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Math, more than just numbers and figures - a personal life experience with lessons gained from it


TPK05112003 1 / 1  
Jan 4, 2022   #1

experiences and lessons



Hi,

I am applying for a scholarship, which has the following question:

Describe a personal life experience that has had particular significance for you and highlight the reason(s) it was significant, whether it had an impact on others, and any insights or understandings you gained from it. (800 word maximum)

This is my essay:

There hasn't been any experience in my life so far that has taught me so much as the dilemma I overcame during my A Level subject selection. Not even the online courses and research programs I undertook.

Having been inspired by the versatility of nanotechnology early in high school, I had decided to forge a career trajectory in biomedical engineering. Encompassing modules from Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, biomedical engineering programs in different universities around the world had varying prerequisite A Level subject requirements: some required two sciences in tandem with mathematics and some leaned towards three sciences. The only way out looked to be studying all 4 subjects, but unfortunately, my school only offered three A Levels. And selecting only three subjects would narrow down my possible university options significantly, and I might not be admitted into my intended university. I was in danger of losing the opportunity to study the program I was most passionate about.

After hearing from my school counselor that I wasn't allowed to study 4 subjects at school, I was dejected. Thinking hard on the bus ride home, a wild, wild idea flashed in my mind: why not study the 3 sciences at school, and learn math on my own? Throughout secondary school, I had displayed a particular interest and aptitude in math. It seemed a viable option. I talked to my parents and counselor, who approved, but with the warning: it was my choice of burdening myself, and I had to ensure this didn't affect my overall results. It was a risk, but I found it a risk worth taking.

I started off by carefully creating a timetable that balanced my independent learning with my school studies. I understood I couldn't afford to spend time on math on a regular, weekly basis, so I began studying it in clusters - I would complete several chapters in one go, and then not study Math for a month. Having a headstart by completing a few topics during the school break helped, as it ensured I was always ahead of the math teacher's pace. My math and biology teachers were very cooperative, and permitted me to shift between classes according to my academic needs. I was determined to prove my excellence independently.

Initially, it appeared to be going well. But the problems started when I had my schools exams in math and biology scheduled on the same day, since there was no other student who studied both these subjects. On some days, I was forced to write two long, challenging math and biology papers one after the other, without breaks. In addition, as the course progressed, the concepts became tougher to grasp. Questions of doubt appeared in my head: was straining my learning capacity by studying an additional subject a good idea? Would this affect my grades in the other subjects? At a point, I even pondered giving up on math.

I was in dire need of moral support, and my parents and teachers provided just that. Suppressing my fears of underperforming in my exam, I found the inner strength to persevere with a new plan: I studied math at my heart's will, whenever I felt like it, one topic at a time. There was less planning, but massive progress.

I also used the situation to my advantage. Because I was my own teacher, there was no necessity to limit myself by following a confined syllabus - I also ventured into topics beyond the syllabus, such as complex integration and vector mechanics. Gaining a fundamental understanding of these sections, which are key for bioinformatics, helped to prepare me for biomedical engineering.

This two-year journey was laborious, but also richly rewarding. I didn't drop any marks on my math exams, and received a maximum A^ grade. But beyond academic results, this experience also taught me a few important lessons, ones that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I recognized the important value of relationships in overcoming life's challenges - it would have been much more difficult without my parents and teachers being pillars of support and channeling in positive energy and belief. I understood that if a strongly-connected community of people come together, tremendous results can be achieved.

These two years also showed me that, sometimes, being simple is the best way forward. Simplifying challenges and breaking down future goals into short-term aims can make obstacles easier to approach.

This also taught me that when situations become demanding, it only means that better results are to come in the future; when the road being taken is difficult, it only means that the destination it leads to is beautiful.

Almost two years after that bus ride, I am nearing the end of this adventure with math, one that taught me more than just numbers and figures.
Holt  Educational Consultant - / 12,303 3989  
Jan 4, 2022   #2
The essay is insightful based on the personal aspect. However, it does not reflect on how it affected those around you. Aside from the caveat of over burdening yourself from your teachers, what other apprehensions did they have? How did they significantly impact your self study of math? What sort of extra help did you get from them? From your parents, how did they support your academic aspirations? Did the extreme focus on the Math studies have any negative effect on your relationship with them? Was it all truly just positive? If they had a chance at a do-over, would they allow you to do this again? Try to explain how your actions affected the communities you belonged to, your school community and your family. Your decision had a wide ranging effect that needs to be further discussed in the essay to help the reviewer understand why this achievement is significant for you.
OP TPK05112003 1 / 1  
Jan 5, 2022   #3
Hi, thanks a lot for your feedback!

