COLLEGE ESSAY: Sam Hall to attend Princeton University

Avery Maier

Every year, the Scroll publishes a series of college essays written by the graduating seniors. This is the college essay of Sam Hall, who will be attending Princeton University this fall.

I have been fascinated with aviation for as long as I can remember. When I was really little, I loved to draw elaborate airport scenes. I started to play flight simulator games when I turned ten, spending up to eight hours at a time flying mock trans-Atlantic flights. Eventually, my desire to fly couldn’t be confined to the computer screen. So, in December of my junior year, I began to persuade my parents to let me learn to fly—for real. This was a daunting challenge; my parents couldn’t help but imagine the worst case scenarios. Nevertheless, using a combination of a little logic and a lot of persistence, I eventually prevailed.

My first few times at the controls, I felt a bit awkward trying to manage speed, pitch and altitude all at the same time. Flying was harder than I thought. I ended up making a few “rookie mistakes” along the way. Once, I tried to taxi out while the left wing and the tail were still tied to the ground. Another time, I left the battery master on and killed the battery. With each mistake I was met with a snicker from my instructor who said, “well, at least you won’t do that again.”

Eventually, the next big milestone loomed: my first solo flight. I had put in so many hours that flying had become instinctual, but still, the night before my flight, I lay in bed, worried about having to fly completely by myself. It had taken me almost two months to be comfortable just driving alone in a car. Now, I would be 1,000 feet above the ground, strapped into what is little more than a flying dishwasher connected to an engine, and expected to get myself safely back on the ground. Granted, I had practiced these scenarios before, once practicing ditching procedures on a highway and getting so close the cars actually began to pull over, but doing this by myself would be a different story.

The first solo flight is simply comprised of three touch-and-goes; three measly takeoffs and three measly landings, within a mile of the

airport. Nevertheless, as I sat there idling on the runway, I had to confront my fear of being completely alone in the sky. I simply took a deep breath, muttered “alright, I can do this,” smashed in the throttle, and took off. Three landings later, I had done it. I taxied off the runway onto the ramp, and parked. I was greeted by my flight instructor pretending to use his fingers as scissors.

As I was then told, it is customary to cut the back of your shirt after your first solo. It signifies you no longer need a flight instructor guiding you by your shirttails, as they did in the early days of flight. It seemed a strange thing to do, but tradition had to be observed. So I walked out of the flight school that day, taking with me the experience, confidence and thrill of flying an airplane unassisted, but leaving behind the back of my tee-shirt.