How to Write “Intellectual Vitality” Into an Essay

what is intellectual vitality?
High school students often have a lot of confusion as to what exactly “intellectual vitality” means when they are preparing to write their all-important college application essay. What on earth are they looking for, and how can you show you’ve got it?

Relax! Intellectual vitality is your curiosity about the world and your approach to discovering the answers to questions you have. It doesn’t mean having a genius IQ. As far as your selection board is concerned, it’s not so much a matter of what you’ve got, but how you use it! The key is to show them that you not only have a brain, but you also know how to utilizeĀ it. Here are some ways that indicate you have intellectual vitality:

New Ideas Fascinate You

  • When you come across an interesting new idea, you can’t leave it alone until you know absolutely EVERYTHING there is to know about it. Who dreamed up the idea? How, when, and why did they come up with it? How can it be used, and how well will it work? How does it impact other things?
  • You’re always thinking about things, analyzing them, looking for links, similarities, differences, and relationships.
  • You turn things over in your mind and look at them from every angle. No piece of information you process isn’t put through a process of analysis, and you never accept information without first questioning it.

You Always Want to Know The “Why” of Things

  • After finding out the why, you don’t stop asking questions and seeking new information. If something interests you, you don’t stop until you know a whole lot more, or even everything there is to know about it.
  • You know why you believe what you believe and do what you do.
  • You don’t just follow the crowd. You form your own opinions through rational thought, and you look at things from every possible angle. Once you’ve thought things through, you make up your mind and take action.
  • You don’t mind having your ideas challenged, in fact, you relish it.
  • You’re not someone who spends listening time thinking about what you’re going to say next. In a debate, you can argue any angle, even if you don’t actually agree with it. You’re always interested in other people’s reasoning, and you’re not afraid to change your mind in the face of evidence.

How Do Your Write All That Into an Essay?

Your college application essay is a chance to talk about yourself. The best way to do that is to tell little stories or anecdotes about yourself to illustrate the kind of person you are, By doing this, you have the opportunity to show this quality in your stories.

It’s important to remember that whatever you decide to write about, be honest. Talk about real-life events and show your intellectual vitality by showing how you applied it. Don’t try to make something up — it will almost always come across as unauthentic.

Here’s an Excerpt That Fits Me

“My grandmother always impressed me by knowing the names of plants. Aged 14, I decided I wanted to know everything there was to know about plants. I soon found it was impossible! Was I deterred? No! It was just what I always wanted, a topic that you could study for years, decades, even lifetimes, and still not know everything. That’s when I decided to study natural sciences.”

“To narrow my field a little, I decided to learn about edible plants, especially edible native plants. I used to horrify friends and family by eating strange berries (after I verified a positive ID, of course) because I wanted to know what they tasted like, how they could be used, and whether there was a reason why they weren’t grown commercially. Often, it was because they either weren’t very nice, or didn’t stay fresh for long.”

Gosh, I’m starting to enjoy this! I could go on…

What About You?

Maybe you used to love taking things apart to see how they worked. Maybe you were even able to put them together again! Perhaps you took on an intellectual challenge (even a fairly simple one) and worked tirelessly till you could be the best at it. Perhaps you identified a common problem and found a novel solution. Maybe you were your school’s debating champion and could argue any side of any debate effectively. Only you will know what events and achievements demonstrate your intellectual vitality.

There are many ways to demonstrate intellectual vitality and include it in your essay. Just remember, the selection board doesn’t want to know how clever you are as much as they want to know how you think.

Show this by identifying times in your life when you solved a problem, discovered something, or became passionate about a field of learning, even if it doesn’t relate to your coursework. It’ll only be difficult to write about if you try to invent something. It’s always easier to tell the truth!

Good luck with your college admission essay. Have fun writing it, and show them what you’re made of by being yourself.

3 comments

  1. This is difficult because there isn’t a concrete black and white answer to it. And what I might think is intellectual vitality might not be what the person reading the essay thinks it is. It would be much easier if they told us exactly what they wanted so we could give it to them than all this ambiguous stuff.

  2. Intellectual vitality basically shows that you are interested in the process of getting the answer rather than just the answer. People who have it like to ask the question “why?” a lot. it’s important because there is more to a well rounded person than just being able to rattle off the answer.

  3. If you don’t have the skills to write a quality essay, going back to school can be difficult. If it has been years since you have done any essay writing, don’t fret – most on-line universities have essay writing guides. Most schools offer this advice for free. Understanding the different type of essays is a first step in bettering your essay writing.

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