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Tell us about when you tried something for which you had no talent. How'd it go?

Nov 7, 2009   #1
This is an essay topic for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

The subject line cut me off so this is the actual prompt:
*We tend to spend our time doing the things we know we do well--running because we're good runners or painting because we're talented artists. Tell us about a time when you tried something for which you had no talent. How did it go?*

It'd be great to get any feedback..positive or negative. For example: is it too dry, corny, etc?

82°F, 200 test tubes, 2 specimens, 4 trials, 1 protocol, 2 days later-failed.
80°F, 10 bacterial clones, 2 strains, 2 trials, 1 protocol, 1 day later-failed.
83°F, 30 test samples, 2 centrifuges, 1 DNA sample, 3 days later- failed.

When it seems like everything you do ends in defeat, is it worth it to carry on?

After my first week of internship, the outcomes of my efforts were not promising. I couldn't help but think: I have no talent, no experience, no intelligence, and no hope.

And yet, 2 weeks later, I was still sweating in an 80 degree lab on a hot summer's day, wondering if I was ever going to retain any information that I had just learned. While watching the researchers of this biotechnology lab toil day in and day out and struggling continuously myself, I started to wonder about what failure really means.

As the scientists attempted to find answers to their research, I fought just to stay afloat in a sea of new information. The first day of work was overwhelming. While it was unrealistic to expect any involvement in experiments, I was assigned the most basic yet seemingly pointless tasks imaginable. As a graduate student loaded gel electrophoresis trays next to me, I concentrated on simply opening a test tube with two fingers. But I severely underestimated the skills required for this task; my clumsy hands were working against me. Worse than these blunders was the incredible feeling of incompetency. My face burned with shame as my answer to every scientific question the researchers asked me was "I don't know". By the end of the first week, the feeling of failure had overpowered and exhausted me to tears. I started thinking about quitting.

But, I couldn't possibly quit the work that I had just barely started learning. Watching scientists labor over their research, I wondered more than once why they were still coming to work everyday after 12 years. If they still faced constant defeat after 12 years, how could I quit after only the first week?

If Edison had given up after the tenth failed light bulb, we might still be sitting in the dark. If the researchers in this biotechnology lab had given up after the first year of failed results, they would not recognize the effects of using a virus as a vaccine against HIV. If I had given up after the fist week, I would not know how to analyze bacterial cultures, load gel samples, or isolate plasmid DNA. Moreover, I would not truly understand the power of persistence.

It is the people who have the most determination, the most drive, and the most passion that continue in the face of defeat. As an intern, I saw that failure after failure, scientists who continuously pursue their goals view defeat differently. They view it as one step closer to succeeding.

Teenagers in particular are afraid of defeat. Because of this, we mindlessly follow others, knowing it is the safest path. But the experiences that truly count are those that affect the individual. If I never personally experienced the feeling of constant failure first, I would not have the opportunity to see what success is. No matter what we do, we cannot be afraid to fail-or we will always be standing in the same spot.

My choice in career has always been in the scientific field. Science is trial and error. It takes more than talent to succeed; it also takes perseverance. As my internship and past experiences have taught me, this path-as with any other challenge-takes an inexhaustible supply of devotion and passion.

So, the next time I enter a challenging situation, I will voluntarily admit: I am here to fail. I am here to try and fail all over again-until I succeed.

something you have no talent in is not always something you can't make it at once.
i question that Edison had no talent in inventing... :-)
i guess you need focus on "what you think/do/feel when you have no talent on lab work" , I just feel we can talk about what exactly do "no talent" mean.

anyway the first 4 paragraph is impressive...
The prompt excludes the experience you wrote about, unless you want the people who end up reading this to think you have no talent for science. Just in reading the prompt, the safe bet would be to describe an art you had/have no ability for. The cues to this end (if instincts aren't enough) are the examples they provide: "running" and "painting."

It sounds like you have uncanny experiential insights and a formidable style, therefore you should be able to integrate the same concepts with another experience, devoid of trouble.

If you have the time, prune back some of the nauseous mantric variations.
Generally, I like your essay. It reflects a type of maturity lacking on college campuses these days. Mustafa has a point. It is a bit verbose, and the reader is easily led to believe you are a student pursuing a discipline in which you are not naturally capable. While changing the topic is one possible solution, staying on topic may be a more convenient alternative. Your essay is hurting you because of a lack of focus....The "untalented experience" which you are attempting to describe should be "the ability to deal with failure", rather than a complete ignorance within the laboratory environment. When you constantly answer "I don't know", one might infer that you not only are struggling with the practical application, but the underlying theory of your work/studies as well. This might not bode well in the eyes of the admissions committee. Why would someone be so determined to pursue something he is not good at on all spectrums? It would be like me trying to go out for the football team or something...sorry....On the other hand, they could be understanding and see that this is a common occurrence when learning something for the first time, but either way, your message is ambiguous. How scientists and/or great intellectuals deal with failure, the way they use it to fuel themselves towards eventual success is a really good lesson that can only be taught through experience, so you are definitely on the right track to making a good impression. Also, you might want to think about how the drive amidst constant failure could actually be disastrous, take Georg Cantor and his attempts to prove the Continuum Hypothesis....not pretty.... and... what about when one comes so very very close to success, but fails nevertheless...failure can be so disheartening that one might have look to external as well as internal resources to press on...just some thoughts....Hope this helps and best of luck to you!
Nov 11, 2009   #5
thanks guys for taking the time to read my essay...
I already submitted it to two schools so its too late for those but I will definitely consider and add your advice for my next school applications.

Your responses have given me another perspective which is exactly what I need. I'm a little worried that the essay may come across as a little dry or generic in the subject of "overcoming failures to get to success"...

Anyways, I'm going to look it over because I feel like it does lack a bit of focus like you guys said...

Thanks again!

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