My Personal Statement: Georgia Institute of Technology - Dennis Z.

06 MAR 2021

In his essay for Georgia Institute of Technology, Dennis recounted his experience with nitrogen narcosis during a 130-foot scuba dive. He describes the journey from feeling fearful of the task at hand, resolving to approach it head-on, the sense of euphoria he felt after emerging and finally his excitement about new challenges coming in his future.

This essay is part of a collection of personal statements written by Crimson students who were accepted to their top-choice universities in the US and UK. By bringing together nearly 25 of our best students’ essays, we want to provide inspiration for future students with the same aspirations and goals. This series will showcase the wonderful variety in our student’s essay creations — powered by their personal voice and supported by their dedicated Crimson essay mentors. Ready to be inspired? Let’s go…


As I was putting on my mask about to dive in, my instructor reminded me that I would be given a task to complete at 130 feet deep to test the effects of nitrogen narcosis — the potentially deadly alteration in a scuba diver's consciousness which affects their ability to make decisions, creates a false sense of security and brings unpredictable euphoria when diving deeper than 100 feet.

Just before I jumped into the water, I hesitated. What if something went wrong and I could not manage it? But then I remembered why I was doing this: it was not only to become a better diver, but more importantly to challenge myself. With that I jumped in.

Together with my instructor, I slowly began to descend along the guide line. As we neared the bottom of the line, I started to make out the coral reef which sat at around 80 feet. I started to recognise different fish from past dives, everything from vibrant blue fish to bright red lionfish.

As I swam towards the cliff that marked the beginning of uncharted territory, my mind was racing with thoughts of how narcosis could affect me. I was afraid that I would lose my focus and start acting dangerously, but through facing challenges in my life, I have devised a strategy that always levels my thinking: I took a deep breath and re-focused my mind and thought only of the task at hand.

As we passed the cliff, I could see the sandy floor waiting for us at 130 feet, yet it still seemed so far away. I was having a mental war with myself, wondering if I had been affected yet, if I should turn back to the familiar. Eventually, we were only a couple feet from reaching our goal depth and I started to feel excited, but the journey was far from over. As we neared the sea floor, I established my buoyancy and looked at my instructor who was preparing the narcosis test. Much to my surprise, it was an actual test. I took the slate from her, my eyes poured over the long division problem and I began to chuckle through my regulator.

Ordinarily, math is not a humorous subject for me, but the absurdity of the situation was enhanced by the euphoria I was apparently experiencing. With a tap on my shoulder from my instructor, I quickly shook off the effects, focused on the problem and used the waterproof pencil to reach the quotient.

After handing the slate back to my instructor, I looked up and I could barely see the surface - even though the visibility was very clear. It hit me how deep we were: as deep as a twelve story building. I was undeniably affected by narcosis, however I still had a clear head. I nervously watched my instructor as she checked my math. She finished and nodded with a smile. I felt a rush of relief, and finally began to truly notice my surroundings.

First, I recognized that I was slightly shivering and it was darker than usual. Then I noticed the stillness: there were fewer fish and the sea floor seemed untouched, everything seemed more calm. I wanted to stay in this other world for a little longer, but eventually the time came to return to reality.

As we ascended alongside the cliff wall of coral, I was in awe of the incredible beauty of the underwater world which amazed me every single dive. But, before I knew it, we were gazing over the reef again. When we finished our dive and broke the surface, I couldn’t help but smile knowing what I had overcome. This feeling of accomplishment is what keeps me challenging myself every opportunity I can. While we swam to the boat, I immediately felt the urge to plan the next experience that would further challenge me.

NEXT WEEK: Read the essay that got Cenon C. into Columbia University!


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