Students in the Class of 2023 demonstrated that they have the smarts, initiative, and heart to become the newest members of the Colgate community. Get to know some of them through their application essays.
Illustrations by Alex Green
Lessons From a First Grader
By Parfait Kabore
A shudder ran up her spine. She was hunched over a stack of notebooks, face constricted in concentration, oblivious to the buzzing of mosquitoes and the motley scents and sounds of a typical West African night.
A pen stuck awkwardly in her trembling hand, she was drawing characters from a practice book. Writing each letter seemed to take forever, but her patience was of steel.
Satisfied, Rahinatou proceeded to pronounce the strange shapes she had scribbled. It was an endearing scene. Face lit up with glee, lips quivering, she slowly articulated each syllable, the way an infant uttered its first words.
“I am proud of you,” I told my 44-year-old mother. I was in grade 11, and my mother was in grade 1.
I am continually baffled by my mother’s dedication to things she aspires to do. At age 6, she recalls, she was sent to school for about a week, then taken out “because she was a girl.” Nonetheless, her dream of learning how to read and write persisted through adulthood. After almost four decades of delay, she was finally getting around to it. However, it didn’t happen without a cost.
In Burkina Faso, literacy rates are alarmingly low, and the lowest among women. Enrolling in night school was an act of rebellion, especially from a married female. Women who go out at night are looked down upon as frivolous, and those who pursue education are a threat to the patriarchy. My mother did both.
Sitting every night, seeing my mother sigh with frustration or giggle with satisfaction as she went through her homework, or helping her through basic arithmetic problems, I slowly became aware of my own relationship with education, the thing she craved so much.
Until then, I had fallen into a routine of mechanical and purposeless studying, with no depth in my academic pursuits, save for the occasional economics or evolutionary psychology article. I had lost my primal drive. Seeing it again through my own mother was inspiring and eye-opening.
I was fortunate to have been put into school. She was not. Her unquenchable thirst for education was denied to her. Thanks to scholarships and grants, I went further than any of my predecessors. She did not rely on anyone’s financial support to enroll. Most importantly, I had my parents’ support all along, whereas she was bucking societal norms to make her aspiration a reality.
I snapped out of passive learning. I went from doing it for the grade back to doing it out of genuine interest. For instance, the thesis paper for my yearlong junior seminar course was on the evolution of altruism, a field that had previously piqued my interest but had receded to the back of my mind. I went back to voraciously reading my favorite topics. Once again, conversations were inevitably leading to discussions about topics such as the evolutionary history of human aggression or the moral implications of the invisible hand. My peers were perceptive of that shift, some calling it “dedication.”
Thus, I stopped taking education for granted. Instead, I embraced the privileges afforded by literacy and refocused my community service on education-related activities.
My mother is now in grade 2, and she is enjoying every bit of it. There will come a time when she and I will have debates on topics ranging from the Cold War to the significance of climate change. I can hardly wait. In the meantime, I’ll be diving into my passions, and carefully building debate-relevant knowledge, because she is a terrific debater. I fear she will be able to annihilate my arguments by the time she gets to middle school.
Get to know Kabore:
- Hometown: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (he is Colgate’s first student from this country)
- Brought from home: “My people’s traditional cotton garment.”
- “I am a minimalist and a vegetarian. My proficiencies include songwriting, soccer, and photography.”
- He has been learning English as a third language since 9th grade. He is the first in his family to graduate from high school.
A Modern-Day Chaucer
By Corinna Yee
Alfred was the name of my French horn in the sixth grade (I had an obsession with the British Royals). The horn is and will always be the love of my life, perhaps because it isn’t a piano that my mother forced me to sit at. Before school started, I always popped into the band room to get some practice in before a day of classes. I was a serious 11-year-old who had her mind set on learning etudes, acing my classes, and not letting misbehaving students distract me. Think Hermione Granger, but with less personality and more bad hair days. I was the elegant, poised, and well-spoken lady my dear mother had raised me to be.
One day, at the beginning of a typical solo rehearsal, my band director casually asked me if I was playing “Danny Boy.” “You’re damn right,” I quickly exclaimed. He looked at me bemused, as if I were a tutu-wearing dog on a tightrope, before bursting out in laughter. It was the first time he heard me use any hint of humor. Prior to that, he had only seen me as the shy, headband-wearing shrimp whose mom had to hem her uniform slacks and roll her cardigan sleeves. It wasn’t until that moment that my teacher realized that underneath my “scholarly” facade was a dry-witted band nerd who had a sense of humor.
