We recently heard a heart-breaking story. The father of a graduating senior came to us seeking guidance and insight after his child graduated and applied, mostly unsuccessfully, to universities. This family was NOT our client. They didn’t understand why, with a 3.9 GPA and 1560 SAT, the student was rejected from over 15 US schools. We explained about how some schools want to see demonstrated interest. Other schools are looking for non-academic activities to round out their incoming class. But it seemed to fall on deaf ears. The parent repeatedly, in a mixture of disbelief and denial, came back to the scattergram which plotted his child’s theoretical admittance to most every school. We want to emphasize that each student is more than a combined GPA and test score, and that those scattergrams show data that is at least one year old.
Equally important, and usually understated, is having passion and showing passion. It is demonstrated in various ways. It’s not enough to focus on summer and holiday classes and competitions. Yes, that math olympiad competition is a passion, but it is only as a participant that a student contributes. And it’s yet another academic endeavor. Not every student is cut out to be the president or captain of various teams and clubs. Therefore, it’s important to find the passion and show potential colleges (and employers) how that passion has been realized. It’s something you do for the sheer joy of it, and the love of what you are doing outweighs any other considerations.
If a student’s passion is math, then show us the passion. If the student can’t be THE leader of the math olympiad team, then it’s important to find individual ways to show a passion for math. How about tutoring and mentoring younger students either in the community or inner city, or even internationally via zoom? Or organizing math related games for neighboring children over the summer?
Identifying one’s passion is an exercise in emotional growth and maturity. It takes fortitude and a real evaluation of beliefs and perceptions, something generally new to teenagers, to find out what makes a student truly light up, excitedly coming up with tons of ideas.
Essentially, a passion project is a first-hand experience with the innovation process, of bringing a service or product to life. It should have benefits for and also impact upon other people. Showing us your passion will help the chances of being admitted to the dream school. And this process is also transformative and transferable to life.
And about the father’s child…the good news is that the student was accepted to one prestigious school – an international school that only looks at the hard numbers rather than the person.