Penn Student Interview


“Jonathan T.”

January 16, 2003

Jonathan T. is the most perspicacious prospective student I have met in three years of conducting Penn applicant interviews. I recommend him emphatically for admission. Jonathan is so confident in his responses that I think he is only minimally aware of his sometimes brusque manner. By that I mean that I found it somewhat uncouth to have a seventeen year old respond to some of my inquiries with terse phrases like “Yup” and “Yeah, you know it.” Other than that, I found Jonathan to be one of the most educated, most articulate, most situationally-aware seventeen year olds I have ever met.

The grandson of a man who had fourteen kids and was so poor that his children had to attend school in shifts so that they could share shoes, Jonathon identifies his grandfather as the person who made the most significant impact on his life. Eventually attaining remarkable wealth in silk manufacturing, Jonathon’s grandfather was able to do so — according to Jonathon — because he always took the high road, stuck to his principles, and let virtue be his guiding light. Surrounded by corruption in Jamaica, Jonathon’s grandfather had numerous opportunities to increase his wealth and improve his competitive standing through shady financial deals and unscrupulous practices, but never yielded to the temptations. His steadfast dedication to ethical principle, coupled with his commitment to upright morale character, induced Jonathon to name his grandfather as his hero. So self-assured and poised is Jonathon that his beliefs led him to rebuke, in his paraphrased words, the rest of his large, extended family at his grandfather’s funeral — for failing to maintain the honest business course that their grandfather had laid out for them and had always followed. Jonathon feels the collective greed and selfishness among his extended family has led to the degeneration of his grandfather’s enterprise today.

Not only, in my opinion, is it rather perceptive for a seventeen year old to apprehend and appreciate the scope of such state of affairs, but I perceive that Jonathon has the capacity to apply such insight to his understanding of the world at large. He has spent much of his free time, including summers, working abroad endeavoring to comprehend the challenges which impede social justice; he has also spent much of his time trying to ameliorate, rectify, and overcome those challenges. His work with the Jamaican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which I’m sure is described in his application, is only one such example. Others include his participation with the Key Club, the Junior World Games, and his counselor-in-training work at a local Coral Gables children’s camp. Realizing that neither the Jamaican nor American government is perfect, he feels it is a shame that Jamaica endeavors to become more like the United States, since wealth gaps, poverty, and deficit spending in the U.S. are all worsening. Accepting the fact that the U.S. does function at times as a world leader, he feels that it must not practice economic imperialism or exploit its ability to influence the World Bank and IMF. He believes the U.S. government must be willing think outside the box, consider long term consequences, and pursue initiatives now which may not “pay off” until later. He is against drilling in Alaskan wildlife refuges for oil, believes that petroleum is key factor in our government’s push for war in Iraq, and says he does not favor business tax cuts. Instead, he says, if he were President for a day, he’d invest that money and the money dedicated to increased defense spending on education. He is concerned with human development at the expense of the environment / animal kingdom, citing Jamaica’s now bankrupt bauxite mining industry as an example of the blind pursuit of instant capital without a sustainable, long term plan. He also said he has garnered much from his A.P. Environmental Science class.

Jonathon is certainly a privileged youth to be able to attend a school like Ransom Everglades, but I feel that he has done, is doing, and intends to do more with all his accumulated knowledge than most of his peers have done and many of the adults I’ve met in key leadership positions have done. If he didn’t have to work for a living, he says he’d spend his time assisting the underprivileged in developing nations. Cuba and China are both on his “must travel to” list; he wants to compare our society to theirs, to see if the U.S. really is the golden world that we and others describe it as. He believes in the idea of free education, feels admissions should be “need blind”, and is somewhat concerned about Penn’s $38,000 price tag, although he acknowledges that he has not thought much yet about how to reduce that cost. He says he wants to be remembered as someone “who cared and made a difference”–a rather common thread and theme with our youth, but noble nonetheless. More impressively, Jonathon is one who is already putting his goals into action, working to achieve what he envisions as a better society and world. He and four friends launched a web site called, their way of expressing their love of Jamaican & Caribbean culture through music, and their endeavor to spotlight music as a vehicle for social change.

Jonathon has visited Penn, looks forward to living in a large city, and has contacted his high school alumni who have attended Penn. He foresees continuing his water polo involvement at Penn as well as participating in the Caribbean Club and student government. He is mature, self-aware, world-aware, interested in giving back, and ready to contribute. I feel that not only is Jonathon T. a student who will enrich the environment at Penn, but that Penn should actively seek his enrollment. He is the rare youth who is committed to using his time and talent to better the world, and Penn will profit and prosper from his matriculation there. I cannot recommend Jonathon T. more enthusiastically for admission.

Written by Glenn Yeck | Comments Off on Penn Student Interview