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Tell us about an experience you’ve had outside of your formal classroom and extracurricular activities that was just plain fun.

After several months of fairly serious study, my love of Go brought me to the Philadelphia Baduk (Go) Club. Smoke filled the room so thickly I could barely see the no-smoking signs: two lines of Korean characters, followed by a picture of a man with a cigarette next to a bomb. Seven men sat in front of Go boards. The youngest by 20 years, I neither spoke the language nor could I provide any of the players any real challenge. One of the men saw me and said, “You want to play Baduk?” I played a stone, and we spoke the same language.

Forty-five minutes later, I am still kneeling before a wooden Go board. I draw a black stone from a wooden bowl. I hold it between my middle and forefingers. I place this slate circle on an intersection of two lines in a massive grid on the board. My opponent studies my move. He draws a white clamshell stone and plays it next to mine. His move appreciates the potency of mine and acquiesces to my purpose. However, it also presses back, defending itself while threatening to push further. I must accept the value of his move before I can respond.

If I react too passively, he will be free to press me harder. I will have no choice but to keep giving way and he will gain the upper hand. If I react too aggressively, I may become separated and fall under attack myself. Again, I will have lost the initiative. I must attack with enough severity to keep my opponent off balance, but while keeping a strong position. Only by striking a perfect balance will equilibrium be maintained.

In Go, you can never improve your position with a move. The best move will only maintain the current balance. With a slack move, you tip the scales in your opponent’s favor. Thus, it is folly to seek a “great” move; instead, one must seek the “right” move, or as near to it as one is able to find. To find it requires every aspect of one’s intelligence - both the abstract and spacial analysis of the right brain and the sharp logical reasoning of the left brain. Furthermore, it is said that there is no better way to learn about another’s personality than to play him in Go and observe when he attacks, when he defends, when he gives way, when he makes his stand, and how he responds to probing moves.

At a nearby restaurant later that night, I sat next to the strongest player at the club. When I began to eat my food, he shook his head and chuckled. Taking several large spoonfuls of hot sauce, he properly seasoned my dish and told me to dig in.

Phelan: Besides the minor typo I've corrected, and the last paragraph, which seems unfinished and unrelated to the top text, I liked it. I haven't had any contact with college admission forms like those, though. :p

nachtrabe: A few minor pieces of advice.

  • Try to use the word "I" less. 15 times in four paragraphs is excessive. Sentences such as "I played a stone, and we spoke the same language" can be rephrased as "The stone came down, and we spoke the same language." Yes, you are describing one of your own experiences, but still it is best to pair it down.
  • The third paragraph refers repeatedly to an anonymous "you." This should be abstracted into the third person, or personalized into the first person. For instance, "In Go, you can never improve your position with a move. " can be "In Go, a person can never improve his position with a [single] move." This is done in most sentences, but the "anonymous 2nd person" still creeps in there. In some sentences it can be removed entirely, e.g., " With a slack move, you tip the scales in your opponent’s favor." can be changed to " With a slack move, the scales tip in the opponent's favor."
  • The tense changes throughout the essay and the last paragraph seems out of place. If you want to finish it like that, then start in the baduk club and bring yourself back to it at the end, rather than describing go up front and then abruptly transitioning at the end. For instance, you could talk about the smokey room, the elder Koreans, give it a sense of mystery, and then talk about the game itself finally bringing yourself back to the the room of elder Korean baduk players.
  • Describe it as "baduk" all the way through rather than say the "Philadelphia Baduk (Go) Club" at the end. Nuances of what it is called in different languages break the flow to what should be continuous prose.

NickGeorge: Thanks. That's all very good advice. I'm thinking of starting with the last paragraph, and having my description be that game. Maybe better flow, less akward tenses.

NickGeorge/CollegeAdmissionsEssay last edited by NickGeorge on November 13, 2005 - 21:41
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