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'Great Barrier Reef documentaries' - Stanford Supplement - Intellectual Vitality essay


oriyanh 2 / 11 1  
Oct 11, 2014   #1
Hi guys, I've been hanging about lurking around here for a while, and I finally decided to make an appearance.
I'm applying to several colleges, but first and foremost to Stanford, and have been having a hard time with some of the essays. I was hoping you guys might be able to assist me in reviewing/rewriting/editing what I have written so far. I will try and review the essays of those who give me feedback, though right now I am a bit swamped with studying for Subject Tests...

I'll start with one from the Stanford Supplement, with a topic I find the most irksome of them all:

Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development. (max 250 words)
(I can't help but write this essay boringly... any idea how to spice this one up?)

Watching Great Barrier Reef documentaries as a 6 year old; Snorkling with my dad at 10; And swimming with dolphins in the Eilat Bay had already made me intrigued by the ocean & sea life. At the age of 18 I even went as far as joing the Israeli Navy. However, I never imagined myself making a career in marine sciences, until I participated in a scuba diving course rewarded to me for being the division's Outstanding Soldier.

[...]
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Oct 11, 2014   #2
At the age of 18 I even went as far as joing the Israeli Navy

I participated in a scuba diving course rewarded to me for being the division's Outstanding Soldier.

- Oriyan, you wanted something interesting to open you essay with? Here is your answer. Talk about how you ended up in the navy and the learning experience you had there. That shows intellectual vitality since the navy teaches you things that you would not learn in an ordinary school or college.

Diving in open waters for the first time, I was immediately struck by the overwhelming silence of the underwater environment, and the somewhat alien feeling of hovering underwater, the water's weight pressing on my eardrumps. My curiosity was stimulated by swimming amidst gigantic schools of fish, and having one thrilling encounter with a trigon and a sea turtle. I vowed to learn everything I could about the local marine organisms. My scuba instructor gave me a species identification guide to Israeli marine life, but it could not answer some questions that kept lingering in my mind: Why here, of all places? Where did they come from? How do they survive? That was barely enough to satisfy my growing fascination.

- This is the main body of your essay. After posing the questions, explain how you pursued the answers to these as an autodidact. An autodidact is impressive in the sense that he is self taught, which is exactly what defines an intellectually active person. Thus you will be able to answer the prompt in a manner that adheres to the prompt. Try to write a draft and post it here. We will help you fix it up :-)
OP oriyanh 2 / 11 1  
Oct 12, 2014   #3
Thank you, those are great pointers. I started writing a draft and should be able to finish it by tomorrow. I will post it here once I finish.
OP oriyanh 2 / 11 1  
Oct 13, 2014   #4
I made a *very* rough draft, trying to stick with the guidelines you gave me.. it's super long now (405 words) , but that's a barrier I can overcome. I just hope the essay is more coherent now and flows better:

As I spat in my diving mask, rubbing it with my fingers to prevent it from fogging, I felt excitement at what was about to transpire. "On the count of 3, empty your stabilizers and sink!" Repeated the diving instructor. Trying not to shake from the freezing cold, I waited for the countdown, and when it finally came I emptied my BCD and immersed myself, forgetting all about the cold.

[...]
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Oct 14, 2014   #5
This is an excellent addition to the essay! It is exactly what we need to interest the reader with the story hook. Merge this with the other parts and then post it here as soon as you can so that we can have a go at cutting it down word-wise and improving upon it content-wise.

I decided to find out more by myself.

- How did you do this?

I think that once we see the combined essays, we will be able to cut down the word count and also edit the essay into a manner that will make it respond directly to the prompt without any additional editing. Well, maybe a few corrections here and there, but nothing major. How soon can you post the new version of the essay?
OP oriyanh 2 / 11 1  
Oct 14, 2014   #6
It's good to know I'm finally on track :) I've been struggling with this essay most of all, other than the Roommate Essay (I'll get to it eventually, hopefully before Early Action deadlines..). I'm very grateful for your help :)

I'm not sure I understood exactly what you meant by merging it with the other parts/combined essays.. are you referring to the other essays on the Stanford supplement, or other versions of this essay specifically?

Time-wise, I can post it here by tomorrow evening (U.S. morning I believe)
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Oct 14, 2014   #7
Oriyan, I mean the other versions of this essay specifically. Sometimes, writing an essay takes a strange turn. You end up with numerous versions of the same paper and with each version, there is one body of words that completely stands out. When you take all of these essay highlight paragraphs and combine them into one new essay you end up with an almost perfect essay in your mind. Sure it will require some sentence revision and possibly the addition of some transitional sentences, but you will see that it will pay off in the long run by creating an essay that you will be ready to submit for consideration to the admissions officer. My role here, is to help make sure you achieve that level :-)
OP oriyanh 2 / 11 1  
Oct 15, 2014   #8
Okay Louisa, understood :)
I gathered what I could from earlier versions (though it wasn't much because they were all pretty bad) and constructed what I believe to be a much improved essay... I also cut down some 100 words from the earlier draft, though I'm still at 311 words, so some serious evisceration needs to be done... hahaha

Here it is:
As I spat in my diving mask to prevent it from fogging, I shook both from the freezing waters and from excitement at what was about to transpire - my first dive! "Start emptying your stabilizers!" shouted our diving instructor. I emptied my BCD, felt the water enveloping my head, and started sinking. Soon enough my shaking had been replaced by something else..

