How Clay Changed My Attitude

Personal Statement

When I read through my first semester schedule, my face glowed with happiness when I saw Ceramics as my first period class. On the first day of school, I walked into the classroom with a smirk. I pitied the freshmen and sophomores for listening so attentively to our teacher. What is so hard about making a vase? Mr. Helle sat in front of the potter wheel and began to center a small ball of soft clay. Quickly, it turned into a perfect cylinder spinning right in the middle of the wheel. Seconds later, it transformed into a beautiful vase with a flawless curve. It was too easy! Next, it was my turn. For some strange reason, I struggled just to force the clay onto the center of the wheel before it became lopsided again and splashed mud all over my clean shirt. I paid no attention to posture, speed, and details. Looking embarrassed, I asked Mr. Helle to give me the whole lecture again. My hubristic attitude tricked me. I spend the next hour just trying to center. I could not even begin to think how difficult it would be to make a vase. While I succeeded in AP classes, I made little progress in mastering the necessary skills to make a vase. The next day, I wore a completely different expression. Those students who had practiced carefully were making symmetrical and cylindrical shapes while I continued to focus on the basics. After months of paying careful attention and staying after school to make a simple object, I learned an important lesson. If I am too arrogant, then I see no room for improvement. My humility helped me realize that there is knowledge to be gained in every subject. I became an intellectual sponge, absorbing all the techniques Mr. Helle taught me. Toward the end of the semester, I did not become a famous potter but I could make a decent vase. To this day, Mr. Helle’s agility fascinates me as he turns an oddly shaped ball of clay into an elegant 12-inch tall pitcher. Now, I know the difference between pride and arrogance. Several months later, I faced another challenge. While my friends were still worrying about their Junior Prom dresses, I decided to apply to Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Better opportunities were within my reach when the acceptance letter came from this small liberal arts college. Orientation was just a few days away and I was still scared to go. Thanks to the Ceramics class, I gained the confidence to not let fear bring me down. Each difficult situation requires an appropriate response. Thus, I chose to strive for the best education because I was capable, reliable, and smart. A week into college, I was incredibly glad that I entered this world of new possibilities. I made the right decision. I am passionate about learning. The University of Washington will provide me an intellectually challenging environment to thrive. In small conference classes, my peers and professors profoundly affect my academic enrichment and personal character growth. Learning is a journey that requires self-discipline, honor principle, and different perspectives. At Reed, I learn to become fully human by discovering my individual identity and building a solid foundation for rigorous academic pursuits. With the experiences I gained from this academic community, I will prove to be a positive asset to the University of Washington.

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