In reality, I have been fascinated with the world of comedy all my life. After watching Seinfeld at 3 years old with my dad, who always had a joke in his holster, I slowly picked up on the importance of being able to laugh. Humor helped me to cope with everything, whether it was understanding why my demanding tiger mom was so hard on me (it turned out the piano was really expensive), or why it’s so shocking for people when they find out I’m better at subjects in the humanities instead of STEM. My sense of humor helps me to understand different points of view. It gives me the ability to communicate with all types of people, even the most stone-cold giants who could throw me like a football. It has saved me from bullies, awkward family reunions, and rowdy toddlers.
Comedy has been my rock and my beloved companion. I’ve never been a very emotional person, thanks to my mom. I don’t write all of my feelings in a diary or post brooding photos of myself on social media. I put them in my pretend stand-up comedy routine, which I deliver through a cringe-worthy performance to my parents in the living room.
I guess you could say I’m on track to becoming a modern-day Chaucer. But hey, I don’t use my humor to just entertain myself; I use my powers to help others, too. When my friends fall, I always try to spot them with a quick dose of laughs (note: prescribe WISELY). Even my history teacher couldn’t resist my video for our end-of-the-semester Ottoman Empire funeral, for which I was awarded the prestigious Pez dispenser for being the most creative (don’t ask how things got to that point).
Although it’s sometimes risky to use humor, it is still a beautiful art form that should be cherished. It has the power to unite, attack, and defend (things that I could never do with my horn — though Beethoven’s Third Symphony is a close second and delivers a similar zesty rush). When in the hands of the right people, it can promote change, love, and growth. Complemented by my mom’s bulletproof spirit, my dad’s iron wit is simply my greatest superpower as it gives me the strength and courage to be my own self.
The comedienne adds:
- Hometown: Annapolis, Md.
- Brought from home: “A portrait of Morty from Rick and Morty that I bought with my dad at ComicCon. For 13 years, my dad and I attended the annual Baltimore ComicCon, where we marveled at the artwork, costumes, and celebrity guests. The picture always makes me laugh because of Morty’s dramatic gaze into the distance, while serving as a fun reminder of my special tradition with my dad.”
By Justin Moore
Anyone who has ever taken a big test knows the feeling: the sweaty-palmed, heart-in-your-throat sensation of heavy anticipation as the teacher hands back the graded exams. Did I pass? Will I do better than average? These questions race through my mind, only this particular day I’m not in school. Instead of at a desk, I’m sitting on an examination table at my doctor’s office, sweaty hands sticking to the crinkly white paper as I await the results. I hear footsteps approaching. It’s time for my annual growth chart readout.
A quick knock at the door, and in shuffles the doctor holding my chart. He greets me as he scans scribbled notes from my “weigh-in.” The suspense is agonizing. “Everything looks very good. You’re in the 9th percentile for height and still growing.” He smiles, radiating a cheerfulness that is not mutual. “You’re what we call a late bloomer. Give it time.” My heart sinks. There goes another checkup and another year of waiting for the growth spurt that never seems to come.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a 9th percentile kid. The little yellow growth record that my mom kept in her purse was proof. It noted that my older brother, Jacob, had reached full height in 8th grade. My sister, Amanda, three years younger, had somehow hoarded all of the family growth hormones and reached the 90th percentile for height by age 7. At family get-togethers, aunts and uncles would gush about how much taller Jacob and Amanda were getting, then turn to me and ask, “…and how’s school going for you?”
I endured years of this despite my parents’ best efforts. More than once, they took me to see a pediatric endocrinologist. I remember my first appointment was pleasant enough until it came time for the dreaded Tanner Scale test of physical maturity. Whoever Tanner was must have been of questionable character to be the namesake of this mortifying examination, involving all types of measuring devices and no underwear. Imagine forgetting to wear pants to school and getting graded on it.
There was also the chronic physical pain associated with my delayed growth. Much of my teenage life had been spent bouncing from doctor to doctor, discussing growth-plate disorders like Osgood-Schlatter, Sever’s disease, and apophysitis. Enchanting as they may sound, these growing pains of the hips, knees, and heels are no fun. Yet as my glass-is-half-full mom reminded me, “at least the pain means you’re still growing, honey.”