I redrafted my essay, with a few changes - I just added some of the prompts you asked to include. I need some help with reducing the word count. Having a look at the question, can you please identify any content that appears unnecessary to the question, so that I can remove them?

Also, for your reference, the sections in red are the new additions.

There hasn't been an experience in my life so far that has taught me more than the dilemma I overcame during my A Level subject selection in September 2020.

Having been inspired by the science behind nanotechnology early in high school, I had decided to forge a career trajectory in biomedical engineering. Encompassing modules from Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, biomedical engineering programs in universities around the world had varying prerequisite A Level subject requirements: some required two sciences in tandem with mathematic, while others leaned towards three sciences. The only way out looked to be studying all 4 subjects, but unfortunately, my school only offered three A Levels. This would narrow down my possible university options significantly. I was in danger of losing the opportunity to study the program I was most passionate about.

I was dejected when I realized I had to look for an alternative degree. One day, a wild idea flashed in my mind: why not study the 3 sciences at school, and learn math on my own? Throughout secondary school, I had displayed an aptitude for math. It seemed a viable option. I talked to my parents and counselor, who approved, but with the caveat: I had to ensure this didn't affect my overall results. It was a risk, but I found it a risk worth taking.

Understanding that I couldn't spend time practicing math every week, I carefully created a timetable that balanced my independent learning with my school studies by studying math less frequently, but also intensively. It was important to stay ahead of the math teacher's pace, so I completed a few topics during school breaks and vacations. I was determined to prove my excellence independently.

Initially, it appeared to be going well. But the problems started when the school math and biology exams were scheduled simultaneously. On some days, I was forced to write two long, challenging math and biology papers one after the other, without gaps. Additionally, as the course progressed, the concepts became tougher to grasp. Questions of doubt appeared in my head: was studying an additional subject a good idea? Would this affect my grades in the other subjects? At a point, I even pondered giving up on math.

I was in dire need of moral support, and my parents and school community provided just that.

My decision of solitary study tested the strength of my relationship with my parents. At times, my mother was worried about my studying habits - she felt I wasn't getting enough food and sleep. My father, being the relaxed person he is, would coerce me to take more breaks and time off studies. I simply shrugged it off. They wanted to help me, but my overabsorption and anxiety didn't allow them to. Nevertheless, they remained supportive of my decision, and agreed to purchase any resources and textbooks that would help my studies. They made sure I had the tools to achieve my aspirations.

Throughout the year, I needed to shift between math and biology classes, depending on my academic needs. My teachers obliged to accommodate me in their classes for topics I needed help with. They also supplied me with important notes, worksheets and video recordings that supplemented my studies, and were happy to help when I approached them with questions after school. My school counselor handled all the documentation required to register me for both exams, while the Sixth Form Head allowed me to write the exams flexibly. What's more, my classmates were also willing to share their subject notes for my reference. The school rallied collectively behind me.


Suppressing my fears of underperforming in my exam, I found the inner strength to persevere with a new plan: I studied math at my heart's will, whenever I felt like it, one topic at a time. There was less planning, but massive progress. I worked hard, and also enjoyed the process.

And eventually, results day came; I had scored 4 A's in the AS Level exams - a school record, because it was the first 4 A result for AUS. The entire school celebrated with me by publishing a section about my results in the local newspaper. I couldn't help but feel pride in being part of such a supportive school.

This two-year journey was laborious, but also richly rewarding, considering the huge life lessons I learned. I recognized the value of relationships in overcoming life's challenges - it would have been difficult without my parents and teachers being pillars of support and channeling in positive energy and belief. I understood that if a strongly-connected community of people come together, tremendous results could be achieved. These two years also showed me that, sometimes, breaking down challenges into simple parts is the best way to weather them. I also became aware when situations become demanding, it only means that better results are to come in the future, as quoted by Zig Ziglar, "difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations."

Almost two years later, I am nearing the end of this adventure with math, one that taught me more than just numbers and figures.


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