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'like a zombie' - Standord intellectual engaging supplement essay


eternal flame 6 / 18  
Aug 24, 2009   #1
Question: Stanford students are widely known to possess a sense of intellectual vitality. Tell us about an idea or an experience you have had that you find intellectually engaging.

I was tired and feeling hopeless. Twenty hours awake and still counting. I scratched my head in frustration. A couple of angry stares into the blank sheet of paper and I knew I would need my (n+1)th cup of coffee.

My eyes finally gave in under their own weight. Closing them while desperately thinking about the questions, I mechanically headed to my secret treasure chest, like a zombie. The door swung open. A jar with Trung Nguyen authentic ground coffee. A package of local instant Kopi-O. A McLatte coupon. I stood in silence.

"My upbringing is always deeply rooted in my land, in the red soil once studded with bomb craters and stained with heroic blood. Time passes, vengeance faded into the mist, and hard work against all odds crystallizes into the finest seeds of land. Drip by drip. A powerful elixir that only the brave and patient one dares to endeavor"

"Meh, your sentiment and toughness will bring you nowhere", said Kopi. "Get instant and efficient. Carpe Diem. Build your success from nothing but meritocracy."

"Sir, I admire your competitiveness. However, it would leave me lacking of compassion. I would prefer remaining honest and true to myself"

"Come to my place and I will teach you about life". The brochure calmly said.

"WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?" screams resonated across the room.

Just a dream. I must have dozed off while waiting for my McLatte.

Who am I? Am I a Vietnamese? Am I a Singaporean? Cannot be, lah! A prospective American college student, perhaps? Sipping the specially brewed coffee while strolling in the garden, I recalled how the weird dream had reflected my Vietnamese childhood, my education in Singapore and my aspiration to study in America. Fresh air after a November rain. A Mass Rapid Transit Train. A Golden Arch. Getting a cup of coffee has never failed to delight me.

Geez, but not more than writing this college essay.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Aug 24, 2009   #2
I knew I would need my (n+1)th cup of coffee.

Assuming you'd been studying for a math test, this is funny. Good job.

That said, write a new essay. This one doesn't work at all with prompt. Falling asleep while studying doesn't show your intellectual vitality, nor is it an experience that stimulated you intellectually. Actually, it is the opposite of all of this. It shows that you don't plan your study time well, leave it until the last minute to cram for your tests, and find academics boring enough that you fall asleep over your textbooks. If I were an admissions officer, after reading this essay, I not only wouldn't consider you a good applicant, I would actively think of you as a bad one. Start over.
Liebe 1 / 542 2  
Aug 24, 2009   #3
Falling asleep while studying doesn't show your intellectual vitality, nor is it an experience that stimulated you intellectually. Actually, it is the opposite of all of this.

^Spot on.

Even worse, there is no discussion as to what the intellectual idea or experience is/was? There is nothing mentioned, on anything that you found intellectually engaging.
OP eternal flame 6 / 18  
Aug 24, 2009   #4
Hi, I think you misunderstood my idea. My "intellectual activity" is actually writing college application essay about myself. What should I change in order to make it clearer in the essay?
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Aug 24, 2009   #5
Oh, I disagree with Sean and Liebe. Your intellectual vitality is shown by the imagery and the intellect with which you write. Nonetheless, it will be necessary to go further. Omit the line, "Geez, but not more than writing this college essay," which is an utterly weak way to follow such a strong narrative. Now what? You found your reflections on the dream to be intellectually engaging? Those reflections show an acute interest in the question of how different cultures intersect in you, not to mention a strong creative streak. So, you could say something about how even an event as trivial as falling asleep while studying provokes you to reflect on complex issues such as cultural intermixing and then go on to say that you will bring the same spirit of creative inquiry to your studies at the school to which you are applying.
Liebe 1 / 542 2  
Aug 25, 2009   #6
Your intellectual vitality is shown by the imagery and the intellect with which you write

^This is neither an idea, nor an experience, that the writer has found intellectually engaging.

So, you could say something about how even an event as trivial as falling asleep while studying provokes you to reflect on complex issues such as cultural intermixing and then go on to say that you will bring the same spirit of creative inquiry to your studies at the school to which you are applying.

^Whilst your points are lovely Simone, I do not think this was the writer's intentions. Afterall,

. My "intellectual activity" is actually writing college application essay about myself
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Aug 25, 2009   #7
EF_Simone:
Your intellectual vitality is shown by the imagery and the intellect with which you write

^This is neither an idea, nor an experience, that the writer has found intellectually engaging.

Liebe, the writer engaged in lively meditation following the relatively mundane experience of falling asleep while studying. This is an example par excellence of intellectual vitality. People with true intellectual vitality don't need especially stimulating experiences or prompts to exercise their minds. This story shows that the writer is one of those people. I think that, if s/he makes the changes I recommended, college admissions officers will see that.
Liebe 1 / 542 2  
Aug 25, 2009   #8
People with true intellectual vitality don't need especially stimulating experiences or prompts to exercise their minds.

^That is true.

Question: Stanford students are widely known to possess a sense of intellectual vitality. Tell us about an idea or an experience you have had that you find intellectually engaging.

