Coming of Age While Solving for ‘X’ | Cornell University Undergraduate Application Essay

With bright tangerine walls, meticulously hung alphabet charts, and “remember to wash your hands” posters, Kumon Learning Center is not the place I would have expected to find my maturity. As I stand in the Center now, though, I look back and see how far I have come in my short time here.

I’m not sure if it was my love for math and English, or my reluctance to work in the fast-food industry that drew me to this part-time job. Either way, I arrived on the first day with an air of nervous excitement. Right away, my boss sat me down at a private instruction table, where new or struggling students sat to receive assistance. Without training or even spoken instructions, I was expected to help kids with their classwork for the day—from long division to writing the letters of the alphabet. Not used to having to really figure things out on my own, with no directions to follow for one of the first times in my life, the pressure terrified me. That first day passed in a blur of whispered questions to my fellow staff members and fumbling attempts at explaining mathematical concepts to preschoolers.

Fast-forward a month, through trial and error and dedicated observations of veteran employees. I was better prepared. Now Tenzin—a…

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