Dr. Peter Beron High School of Mathematics, Varna
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Successful Common Application Essay
The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.)
Prompt #2: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Summer Physics camp in Bulgaria's picturesque mountains has given me some of my fondest memories over the last three years. It's been a camp not limited to acquiring knowledge, but a joyous place for bonding too, where trust and will are often tested. The highlight is the hiking day, when we go to Raiskoto Praskalo, “the heavenly waterfall”, and those of us who have strength and courage to continue trek to Botev Peak. In my first two camps, I didn’t ascend the summit as I didn’t believe I could do it. This year, though, I went to the camp with my friend Edy who convinced me to try.
The big day came. Ironically, Edy and I missed the group in the morning because we overslept. After an hour of hurrying, we caught up with them on the trail, just before they reached the waterfall. The start of our trek was nothing more than a light stroll; we enjoyed the awe-inspiring mountain landscape, took many pictures, and laughed, while a soft breeze caressed our faces. Despite my legs quivering after two hours on the steep path, I was still motivated to climb the peak; however, after four hours had passed, we were a little over half way and doubtful thoughts entered my head. Beyond the vertiginous track ahead, the ridge appeared like a mere speck on the distant horizon. The worst thing was that we couldn’t go back because it was too steep and perilous to walk back down the slope. In moments like these, friends come to help: Edy grasped my hand and said, "Keep going, you can do it!" After he literally dragged me for some time, stopping every 5 feet, I became desperate and even started to cry. The peak still seemed miles away from us. Instead of getting angry, as I had thought he would, Edy stayed with me and continued encouraging me to go on. It was already 3 pm, and we had more than 7 hours left to reach the top and get back to our campsite. I had two options: to tough it out and continue or to stop at every step, complaining that my entire body hurt, and end up having to spend the night on the mountain. The second option sounded quite unpleasant, so I had to go on even though I felt feeble.
I began counting my steps as I trudged along. I promised myself that I would not stop until I had taken 100 steps. And I succeeded: I went 100 steps and took a small break. Then Edy and I came to an agreement: we'd pause every 100 steps to rest, but while walking, we could not stop. What helped me the most was that I was focusing on my feet the whole time, and I never looked up. Suddenly, I lifted my head and realized that I had reached the top! I couldn’t believe it. It turned out that the more I stared at it, the more afraid I was that it was too far away. When we arrived at the station on the peak, elated by our achievement, we took a break and drank hot tea. On the way back, everything went well, except that we got lost several times in the woods; nevertheless, we made it back to the campsite, bone-weary but content.
We all have our own peak; this is our future, our highest goal, our dream. The mountain trail is our life full of difficulties and obstacles. And the happiest ones have Edy: our family and friends who support us along the way. This experience taught me that I shouldn’t look too far into the future as it will overwhelm me. Instead, I ought to divide my journey into smaller steps and strive to take each one. Eventually, without even noticing it, I will have achieved my goal.
The text is published in its original and unedited version.
Elena (right, in the middle), presents on Applying to Highly Selective U.S. Universities
at the Summer Physics Camp near Kalofer
Cornell University Essay
Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities… the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in.
After four years of studying physics and participating in physics competitions, a twisted turn of events unexpectedly propelled me into the world of engineering.
This summer I was selected to take part in the High-School Student Internship Program (HSSIP) at CERN. During this two-week internship, I worked on the ISOLTRAP experiment located in ISOLDE, the laboratory for fundamental research with radioactive ion beams. ISOLTRAP is a high-precision mass spectrometer and my task was to measure the mass of Cs-133, operating with Penning traps and Multi-Reflection Time-Of-Flight devices. Even more, I had the unique opportunity to work with engineers at ISOLDE, to attend their meetings, and to identify solutions to problems along with them. What attracted me most was the freedom that they had to design their own creations and to bring them to life. Then I realized that I don’t want to study pure physics, but instead, I want to learn how to apply it to the real world because there is nothing as incredible as seeing physics in action. Furthermore, I found out that many scientific discoveries would be impossible without the work of engineers. The Higgs boson, for instance, would be nothing more than a theory without the Large Hadron Collider.
My love for science and desire to study engineering drove my interest toward accelerator engineering. I aspire to learn how to design, construct, and operate these machines; even more, I wish to work on optimizing and improving them, creating a new generation of particle accelerators.
All the accelerators we have now, whether circular or linear, are very massive and expensive machines (LHC is 27 km long) that function with the same “conventional” technology: using an electric field to accelerate particles (usually electrons, protons, or ions) within a vacuum tube. Employing this technology, we can increase the kinetic energy of the particles in two ways: by using the same accelerating structure over and over again, which is actually a circular collider (but then there will be problems with the magnetic strength and synchrotron radiation), or to increase the electric field strength (which will damage the machine). So, we need to find a new way to make the accelerators smaller but more powerful at the same time, striving to reach high energy with a lesser amount of exerted synchrotron radiation. To solve this problem we can use a known ionized gas: plasma. I think this would be the best solution for two main reasons: firstly, because plasma can support huge electric fields so we can get higher energy without damaging the machine, and secondly, this approach enables construction of much smaller particle accelerators than the conventional ones. In this way, accelerator technology will be optimized and could be globally used in many spheres such as medicine, research, and energy supply. For example, Hadron Therapy uses accelerated beams of protons and ions to treat tumor cells like cancer, ensuring higher accuracy and more cost-efficient treatment.
Plasma-based accelerators and their applications are something I wish to work on at the Cornell Laboratory For Accelerator-based Science with the assistance of distinguished professors such as Joel Brock and Donald Bilderback. Moreover, the Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) is an excellent facility which would give me a comprehensive knowledge of x-ray techniques and hands-on experience so I will be skillful enough to design and construct advanced technology, which can be used for experimental investigation, and, hopefully, will lead to new scientific discoveries. As Professor Joel Brock stated, “… CHESS enables science. That is what we do. We give scientists tools and x-ray techniques that drive advances in our understanding of biological, electronic, and structural materials at the atomic scale.” There are many future challenges for accelerator engineering and I believe that Cornell is the best place for me to tackle them, and who knows, maybe Cornell could one day be the place where dark matter will be explained or extra dimensions will be found.
The text is published in its original and unedited version.
Elena (first from right to left) at the Opportunity Funds-Bulgaria training in the village of Lozen near Sofia