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Intellectual Vitality: My mother, grandmother, and great grandmother were raised surrounded by nuns


halokenisis 3 / 11 4  
Dec 29, 2015   #1
Hi here! Any help is appreciated :)

Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development. (250 word limit)

Roman Catholicism has been practiced in my family for generations. In Vietnam, my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother were raised surrounded by nuns. When I was five years old I could barely speak English but had already memorized the Beatitudes, the Seven Sacraments, and the Rosary. Throughout childhood every Sunday was spent in mass and every Saturday was spent confessing sins. What can I say? I was born and bred a Catholic. My sheltered religious life came crashing in the seventh grade, when I first learned about various world religions. Learning that Catholicism was only one among millions resulted into utter cognitive dissonance. The easy confidence I possessed scrutinizing other beliefs as follies led me to suspect mine too had holes. Until then, I hadn't questioned what I was raised to believe in. Maybe because, according to Piaget's Theory of Development, abstract cognitive thought doesn't occur until age 12. For the next month, I spent hours discussing with my history teacher about the incompatibility of an omniscient God with libertarian free will, the spreading of Christianity through colonialism, and even obscurities such as Cheondoism. I spent nights hunched over my laptop, watching more Christopher Hitchens lectures than an ordinary twelve year old would have, and came back every day with another question. Although my abstract questions may never have absolute truths, this experience taught me to embrace ideas that may contradict mine, to approach everything with healthy skepticism, and to play my own devil's advocate.

vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Dec 29, 2015   #2
Tonya, this is one engaging and interesting vitality essay. It had all the elements of a unique essay that would lead the reviewer to come to understand more about your background, your outlook on life, and the way that you deal with people of varying beliefs from yours. You did some pretty impressive work on this essay. However, since you mentioned your mother, grandmother, and great grandmother at the start of the essay, I was wondering why no reference was made to them in the concluding part?

You must admit that the essay kind of left the reviewer with one thought as he came to the end of your essay. The question of, "So how did those relatives take to your suddenly being open minded and questioning religion all of a sudden? How did you and they deal with the sudden change in your point of view regarding religion?" I think that would have made a far more interesting discussion than just telling the reviewer what it was that you did over the next month in relation to your newfound interest in the religious debate. Maybe you can delete some parts of the original essay in order to make room for that information? It will really help to add vitality to your essay if you can manage to bring the story full circle for the reviewer.
OP halokenisis 3 / 11 4  
Dec 30, 2015   #3
I've added more to it and am even considering it for another prompt "tell us about an intellectual experience." I hope any one can give me advice about how to make my essay flow better, if it is memorable, how I can rephrase certain sentences, and if the conclusion seems complete enough or if I need to elaborate/if I can make it stronger. Thanks so much! :)

... When I was five years old I could barely speak English but had already mastered the Beatitudes, the Seven Sacraments, and the Rosary. ...

My sheltered religious bubble eventually bursted, in the seventh grade, when I first learned about various world religions in World History. Recognizing that Catholicism was merely one among millions resulted into utter cognitive dissonance. ...

[...]

I found interest in different faiths, philosophy, and the argument of agnosticism. I rejected the concept of objective morality deriving from a God or the possibility that good, yet faithless people are damned to the fiery pits of Hell. It just didn't make sense. As I continued learning about the beauty of other cultures, faiths, and ideas, I couldn't justify how mine was somehow truer or objectively better than others'. I had evolved into some weird, pre-teen sponge, desperate to soak up everything I learned and perhaps asking one too many questions. This curiosity seemed to be what the nuns at my Sunday school perceived as a pesky rebellion. And it truly was, a rebellion of the certainty I had before -- a wake up call in the sleep of my growing mind.

Both of my older siblings had received ...
OP halokenisis 3 / 11 4  
Dec 30, 2015   #4
I've reworded the ending a bit.

Both of my older siblings had received the sacrament of Confirmation and I was next in line. However, my growing existential angst prompted me to question the merit of my own beliefs and eventually muster up the courage to confront my predecessors, or at least beg my mom to let me abstain from Confirmation. She didn't take it too well. It took weeks of long dinner table debates for my mom and grandmother to finally accept my decision. And despite their disapproval, still to this day, I remain an outlier within my extremely Catholic family. Despite my cognitive chaos, this experience helped me to seriously think about what I've been raised to believe in, to rediscover a world of fascinating and intriguing realities, and to think with a reasoned lense, rather than blind certainty.

Although my existential musings and questions probably won't end, what's important is that I embrace ideas that may contradict mine and approach different modes of thought with healthy skepticism. I strive to live and learn consciously, self-aware about how I choose to construct meaning from every experience.
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Dec 30, 2015   #5
Tonya, this version of your essay brings the discussion full circle. It is complete and allows you to present the reasons behind your actions in a more concrete form. By adding the explanation about how your family reacted to your actions, we now understand how you have become a unique person and that you will not just blindly conform to an idea, concept, or dictate that you are given. This is definitely an aspect of who you are that would not been discussed in the common app prompts even though it is an important part of who you are and how you became that way :-)

That said, we have to address some portions that I believe to be grammatically problematic either because of word usage or sentence structure issues. I'll list the corrected portions below:

Par. 1:
Throughout my childhood , every Sunday was spent in mass and every Saturday was spent confessing sins.