Despite vertical and medical challenges, I found playing sports as a way to prove that height leveled the playing field. I quickly realized that in soccer and basketball, the closer you are to the ground, the harder it is for the big guys to steal the ball. Advantage: me. I discovered that I was having fun just playing and competing, especially against guys twice my size. More importantly, I learned a lot about teamwork and how the best teams are sometimes made of players of all sizes. Through hard work and humility, I earned the respect of my varsity soccer teammates, and this year they voted me captain. Not bad for the little guy.
Last summer I worked as a camp counselor. Though I was shorter than many of the campers (and often confused for one), I had the time of my life working with the kids, and they loved me for it. I also attended Boys State, where I was elected assemblyman and gave a speech to my constituents, attacking another fear head on. Success again. Through these experiences, I discovered that I have a voice that transcends my size; I’m just as powerful as the next guy. I’ve grown to understand that height doesn’t define me, it just makes me harder to find in a crowd. What I once saw as an injustice of stature is now my will to embrace it.
More about Moore:
- Hometown: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
- Three words his best friend would use to describe him: Accepting, funny, involved. Moore, who says, “the feeling I get when I volunteer is like no other,” volunteered with both a special needs soccer program and a homeless shelter/soup kitchen while in high school.
By Talia Yavorek
I believe in symbols, metaphors, and coincidences. I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe people teach you something. I believe there is good in the world and everyone is born without bias. I believe in sunflowers.
Sunflowers grow tall and vibrant, electric yellow strokes against a pale robin’s egg sky. In the center lies a deep, dark, dense black hole holding all the petals, splayed out like eyelashes with a brown iris, the window to the soul. Sunflowers grow toward the light, facing the sun, their warmth, their nurturer, their positivity.
I believe in sunflowers. My grandfather grew sunflowers. He grew the tallest of sunflowers, the brightest and strongest. He was a sunflower himself. He grew from the dirt up. He was born in poverty on a farm, with an alcoholic, abusive father and his mother, his sunflower. She was tough, intelligent, and did everything she could to raise her children right. She raised a family that was strong, smart, and illuminated the world like sunflowers.
My grandfather grew sunflowers with me. In his garden full of lush, tiered dahlias and ombré, dainty zinnias, dotted with juicy, red cherry tomatoes and beans plump with ripeness, the things that rose above everything else were the sunflowers. They were taller than little me on my grandfather’s shoulders. I believed those sunflowers could touch the sun. They believed they could too.
My grandfather had a genius IQ. He never went to college, but he made sure his children did. He took self-improvement classes. He never stopped growing. He saw the light of education and the importance of other’s perspectives. He knew the value of a positive outlook and appreciation of the simple things. He taught his family that the world is a reflection of yourself and to take a mental picture of beautiful things in life.
I was given National Geographic magazines by my grandfather at a young age. Before I could read, I would look at the pictures and be captivated by what they depicted, from mountains in the sky to animals on the prowl. He instilled the love of learning and questioning in me. He created my love for the world and history of life and how people interact. He gave me experiences on farms and boats. He exposed me to the beauty in life, like how strong queen bees are and how quiet the ocean is at night, how to patiently wait for a fish and how to tell which direction is east. He showed me the sunflowers in the world around me.
He treated everyone with kindness, a father and grandfather to all. He inquired about my braces that stayed on for longer than intended and always brought me poetry contest forms to see if I wanted to enter. He brought me to agricultural days and smiled at everyone. He bought me ice cream when I was crying and flowers on my birthday. He had the bright, optimistic, inviting quality of a sunflower.
I am a sunflower now because of him. He taught me to be kind to people. I make friends with everyone and smile whether I know them or not. I read about the world and want to make it a better place. I still write with the emotions he taught me to have. I write about the beauty he showed me. His fervor for education motivates me every day. He taught me not only how to grow sunflowers but also how to be one — tall, strong, intelligent, positive. He was the sun and I was the sunflower growing toward all he taught me. I yearn to grow constantly, like a sunflower. I desire to grow in new ways, new places, and spread my light in the new experience of college. I believe in illuminating the lives of those around me and showing where the sun is, where optimism shines. I believe in being a sunflower.
- Hometown: Cheshire, Conn.
- Brought from home: A quilt her godmother made her for graduation
- Why she chose Colgate: “My brother went to Colgate, so it’s been my dream school ever since I was a little kid.”
The Class of 2023
Domestic students of color
Accepted students’ average GPA
dual citizens represent an additional 18 countries
Admission statistics are accurate as of June 1