Truth, Subjectivity, and the Humanities (My Common App Essay)

“Welcome to AP English Language & Composition! We’re going to have a great year together!” I let out a long, unenthusiastic sigh in response to my teacher’s upbeat introduction.

Before last year, if asked what my least favorite subject was, I would have said English in a heartbeat. As a self- categorized “STEM student” at the time, I was not looking forward to taking an AP English class my junior year. If asked why, I’d respond with an answer that also serves as the reason why I enjoyed STEM to begin with: I liked that Math and Science have factual objective truths, but disliked that finding meaning in English is elusive because of its inherent subjectivity. It frustrated me that when it came to English I could never arrive at an entirely objective answer because claims fundamentally came from a personal perspective.

However, as the year progressed, this frustration transformed into appreciation. My study of literary works documenting social conflicts such as WWII and the Islamic Revolution made clear the dangers of a society following the single extreme ideology of a leader without question. These situations demanded individuals with different voices to be heard. This ultimately shattered my conviction that subjective ideas were always problematic. When I recognized that there doesn’t have to be a single unified truth, I opened myself up to learning from the opinions of others.

I came to realize that interpretation, studying rhetoric, and analyzing reasoning enable me to carefully evaluate different perspectives and evidence as well as refine my own outlook. In the face of social norms, arbitrary rules, and persuasive rhetoric, the analytical skills I’ve acquired empower me to think for myself and even challenge such ideas. That’s what I love most about English, and more generally, learning.

Embracing subjectivity and diversity has helped me to develop a more creative and open-minded approach towards STEM as well. Instead of simply applying given formulas, I seek to derive alternative approaches and principles when solving problems in unfamiliar contexts. Looking back, it was shortsighted of me to think that the Math and Science ‘facts’ that I once found comfort in were definite truths when Aristotle argued against a whole planet of people who thought the earth was flat. Nothing starts out as a “fact.” It has to be discovered, examined, and debated. The pursuit of truth may be never-ending, but I can at least inch closer with every new opinion I encounter, evaluate, and try to piece together into my own understanding.

This realization has not only shown me how wrong I was to think that subjectivity is necessarily a fault, but it has also enabled me to become a more effective leader in my community. When I founded Girls Can Code three years ago, I simply wanted more girls to feel comfortable pursuing interests in Computer Science. Now, my passion is driven by my desire to inspire underrepresented minorities to pursue opportunities in STEM. I’ve come to dedicate time in my community towards promoting inclusivity for individuals of diverse perspectives in hopes of increasing collaboration, creativity, and innovation to create tech solutions for the future. Previously a timid Freshman Officer, I now use my platform as Student Body President to create school-wide events that bring together students from across the globe with different worldviews, religions, races, and genders to share their cultures and experiences.

My openness towards being wrong and my newfound knowledge that there is a world of ideas that I can learn from – not just a world of facts – has changed the way I interact with those around me. I’m filled with excitement when I lack certainty in an opinion but am surrounded by individuals so different from myself who can expand my knowledge beyond my limited individual lens. This is the perspective I now carry with me across all disciplines, in everything that I do, and into my future college community.

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