[...]
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Oct 16, 2014   #9
Oriyanh, we need a transition sentence to connect diving with your love for learning about marine life. We need to show that diving is still very much a part of your life as a future marine biologist. Right now, the essay disconnects from the point where you were awarded outstanding solider and the questions you began asking yourself during your free dive lesson. I suggest that you develop a paragraph that will show how after your diving lessons, you studied books on marine biology and then found yourself wanting to get back into the water for a dive as soon as possible so that you could try out the new information that you discovered about marine life. This can then be connected in a paragraph that showcases how diving helped to build your academic interest in a vibrant kind of way. Write something up and I will look it over. If it needs work, I'll make suggestions :-)
OP oriyanh 2 / 11 1  
Oct 16, 2014   #10
As I spat in my diving mask to prevent it from fogging, I shook both from the freezing waters and from excitement at what was about to transpire. "Start emptying your stabilizers!" shouted our diving instructor. Emptying my BCD, I felt the water enveloping my head, and started sinking. Soon enough my shaking had been replaced by something entirely different...

When I turned 18, I enlisted in the Israeli Navy. Having watched coral reef documentaries and snorkling in the Red Sea at early ages, I was always fascinated by the ocean, hence joining the Navy seemed logical. There, however, I lamented that my duties brought me so close to the water's surface yet never able to explore beneath it. In my third year of service, I was honored as the division's Oustanding Soldier and awarded a free scuba diving course, making me eager to take advantage of this chance I was given.

On that first dive, as I was immersing myself in the water, I was taken over by a sense of wonder; I began asking myself "Why is that school of fish circling a turtle? Why is that trigon buried in sand?", yet I lacked the knowledge neccesary to answer these questions. Deciding to find out more, I purchased McGraw Hill's Marine Biology - the book laid a whole new world before me and had me anxious to go back in the water and start making discoveries.

Since then many moons have passed; I learned all about therhmohaline circulation, about cnidarians and radial symmetry, and much more, yet I'm still unable to satisfy my hunger for answers. Grateful for the opportunity given to me by the Navy, I'm happy to have discovered both marine biology and scuba diving, for taking that first step on my way to become a marine scientist.


302 words. It's very different from what I originally wrote, practically changed every word, but thanks to you it's much, much better.
I think the transition between the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs is more natural now, but it's still not perfect. What do you think?
The fourth paragraph is much better now.
I fixed up some minor grammar issues in the rest of essay, nothing major.
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Oct 16, 2014   #11
Oriyanh, this is like a totally new paper :-) Congratulations on being able to transition the second and third paragraphs so effortlessly. It seems like you only needed a push in the right direction. How many words over are you at the moment with this essay? I would like you to try and edit the words count on your own so that the clarity and transition within the sentences will not be affected. Only you can properly tell if you have removed or revised the right parts of the essay without affecting the overall impact of the essay. Let me know if you need my help or if you want me to suggest edits. I will offer them to you. Otherwise, I feel that you can do that part of the editing all by yourself :-)

The work that you did on this essay is quite remarkable. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done :-)
OP oriyanh 2 / 11 1  
Oct 16, 2014   #12
Haha, thanks :)
I'll try and reduce the word count then (I have to get it under 250).
I'm concerned about the excessive amount of run-on sentences - do you think it's very noticeable, and if so do you have an idea how to minimize them? Or do you think it's a non-issue and the essay is good as it is?

Other than that, I think I'm perfectly fine - thank you so much for your help!
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Oct 16, 2014   #13
Oriyanh, this is not an academic essay in an English class, nor is it an essay in creative writing class. This is an application essay to a university where the focus of the essay is on your ability to express yourself properly. Regardless of the run-on sentences. It is negligible because it does not affect the overall impact of the essay. In my opinion, the most important aspect of the application essay is not the sentence structure in terms of sentence development, but rather the content of the sentence. Does it make sense? Does it help the essay answer the question being asked? Am I able to gather more information from the student in the current state of his essay? If the answer to those questions turns out to be yes, then the run-on sentences do not matter. Don't get me wrong, I am not dissuading you from correcting these errors if you want to. I am just giving you my opinion since you asked for it :-) You have to decide if you can let those run-ons go or if you feel a need to revise them. Your choice :-)
OP oriyanh 2 / 11 1  
Oct 16, 2014   #14
Thank you so much for everything! You really helped me raise the level of my essay, could not have done so without your help.
I'll polish it up and submit it :)


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