^The essay question however, does ask for an idea or experience that has been intellectually engaging. The writer, has not addressed this aspect of the essay prompt. Yes, you can argue that the writer here has demonstrated intellectual vitality, however in no way, from what I can interpret, is Stanford asking for an example of intellectual vitality. I understand, that Stanford wants to read about an idea or experience. As I have said before, the writer has not done this. At all.

I think that, if s/he makes the changes I recommended, college admissions officers will see that.

^Well they may. I also thought your recommendations were wonderful, however, they do not apply to the writer because he is writing from a different angle. He wants to say, that writing a Stanford essay, has been his intellectually engaging experience. My previous sentence is a fact, and I can prove it:

Hi, I think you misunderstood my idea. My "intellectual activity" is actually writing college application essay about myself. What should I change in order to make it clearer in the essay?
OP eternal flame 6 / 18  
Aug 25, 2009   #9
Hi all. Thanks your your invaluable feedbacks and helps. I really appreciate them. I've decided to use this essay for Common App (of course with a few twists and changes!). I think this essay has potential to bring myself to the admission officer, and is really hard and not worth it to confine it within the 250-words limit. Regarding Stanford essay, I've prepared another one and will post here soon. Thanks alll
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Aug 25, 2009   #10
I'd avoid the current essay for any application, if I were you, unless you have made serious changes to it. After reading Simone's comments, and rereading the essay, I can see why it might appeal to some people. However, 2/3 of the people who read it and who have commented here so far have reacted extremely negatively on their first reading (which is all any application essay is ever likely to get from the admissions officers). You tried something a bit different, and I suppose you deserve a certain amount of credit for the effort, but you need your application essay to appeal to a very wide audience, for obvious reasons, and this clearly does not do that.
Notoman 20 / 419  
Aug 26, 2009   #11
I have mixed feelings on this essay. It is very imaginative and well written, but it doesn't address the prompt. Be out of the box, but at least acknowledge that there is a box.

I found this essay to be unsettling. It comes across more like a drug-induced hallucination or a schizophrenic episode than a dream. The surreal nature of the dream is easily attributable to the sleep-deprived status of the writer, but it still has an illicit edge or the feeling that something isn't quite right in the mind. Maybe that is because my dreams are too staid to include animated battles between methods of caffeine intake. I would think that it would fare well in a creative writing class, but it risks falling flat as an application essay.

I did notice some sloppiness in the grammar ... punctuation hanging out outside of the parenthesis, missing periods, and commas where none are needed.

Build your success from nothing but meritocracy

I am confused by this line. Did you mean meritocracy--leadership and advancement based on one's merit--or mediocrity?
OP eternal flame 6 / 18  
Aug 26, 2009   #12
Please pardon my poor English grammar. English is not my first language, and I'm so used to the colloquial English in Singapore. I'm trying to correct it before it becomes too late.

Yes, "meritocracy" is exactly what you said, and is indeed the corner stone of Singapore's success. Your promotion is determined by how much your contribution is. Advancement based on seniority virtually does not exist here.

************************************************************ *
Here is another essay that I hope it will answer the prompt. Comments are welcome and appreciated.

During my high school years, I am always identified as the Physics Geek. However, it means so much to me than just being called a geek. Manipulating the force that governs the universe using only a pencil becomes a part of my life. Anyone who calls me a Shortie will face the risk of being turned into a dwarf. I can make him traveling at 0.886 speed of light to shorten his height by half. Harry Potter's magic can only be this powerful.

But wielding such immense power during the National Physics Olympiad is not always cool. Especially when you have to spend the remaining half of your time just to solve one last problem. No matter how many tricks I use, the funny expression sinh{0.5}=0.521095 keeps annoying me. Nothing is uglier than irrational numbers for a rational person like me.

I scratch my head in frustration.
I lock a few people in my Minkowsky space.
I multiply them by i.
I look through my 3 pages of integration again and again. Is there anything wrong with my hyperbolic space? Do I forget to take square root of something? 5 minutes before time ends, I suddenly realize the gist of the problem lies within the use of trigonometric function, not a hyperbolic one.

Sin(0.5)=1. Neat!

At times like this, I feel a burst of elation and almost scream out loud. I've finally met a worthy opponent who knows my weakness as a seasoned Olympian. His question almost entices me into the trap of overcomplicating the problem. Surprisingly, my final answer was among the very first that I thought of but immediately dismissed. I thought it was too simple to be true. This experience taught me not to overlook the possibility of a simple solution and delude myself into misery. Every equation, every number must be as elegant and simple as Physics itself. Simple, but not simpler. So is life.

Simplicity. Is. Beauty.
Llamapoop123 7 / 442  
Aug 26, 2009   #13
I personally like this essay very much. It is lively, different, and it also answers the prompt well.

However I feel that your first paragraph is a little confusing and...slightly overdoing it. I am a little skeptical of the parallel you try to draw between overcomplecating math and overcomplicating life. That is what your trying to do right? Otherwise this experience has only taught you to look at the whole picture in math.
OP eternal flame 6 / 18  
Aug 26, 2009   #14
So should I modify the last paragraph so as to make the parallel more apparent, or just leave it out?

And please help me check for any sloppiness in grammar, expression, etc.


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