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Bowdoin: Comment on intellectual engagement, connection to place, or the common good


nicolew 6 / 10  
Aug 2, 2011   #1
I wrote about intellectual engagement. This is a first draft, so give me comments/feedback please!

By November of sophomore Biology, I couldn't open my mouth to ask a question without some sort of groan coming from a few members of my class. I wasn't asking questions because I didn't understand the material; I wanted to know more than what the teacher was telling us. That kind of curiosity was supposed to be a good thing, something to be valued-not something that my peers wanted to suppress.

It's a struggle to remain intellectually engaged when that intellectual engagement is sometimes ridiculed or laughed at. It's not that the other members of my class didn't want to learn or didn't care; they just didn't want to learn more than they had to for a test, and in their eyes, I was creating more work for them. I, on the other hand, wasn't thinking about the test. I wanted to know, just for the sake of knowing.

It would be easy for me to bottle up my curiosity and slide by learning only what I needed to pass the class. It would have spared me the irritated looks and the teasing. I'll admit, I tried it a couple of times. However, the slight relief that came on the part of my peers was far outweighed by the tedium I felt myself sinking into each class period. To me, true intellectual engagement comes at a time when there's resistance to it; pushing back against resistance leads to a more powerful result when you finally do break through.
vanessa000 4 / 9  
Aug 2, 2011   #2
I'll admit, I tried it a couple of times- you need to put a connection word between these two sentences. Otherwise, it is pretty well-written.

I agree with you that most students don't want to learn more than they had to for a test, and I am one of them. But I am not proud of it.
EricJ - / 48  
Aug 2, 2011   #3
Nicole,

I agree that your essay is well written, but I don't think it will help get you admitted. It could even hurt your chances.

I'm not sure that it's a flattering picture.

You may think that college admissions folks are intellectuals and that they will appreciate your zest for learning more than is required. I think the story could cause them to reach a different conclusion about you.

It could be read as an example of your willingness to indulge your intellectual curiosity at the expense of 25 other members of a captive audience. It could make them think that you're a pain in the ass.

If I were choosing people to make part of a class, I would want some intellectually curious people, but I would be more inclined to admit the person who was stimulated by the lecture to search out answers for himself or herself than the one who habitually disregarded the preferences of the other people in the room by deepening the discussion.

What does it mean to be intellectually engaged? Does it really mean that you ask questions that only you want to know the answers to during a class with a few dozen other people?

In addition, to asking how intellectually curious applicants are, admissions officers want to know how well they play with others and how well they fit into the campus. As is, your essay isn't helping you on those issues.

You can make the same point about being intellectually engaged without disparaging your classmates by giving some specific illustrations of concepts in biology that stimulated your thinking and how you did your own investigation to get the answers. Then you have showed me that you are a self starter and responsible for your own education. That's a positive picture that makes me think you would be a good fit for the school.

Just my two cents.

Education is not filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. -- William Butler Yeats, poet and pyromaniac

Good luck.


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