Par. 2:
My sheltered religious bubble eventually bursted
Recognizing that Catholicism was merely one among millions resulted into utter my cognitive dissonance.

Par. 3:
For Over the next months,
I came back every day with endless questions.
- Did your teacher help you find some sort of answers or closures to your questions? You should clarify that point in relation to your discussion.

Par. 4:
I found myself interested in different faiths...
I rejected the concept of objective morality derived from a God...
others'

Par.5 :
And it It truly was, a rebellion of the certainty I had before -- a wake up call in the sleeping state of my growing mind.

Par. 6:
And
Despite their disapproval, still to this day,
I remain an outsider within my extremely...
and to think with a reasoned sense

Par. 7:
OP halokenisis 3 / 11 4  
Dec 31, 2015   #6
Hi vangiespen. Thanks so much for your help, I'm pretty sure this is the second essay you've helped me with. I've made the grammatical changes but also added some of my personal voice to the essay and poke fun at myself -- I wanted it to be more lighthearted and am willing to be risky. Here's a new version with a little more, I guess, panache? I want to correct any more errors and hope it's not offensive - religion can be a touchy subject, I would know.

Roman Catholicism has been practiced in my family for generations. In Vietnam, my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother were raised surrounded by nuns. When I was five years old I could barely speak English but had already memorized the Beatitudes, the Seven Sacraments, and the Rosary. Throughout childhood, every Sunday was spent in mass and every Saturday was spent confessing sins. What can I say? I was born and bred a Catholic.

My sheltered religious bubble eventually burst, in the seventh grade, when I first learned about various world religions in History class. Recognizing that Catholicism was just one religion among millions resulted in cognitive dissonance. The easy confidence I possessed deeming other beliefs as follies led me to suspect mine too.

Over the next months, I came back every day with endless questions. I discussed with my history teacher after school, sometimes as late as 7 PM, about topics ranging from the incompatibility of an omniscient God with libertarian free will, to the spreading of Christianity through colonialism, and even to obscurities such as Cheondoism. I spent nights hunched over my laptop, reading Emile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religion and watching more Christopher Hitchens debates than an ordinary twelve year old would have.

I found myself interested in different faiths, philosophy, and the argument of agnosticism. I rejected the concept of objective morality deriving from a God or the assertion that good, yet faithless people were to be damned into the fiery pits of Hell. My close neighbors were Sikh. My school's Red Cross advisor, Heidi, practiced Islam. And, Dalai Lama? He's Buddhist! It just didn't make any sense. As I continued learning about the beauty of other cultures, faiths, and ideas, I couldn't justify how mine was somehow truer or objectively better than others'. I had evolved into some weird, pre-teen sponge, anxious about my existence, desperate to soak up everything I was learning, and perhaps asking one too many questions. The nuns at my Sunday school, Sister Faith and Sister Michelle, excused my budding curiosity as a pesky rebellion. My family, however, didn't regard it lightly.

Both of my older siblings had received the sacrament of Confirmation and I was next in line. However, my growing existential angst prompted me to question the merit of my own beliefs and eventually muster up the courage to confront my predecessors, or at the very least beg my mom to let me abstain from Confirmation. She didn't take it too well. It took weeks of long dinner table debates for my mom and grandmother to finally accept my decision. Despite their disapproval, to this day, I remain an outlier within my extremely Catholic family. In light of my cognitive chaos, this experience helped me to seriously reconsider what I've been raised to believe in, to rediscover a world of fascinating and intriguing realities, and to think with a reasoned sense.

Although my existential musings will probably never cease, what remains important is that I embrace ideas that may contradict mine and approach different modes of thought with healthy skepticism -- I strive to be self-aware about how I choose to construct meaning from every experience. While the verses of the Lord's Prayer may be slowly slipping from my mind, the way I think, learn, and live will never be the same.
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Dec 31, 2015   #7
Hi Tonya :-) Yup, this is the second essay that I have helped you with. I am always glad to work repeatedly with anybody here at the forum. Helping you with you and the others with essay development certainly keeps me on my toes and my mind sharp :-) So thanks for the opportunity to work with you again. Now, about the content of the essay...

You definitely made the essay more interesting to read by poking fun at yourself :-) One of the Stanford requirements is that you be able to show your character or sense of humor through your development of the intellectual vitality essay. While the ivy league university may have a very serious image, apparently, they prefer students who are more lighthearted and know when humor is necessary :-) So this new version of the essay will certainly have your reviewer laughing on the inside at the very least during certain points of your writing, just as I found myself doing.

If you feel that this is essay that you wish to go with your application packet, then by all means do so :-) I strongly suggest that you use this essay for your application because it is one that comes across with a unique topic and an interesting take on the development of a person's personality, logic, and point of view in life. In other words, this is definitely an essay that the reviewer may just remember in the long run :-)


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