12/20/2013 02:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Extracurricular Essays

2013-12-20-College_Essay_Tips.jpgWilson's Impact
by Jamie Woodard

A year after my best friend, Wilson, a Portuguese water dog, was put to sleep, I found salvation at the Jersey Animal Coalition. The minute I stepped into this shelter, the odors of cat litter and wet dogs welcomed me with an intensity that underscored my calling. That day I met my friend Cinnamon, a dog part of an unwanted litter. I walked by his cage and saw the discontent behind his glassy eyes. I watched him helplessly try to paw his way through his crate, trying to get outside for the first time all day. My relationship with Cinnamon exposed me to the everyday difficulties of running an animal shelter. New animals arrived daily, each with their own story. Without a home, these animals were completely dependent on us, which was a disturbing realization. A beagle needs us to save him from an abusive owner, and the runt of a litter needs to be fed until being adopted. The shelter increased my awareness of the world's cruelty, but also exposed me to ways to help its victims.

Jamie Woodard is a freshman at Georgetown and a 2013 graduate of The Peddie School.

Africa in Maine
by Forest Sprague

I was 12 when I helped unite the cultures of Maine and Uganda to expand a school in that African country. My home, Portland, Maine, has a growing community of African immigrants. My family organized a benefit concert in Portland with performances by a Ugandan youth choir. The singers spent a week in Maine and I was responsible for helping them adjust to the state. I also set up arts and crafts tables at the concert while watching the arrival of more than 1,000 eager members of the audience. A standing ovation celebrated the melodic tunes. The smiling faces of the performers and the crowd united the room. We earned $2,000 that night. I have carried the lessons and skills I acquired in the concert into several community service efforts. This concert became a fundraising model for the supporters of the school. The choir used some of the funds raised to finance on fundraising concert in New York. The additional wings have been added to the school, which serves orphans in Uganda.

Forest Sprague, who was home schooled, is a freshman at Pace University.

Why U-Penn?
by Alec Harris

Considering both the specific undergraduate school or program to which you are applying and the broader university of Pennsylvania community, what academic, research, and/or extracurricular paths do you see yourself exploring at Penn?

You have heard of cancer and AIDS, but what about poor file management? Every year 96,000 Americans die due to poor file management of medical records. With two business partners, I decided to dive into this critical national public health problem. My two partners, high school students like me, address this problem by creating a company that unites hospitals through a "Cloud System." Doctors would be able to enter the "Cloud" and open up their patients' documents. By utilizing their patients' health information, doctors could safely determine the right medications to prescribe. We meet weekly to work on the product and search for investors.

I look forward to marrying my passion for problem solving and entrepreneurship with the strong liberal arts foundation at the University of Pennsylvania. I have purposefully chosen to major in economics in the College of Arts and Science because it will provide the intellectual underpinning to complement my diverse interests as an aspiring entrepreneur. I also appreciate the opportunity to start clubs at the University of Pennsylvania, as I would start an organization that focuses on entrepreneurship for liberal arts majors.

I owe my initial curiosity to take on problems, like poor file management, to my participation in LEAD's Engineering and business programs over the past two summers at Villanova and Duke. The LEAD teachers challenged me with intriguing and difficult problems to assess. Through the lectures and assignments, I gained a passion for finding the solutions to many problems that we discussed. For example, we were told to find the cause of a specific short-circuited car. After many hours of research, I found the transistors, under the hood, worked as gates by controlling the amount of electricity used. When the transistor breaks down, a car can be short-circuited. We studied how such a complex network operates and evaluated new ideas for the purpose of efficiency, which inspired my thirst for more answers.

Student life at Penn would offer the opportunity to explore my other interests in social problems. In my days of playing baseball in the Harlem Little League, I met many kids who had a mutual love for baseball, but I was keenly aware of our different social situations. Many of them ended up in gangs and jail. They were sons of alcoholic fathers or grew up around gang violence. The decisions they made were inevitably a reflection of what surrounded them. I want to join students organizations that tackle those kinds of problems.

Whether it's the book Freakonomics or my observations of my friends, I always find myself analyzing the different angles in search for hidden answers to problems, whether they are math or engineering or social problems like those that can impair the lives of inner city teenagers. At U-Penn, I would enter a world that would give me the artillery to continue the search for solutions to problems that had not been answered.

Alec Harris is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylania and a 2012 graduate of Pomfret.