How an AQ alumni got into college

Posted: Thu, Jan 23, 2014



Alumnus Adam Wolfert was recently accepted into The University of Washington in St. Louis (congrats Adam!). His application asked for him to describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you? For Adam, the answer was simple. Underwater.

Here is what he wrote


Ninety feet underwater may seem like a funny place to thrive, learn life lessons or think about college applications. But ever since my first breath underwater, I was hooked. Underwater is where I am perfectly content.

Scuba diving demands many skills, the most important of which have nothing to do with buoyancy, air consumption, or navigation. The qualities that matter most in diving are the same ones that matter to me on land: curiosity, teamwork, and awareness. Without these, I would not be who I am. I would also be a terrible diver.

The past three summers, I went sailing and scuba diving on a three-week program throughout the British Virgin Islands with a dozen other teens from around the globe. Diving the clear blue Caribbean waters was an extraordinary experience encompassing great beauty, learning, and teamwork. Every time we dove, it felt like we were in a whole new world.

My favorite underwater activity is diving wrecks because I am able to explore parts of a ship that I would never otherwise encounter. Shipwrecks are so much more than just an underwater tourist site; every nook and cranny has its own story. For me, there is something magical about gliding past a sunken ship and seeing a fish make its home in the propeller. Hovering above the deck of a ship, I see what was once a room, office, or closet, but is now exploding with vibrant life and color. Whether a sunken refrigerator ship, a 19th century royal mail ship or an ordinary commercial airplane, every wreck has unique beauty and history.

The first lesson of scuba is teamwork, which for me is one of the best parts of the experience. Whether with friends, family, teammates, classmates, shipmates, or just about anyone, I am happiest being part of a group and working toward a goal. While in the British Virgin Islands, it would not have been smooth sailing for the twelve of us without teamwork. Together in a small space we lived, made our meals and sailed the boat.

Nothing made this concept of teamwork clearer to me than my Rescue Diver Certification test, which required the twelve of us to work together to save four instructors simulating divers in distress. Each of us had a job and each of us depended on the others to do theirs. One error and the victims could drown. Since everyone recognized these high stakes during the scenarios, there was no arguing about who would do which job, no pushing for the easy job. Because of this coordination and cooperation, we all passed and the victims survived.

Last summer, while on my third scuba adventure program, I completed an underwater marine biology project studying the protective instincts of an easily disturbed type of tube worm known as a feather duster. When disturbed, the feathers retract into a tube, only to reappear minutes later. Our project studied whether they would return more quickly after repetitive disturbance. But, before we could even get wet, we needed to learn the skills necessary for underwater research. When I worked in labs on dry land, I only needed to address the research itself. But underwater research requires many additional critical factors to be considered, such as monitoring my air supply and taking care not to disrupt the marine environment. Research diving taught me to be even more aware of my surroundings than typical diving. This heightened awareness comes into my life in other ways: from managing teammates as captain of the cross country team, to checking my blind spot while driving.

My diving experiences have been some of the most exciting in my life, providing fun, close friends and lasting memories. As I look back on my summers, I am brought back to a special place. When I watch a video of myself swimming through a wreck, I remember why I am perfectly content underwater.