Stanford application essays

These are the essays I wrote when I applied for a transfer to Stanford University in 2004. I wasn't accepted, so if you're trying to get accepted, you'll have to do better than this.

I spent way too much time on these for how good they are.

Of the activities, interests and experiences listed previously, which is the most meaningful to you, and why?

Being a Boy Scout, and later an adult Scout leader, has had a great effect on me. Because of Scouting, I had several experiences that changed my life for the better, including becoming an Eagle Scout.

Now I am an Assistant Scoutmaster, and I use my knowledge and experience to help others get the same benefits out of Scouting. The results are observable and gratifying: I have had the pleasure of attending the Eagle Scout award ceremonies of Scouts whom I led as a youth.

Sharing intellectual interests is an important aspect of university life. Describe an experience or idea that you find intellectually stimulating, and explain why.

Free software has been a significant part of my life for several years. The idea of free software is that of respecting users' freedom to run, study, modify, and distribute computer programs.

The pleasant experience of running some free software for a while convinced me to install only wholly free operating systems on my own computers. The ability to study and modify the software I use has been immensely beneficial to my understanding of computers and computer programming. I think others would enjoy these benefits too, so I am happy to share the idea of free software with them.

What are the specific reasons you wish to leave your present college/university, and what special attraction does Stanford hold for you?

There is nothing wrong with my present college, but I had planned since I applied there to try to transfer to a really good college when I could.

The free encyclopedia Wikipedia says that Stanford has a reputation for being a "relaxed, fun-loving, warm-weather alternative to the Ivy League." That sounds good to me.

I am excited by the prospect of studying at a place that is associated with such legends as Donald Knuth and John McCarthy.

I want to be somewhere where important things are happening. Stanford seems like such a place.

Select a quote or saying that is particularly meaningful to you, and comment on its significance.

A friend once read to me something he selected at random from a book of quotations. It was Polonius's advice to his son Laertes in Shakespeare's Hamlet:

This above all,—to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

This quotation appealed to me immediately, even though I had never read Hamlet. It came as I was just beginning to appreciate the virtue of honesty, and it confirmed what I had begun to suspect: that honesty to others is preceded by honesty to oneself.

By dealing honestly with ourselves and with others we make our affairs simple and transparent. We learn more quickly by rejecting what is false. Further, our own example may encourage others to practice honesty and spread its attendant benefits.

Honesty demands that we be humble enough to see our own failings; yet equally we must recognize unashamedly our own success. Self-improvement follows self-awareness, which in turn follows self-honesty. When it is our own worst selves we wish to defeat, "know your enemy" becomes "know thyself."