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"Beyond the Physical" - Common App


alexa23 2 / 9  
Dec 23, 2010   #1
Hi all,

I am looking for some suggestions as to how to improve my Common App essay (not so much grammar suggestions as thoughts on the general idea and structure of the essay). I would really appreciate any advice! Feel free to be harsh! Thank you in advance!

Beyond the Physical

"Who can come up and solve this problem?" I would ask. By the response, you would have thought that I was handing out free video games rather than asking for a volunteer to answer a high school level physics problem on the board. All the students in my Science Olympiad class were jumping out of their seats, shouting "Pick me, pick me!" and ecstatically waving their hands in the air. For so long, I had dreamed of this moment.

Only a month ago, the students in my physics class had been doodling cartoons in their notebooks and chatting about the latest movies during class time. While they quickly learned voltage, current, and whatever other concepts I threw their way, I did not sense that strong desire to learn physics. Class consisted of me lecturing enthusiastically about electricity as my students sat slumped in their seats, listening only half-heartedly. I wanted to engage their interest. I wanted to show them that physics could be fun! I wanted them to experience the thrill of problem solving. With those goals in mind, I revamped the class: The example problems were no longer about throwing a boring ball up in the air. Instead, they featured the boys racing against cheetahs or an elastic collision between a "fat guy" and a "skinny dude". I invented "Quantums", paper money used to reward class participation and homework completion. Furthermore, I kept the competitive spirit alive with relay races and games like Physics Jeopardy. With these new additions, more hands shot up when I posed a question to the class. While there was plenty of laughter, I also saw a new intensity in the kids. Their ears perked up in class, they sat up straighter, but perhaps the most telling measure of success was that I began to hear the question, "Can we please do another problem?"

As the class moved on to more complex questions, however, I heard my students cry out with reluctance and almost fear. Once I asked Kevin to try a more difficult problem and he replied, "Let Jonathan do it. I'm going to get it wrong anyways." Kevin's dismay struck a cord within me; I endeavored to provide my students with the confidence and the courage to tackle any challenge. I broke tough problems down into more manageable steps. When I carefully explained why we needed to isolate the "R" variable or why acceleration in this case was zero, I would often hear "Oh, I get it! Is that really all there is to it?" With the help of Quantums, I celebrated both the students' successes and their mistakes. And with a strong emphasis on doing practice problems and homework, the phrase "practice makes prefect" nearly became our motto. I wanted my class to understand that there is no insurmountable task in the face of hard work and resilience.

I love physics. It was also one of my hardest classes, and in that respect, I can identify with my students. The course's challenge, however, was precisely why I found it so fun and engaging. I hope to instill in my students that same spirit of confronting adversity with confidence. Being a teacher for Science Olympiad has meant going beyond the physical involvement of preparing and delivering weekly lectures about Ohm's Law or magnetism; I want to teach my students how to learn and why to learn. I want to inspire them and spark a lifelong interest in science.

IBstudent0786 1 / 4  
Dec 23, 2010   #2
WOW that is a powerful essay! It shows your dedication and your passion. I truly love the essay, however what is the prompt? It would make it easier to connect the essay with a given prompt of the Common App Essay. Regardless, I'm truly impressed (this coming from a school newspaper founder and editor). Good job!
xtasue 2 / 6  
Dec 23, 2010   #3
All the students in my Science Olympiad class were jumping out of their seats, ecstatically waving their hands in the air and shouting "Pick me, pick me!" .

Sounds better, emphasizes eagerness, ya know?

With the help of Quantums, I celebrated both the students' successes and their mistakes. And with a strong emphasis on doing practice problems and homework, the phrase "practice makes prefect" nearly became our motto.

Unnecessary, really. The important thing is the celebration of successes/mistakes. To emphasize that, a standalone sentence is more powerful. Plus, Quantums are only mentioned very briefly while you list things earlier in the essay.

I strived to provide my students with the confidence and the courage to tackle any challenge.

sounds less stiff than "endeavoured"

It was also one of my hardest classes, and in that respect, I identify with my students

Be more direct, less passive. Instead of using "can" just state what you would say.

I broke down tough problems into more manageable steps.

Sounds... more manageable!

Also, you might want to clarify the age of the children. I think the picture that you paint with your essay is very good with the exception of this detail. I assume the children are middle schoolers but then, I'm not sure.

Overall:
1. Your structure might be helped by transferring the first paragraph into present tense. So first and last could be a "as of now" type of thing. I'm not sure how you want to write it all, but I think this could strengthen the essay.

2. I love Physics too! Great concept. It shows off how much you care for the subject and how much you care for your students. Your passion shines through the words.

Also, thank you for reviewing my essay! I appreciate the encouragement.
rebrose 8 / 20  
Dec 23, 2010   #4
I agree. This essay shows your passion for physics and how you want to share it with others. The only thing I would say to correct is in the last paragraph

I love physics. It, but it was also one of my hardest classes, and in that respect, I can identify with my students.

I think it flows better that way.
saroth 11 / 47  
Dec 23, 2010   #5
great essay, I also love Physics :) but I would change:

the phrase "practice makes prefect" nearly became our motto

to: the phrase "practice makes perfect" truly became our motto
OP alexa23 2 / 9  
Dec 25, 2010   #6
Thank you everyone for all the feedback!

Alexa


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