to the heart. It truly hurt to watch. Once an avid user of emojis, I can no longer touch them with a clear conscience. The Emoji Movie has seared its ugly mark onto my permanent memory, and now, whenever I see the “crying laughing emoji,” I cry for other reasons.
Please understand: I'm a pretty laid-back guy—easy to talk to and hard to offend. But when Sony Pictures disgraces an art form I love, it makes me feel like poop emoji. So, let’s just stick to the classic all-text emoticons. My favorites are :D, :’(, and :P. Or better yet, we can just call! Nothing else can capture the wonderful nuances of vocal expression.
I hope we get to know each other well, Roomie—just not with emojis.
Something meaningful to you and why
Receiving my 9th grade ID card, I nearly jumped when I saw my picture.
I must not have heard the photographer say “Smile” as he took the photo. I just sat with my neutral expression (a terrible mistake). My eyebrows angled sharply, my eyelids slanted downwards, my lips slightly pursed, my eyes locked in a cold stare—I somehow looked bored, judgemental, and mad all at the same time. My face was basically telling the photographer, “Burn in Hell.”
I then realized I had a problem. I suffer from what is commonly referred to as “Resting B*tch Face” (RBF for short). When my face is relaxed, I unintentionally look very angry.
As someone who cares deeply about connecting with others, it is incredibly frustrating when my face sends the wrong message. Before I can say a single word, my RBF broadcasts: “Stay away.” If I do not maintain a smile, strangers, friends, and even family are afraid to approach, assuming I am in a grumpy mood.
However, while my RBF has caused some difficulties, it has also provided strengths. To make up for my disadvantage, I must be constantly conscious about how people feel. As I exercise adjusting my own facial expressions, I learn to read others’ as well. For both their sake and mine, I always try to be socially perceptive.
Now, when I check the mirror and see the serial-killer-face glaring back, I am grateful. A blessing in scary disguise, my RBF matters to me because it develops careful communication.