<p>I'm applying to University of California (Los Angeles and Santa Cruz), and I was wondering if anyone would mind reviewing my supplemental essays</p>
<p>Any and all feedback is appreciated, although I'd especially appreciate any advice on how to shorten these (word limit is 1000 combined, right now they're at 1200)</p>
<p>Essay 1: "Describe the world you come from for example, your family, community or school and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations."</p>
<p>For most of my life, I've had pretty specific ideas about my future. The navigational chart of my life was plotted well before I entered high school, and despite some minor course adjustments during my journey, my heading has always been clear: For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to one day pursue a career in marine science. Coming from a guy living in the Midwestern United States, about as far away from any ocean as you can get on this continent, this goal may seem unlikely. People's interests and choices are undoubtedly influenced by where they're from, but I know from experience that location is only a part of the equation. My interest in oceanography, rather than being a product of my surroundings, has been shaped instead by the "world" of experiences, knowledge and opportunities that I have been fortunate to acquire throughout my life.
My defining interest in science, marine or otherwise, is definitely a product of my early exposure to scientific ideas. My home environment has always been inundated with literature on science and the natural world: periodicals like Science, Discovery, Sky & Telescope, or Scientific American cover our tabletops, and the shelves in the hall outside my room hold books on topics ranging from marine biology to quantum mechanics. I have always been an avid reader, and I spent a lot of my free time when I was younger educating myself outside of class. Among the various subjects that drew my attention, the one that interested me the most was oceanography. I found myself fascinated by the spectrum of strange, beautiful and dangerous species of marine life found everywhere from vibrant coral reefs to the cold, dark reaches of the abyss. I was also inspired by the records of expeditions to the least-explored regions of the ocean. As a senior in high school, I still feel this same wonder and enthusiasm for marine science, and I aspire to someday study the world's oceans first-hand.
My dream of studying the world's oceans could have fallen by the wayside in the last decade or so, as many childhood dreams do. However, throughout my school years, the "world" of my family and school provided me with opportunities that helped to make my plans for the future more definite. My father has supported my interest in marine science by letting me experience first-hand some of the work involved with oceanographic studies. Every summer since middle school, I have spent about a month involved with various oceanographic programs, which have given me experience in field work and expanded my knowledge of marine life and ocean phenomena. My school has also provided similar opportunities through two marine biology trips to the southern Baja region in Mexico. I could write an entire essay describing the things I learned and did during any one of these experiences - about my time working aboard a research vessel, or studying the ecosystem of a coral reef, or SCUBA diving at a sea lion colony in Mexico - but in the end the most important thing I took away from them was a greater certainty that oceanographic work is a career that suits my interests and abilities.
I accept that going to college will probably change me in ways I can't accurately predict. The opportunities and experiences that will unfold will undoubtedly have an effect on the knowledge and worldview that I bring with me. However, I can say that regardless of whether my college experience takes me further along the course I have chosen or inspires me to change my heading completely, the things that my world has given to me -- a sense of wonder and curiosity, experience in field work, and a love of science and the natural world -- will shape me for the rest of my life.</p>
<p>Essay 2: "Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?"</p>
<p>When asked about his way of thinking about the world, Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." While this statement has since become an often-quoted phrase, the simple idea presented in Einstein's comment is one that I identify with very strongly: without imagination, the sum of one's knowledge becomes static, and one becomes incapable of creating or picturing anything beyond what is already known. For this reason, my own abilities of imagination and creativity are qualities of which I'm quite proud, and which are essential to me as a scientific thinker, an artist, and a person.
When I was younger, I spent much time reading and learning about oceanography, astronomy and biology (fields that I am still enthusiastic about today), and the information I accumulated on these topics led some of my peers to nickname me a "walking textbook." It was all in good humor, but nonetheless I never really liked the tag because it ignored a far more defining part of my personality. I may be knowledgeable about multiple areas of science, but it is imagination that allows me to synthesize that knowledge into theories and original ideas. Without it, I wouldn't be able to draw upon what I know about astronomy and biology, then look up at the night sky and imagine how the story of life could be playing out on other worlds. On a more practical level, I wouldn't be capable of the innovative thought needed to solve problems -- for example, those encountered in designing an underwater robot for my school's ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) Club.
In addition to allowing me to use my knowledge in creative ways, my imagination often leads me to express my ideas through artwork. I spend much of my free time drawing and sketching, and I like to have a pencil and paper on hand both at home and at school. Although I occasionally sketch from life, for the most part I find it more interesting to illustrate things that exist only in my mind: my sketch pads are filled with renderings of futuristic machine designs, spacecraft and extraterrestrial life. While these may be fanciful subjects, to me being able to visualize possibilities like these is an extension of being able to understand real scientific ideas. With inspiration and an understanding of how natural laws inform the way things look and work, one can conjure up something original, thought-provoking and beautiful. My ability to put my ideas into visual form is a skill that I treasure, and even though my intended career path is scientific rather than artistic, I fully intend to continue practicing artwork for the rest of my life.<br>
Recently, a report came out from the CERN particle-physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, that Einstein's theories regarding the speed of light -- the universal "speed limit" -- may have been proven incorrect. If Einstein were alive today, I think that he of all people would be the most excited by this revelation; while he possessed an understanding of the workings of the universe that was perhaps more complete than any other scientist of his time (or of any time), he also had an appreciation for what remains to be discovered and understood, and most of all for humanity's ability to envision the unknown through imagination. This is an appreciation I share, and which I feel is central to me both academically and individually.</p>