Congratulations Nicole!

Nicole will attend New York University where she will major in psychology. Nicole plans to attend medical school after college, studying to become a plastic surgeon for patients with birth defects / deformities and victims of accidents. Check out her essays below!

“Nicole, hand me the scalpel.”

Carefully, I pass the surgical tool as the patient anxiously awaits the removal of the lemon-sized cyst on her head. Soon, Dr. Marjorie makes her first incisions on the scalp, slowly cutting away the scar tissue that had accrued over five years. Thirty minutes later, the woman leaves the office, free of the pillar cyst that had embarrassed her for years. Her smile reminds me why I want to become a surgeon.

My love of medicine developed over the summer of first grade, when I visited my friend Madison every day in the hospital as she battled cancer. I sat on her bedside reading Charlotte’s Web as she awaited her chemotherapy treatment. In between story time, I carefully observed blood draws, admiring the doctors’ steady hands as I inquired about the differences between blood tests and the purposes of each procedure that day. Simplifying the complexities for me– the nosy little 8 year old– I came to see doctors as benevolent caregivers.

The following September, Madi passed away. Rather than serving as a melancholy reminder of my loss, the hospital represented one of the most meaningful and rewarding summers of my life. As the shock of her loss began to fade, I dreamed of becoming a doctor myself and helping other people like Madi.

In middle school, I helped others the only way I could: by listening. In between periods, my friends often complained about their appearances, criticizing their weight and acne-pocked skin. One friend was so obsessed with her weight that she only ate fruit and compulsively exercised. When over at my house for dinner, she refused to eat anything. Recognizing the severity of her obsession, I began to see the real life implications poor self image could have on physical and mental health.

The following weeks, I tracked her eating habits and listened to her concerns about her appearance, hoping to help her feel more comfortable in her own skin. Finally, after months of perpetual reassurance, she sought professional help for her eating disorder and entered a rehabilitation center.

My interests in medicine and the psychological impact of body image converged when I began watching an internet famous plastic surgeon, Dr. Miami, on Snapchat. During lunch, I’d absentmindedly eat my tuna sandwich as I watched endless streams of tummy tucks, rhinoplasties, and liposuctions. I was in awe not only of the procedure, but of the trust clients placed in the doctor’s hands. I was eager to earn that level of trust and luckily had a lot of practice with my middle school friends.

It may seem odd that a girl opposed to body image problems would fall in love with plastic surgery, but the field is about more than just expensive enhancement procedures. Some view plastic surgery as a luxury, but for burn victims, breast cancer survivors, and patients afflicted with birth defects, it can be a life changing procedure that gives them the confidence required to build their lives. Plastic surgery would allow me to not only help others struggling with physical conditions, but also help them overcome their insecurities and learn to love themselves.

Entering high school, I took every medical course I could– from medical terminology to health science to clinical rotations– all so I could acquire the knowledge base needed to help others’ lives. I interned with Dr. Marjorie Nigro, a local dermatologist, to finally get hands-on experience with patients: taking medical histories, performing skin assessments, and mixing chemical compounds in preparation of surgeries. I breathlessly observed as she treated patients with botox, fillers, medication and methodically performed surgical procedures.

From the hospital to the dermatology office, my curiosity has only grown over the last ten years . In college, I will bring my inquisitive, empathetic, and dedicated nature to the classroom as I build the academic foundation that will allow me to construct a professional career reconstructing other peoples’ lives.

We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand – Why NYU? (400 word maximum)

My parents have taken my brother and I on countless trips over the course of our childhood. Each summer, they instilled us with the value of cultural diversity by taking us to a new place. When I was 12, my mom decided we would go on a mother-daughter trip, which later became an annual tradition. Luckily, our first trip was to New York City. I was awestruck during my first taxi ride, eyes peeled as I marveled at the chaos. In that moment, I set my heart on making the city my home, and have never wavered.

I would be particularly proud to be an NYU student because of the university’s foundation in a wide range of perspectives. As with my own family, rather than treating differences in background as a hindrance, students and faculty members embrace diversity, creating an environment that encourages open conversation. The International Study Abroad programs offered will allow me to pursue my academic passions alongside people with unfamiliar perspectives. It’s  my dream to spend a semester in Berlin or Abu Dhabi both learning the local language and engaging with psychological topics.

While on a campus tour this year, I was introduced to NYU’s catchphrase, “campus without walls.” I deeply respect the way NYU encourages students to live without boundaries because such a philosophy fosters learning and exploration, and teaches students to overcome minor discomforts in order to make room for major breakthroughs. The campus’s lack of physical boundaries will allow me to engage with both student life and the city on a larger scale. From International Neuropsychological Society meetings to positive psychology dance classes, I’ll be able to attend psychology events nearly every week.

Most importantly, I am eager to be academically challenged by NYU’s top-tier psychology program. The ability to work on novel experiments and access programs like Research Experiences & Methods will enable me to achieve the high standards I have set for myself. I am particularly intrigued by Professor Judith Alpert’s groundbreaking research focused on psychoanalysis and the psychology of gender. She asks, “What would psychoanalysis be like if Freud had been a woman?” a question I have often pondered and am keen to explore. Furthermore, I am enthusiastic about participating in the Cognitive Neuroscience and Social Psychology Honors Program during my sophomore year as these initiatives are the perfect stepping stones toward my future career in the medical field.

Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?

When my introverted friend Sandra suggested that I start journaling to better understand my feelings, I couldn’t help but scoff. The following day at school, she handed me a fuzzy notebook with a sequined pink heart on the cover and my lighthearted teasing grew into genuine irritation. Why did she think I needed a journal?

That night, in the midst of a YouTube hole, I discovered “Psychology Crash Course,”. Clicking tentatively, I worried that Siri might have been eavesdropping on Sandra and I. I have always been intrigued by the labyrinth that is the mind, and upon understanding the true definition of psychology, I was immediately engrossed. Now, every night before I go to sleep, I open the YouTube App and watch lectures by psychology professors, summaries of case studies, and videos promoting personal mental health.

Two years ago, I stumbled upon a video titled “Ask a UT Psychologist,” in which University of Texas professor, James Pennebaker, explained the astonishing studies he and his undergraduate class had conducted to develop a couple compatibility theory. They argued that it is possible to determine if a couple will remain together by style matching conversational elements, and I immediately thought, “I want to be one of those researchers.” 

A few nights ago, I spent three hours straight watching videos about Sigmund Freud’s psychological contributions. Let’s just say I had more than a few nightmares to interpret the next morning. I am eager to turn my video-binging hobby into a profession through the countless opportunities UT gives psychology majors to learn interactively and participate in novel studies that will shape the future of psychology.

Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways. Please share how you have demonstrated leadership in either your school, job, community, and/or within your family responsibilities.

By the time I could read The Berenstain Bears on my own,  my mother was already asking me to entertain my wild younger brother, Thiago. After being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder at the age of six, Thiago began taking medication and my role as a distraction evolved into that of an unofficial tutor, a title I still proudly fulfil today.

In elementary school, Thiago was distracted and disorganized, often losing assignments and earning bad grades. Everyday, we would sit on the floor of my dad’s office organizing the assignments stuffed in his messy backpack. During study sessions, Thiago would often grow impatient and make excuses, which I eventually recognized as inadvertent calls for help. Furthermore, as I developed an increased understanding of Thiago’s shortcomings, I began to employ more dynamic teaching techniques. In geography, for example, recognizing that he was a visual learner, I’d print empty maps and help him fill them in.

As the afternoons passed, Thiago began to grasp the ideas he had initially struggled with, and eventually learned to work through most assignments on his own. After years of problem solving, time management, and patience, the countless hours we spent on multiplication tables and fractions were rewarded; last year my brother got the highest grade in his freshman Engineering class without my help.

Although Thiago has evolved into an independent student, I will carry the leadership skills I developed on my dad’s office floor with me for a lifetime. Teaching has made me a better learner and the more I learn, the better leader I become. Regularly, my friends comfortably approach me in the hall for help with everything from molecular diagrams to Spanish verb conjugation. Because of my sessions with Thiago, I can eagerly and confidently offer my help when approached by my peers.

Please share how you believe your experiences, perspectives, and/or talents have shaped your ability to contribute to and enrich the learning environment at UT Austin, both in and out of the classroom.

In my family, exploring and learning has always been encouraged and the standards my parents have set for my brother and I are higher than Christ Redeemer’s head. The daughter of two hardworking immigrants, I spent my early life with family in Brazil and living in Venezuela for my father’s job. This nomadic upbringing along with summer visits to see my extended family in Brazil and countless Hispanic friends in my hometown has helped me not only to be trilingual, but more importantly to stay close to my roots.

Along with the delicious food, lively company, and close-knit community, I have witnessed untold hardships that many Brazilians face in their everyday life and feel fortunate that I don’t have to look over my shoulder as I walk through my neighborhood like my parents did. When I was 9-months old, my dad was shot at a bank in the “safest city in Brazil” and in 2010, while my cousin was visiting Rio, his GPS took him through a favela where he was surrounded by several armed men as he stared down at a laser on his chest. He was lucky to survive what should’ve been a normal car-ride.

As a proud Brazilian-American, I am passionate about making a difference for people like my father who have been less fortunate. On campus, I plan to join the Go Brasa club and S.M.I.L.E., organizations that both highlight the vibrancy of Brazilian culture and help those less fortunate in the community.

In addition to the exploration of my Latin American roots, I am excited for the opportunity to participate in student groups like “Women in Psychology.”, where I will connect with other women who share my academic interests.