Skip to content ↓

The Value of Creativity by Chris S. '11

Sí, se puede.

This blog is to all the ’14’s, ’15s, ’16s+ who are scared after watching the ’13 college results this year.

In one of my very first blogs on MIT Admissions, I wrote about what I thought was the “secret” of college admissions. Over the year and a half that I’ve been here, after meeting hundreds of people who had since became my classmates and my friends, and now looking at the college admissions process from the other angle (I like to try to identify the MATCH in the people I meet here at MIT – it’s actually really fun. Try it!), this belief had not changed.

I usually dispensed the same advice on talk.collegeconfidential.com, but I haven’t really thought about writing another blog on it until an email popped up (not for the first time) in my inbox requesting me to submit my old college application to an online database which would be used to help applicants formulate their own college applications.

It was a MIT senior that was soliciting these applications, and after reading his email, I felt initial outrage, tinged with a hint of sadness. I have a lab report and a Spanish essay due tomorrow and 5.12 to study for, but I feel I must get this off my chest.

—-

To all future applicants,

I understand that beginning from this week, when your elder classmates are receiving their decisions from the colleges that they have been obsessing over since middle school, your first day of the application process begins.

Day 1. You might be insecure, you might be panicking already. With headlines like “Application Numbers Breaking Records” plastered all over major newspapers and online forums, you can’t help but wonder at your chances of getting into your dream school.

“Am I doing enough?” “Am I good enough?” “Do I need to seek extra help?” are a few of the common questions that are running through your mind.

Equally, at the other side of the dinner table, your parents are also thinking about your future.

“Am I doing enough for my child?” “Does she need a test prep course?” “Do we need to hire a college counselor?”

Attractive posters and online advertisements with grinning grads holding diplomas begin filling up your school’s hallways and the sites that you visit. Increasingly, you get more and more offers for help in your email inbox. You begin asking yourself, “Exactly how much help do I need? Am I good enough to get into college on my own?”

I want to tell you, right here, and right now: “YES, YOU ARE.”

—-

Our consumerism culture has taught us that there is no problem that money cannot solve. Accordingly, more and more people believe that money can resolve all problems, as long as enough of it is thrown into the effort. Crops of college counseling services, essay “proofreading” services, and admission consulting programs spring up faster than ever.

These services convince you that with the “guidance of admission experts” and “tried-and-true applications that work,” you’ll be able to also join the ranks of an elite college.

But I want to ask you – do you really need all that? When did it become that you can’t get into college on your own?

One value I hold higher than all else when it comes to college admissions is creativity.

Like what I asked in the entry I wrote before – “What is it that makes you tick?” Going a little bit deeper, I like to summarize it using the word “passion.”

Passion is getting up at 5.30 AM every morning and braving the morning breeze just so that you’ll get two hours of swim practice before classes begin.

Passion is sitting down at a crowded dinner table, yelling above the pandemonium and trying to instill a sense of order into the kids who live at the orphanage you work at.

Passion is noticing the small changes that make a big difference – starting a recycling program at your school, helping to tutor struggling middle school students, or organizing a “clean up the litter day” at your local park.

Too often, our society has imposed upon us ideals and molds – to get into MIT, you must have had done science competitions; to get into Harvard, you must score above 2300 on the SATs.

Similarly, we begin conforming to those molds, accepting the limitations and the boundaries that our society impose upon us. Gradually, we begin to lose our original passion – the “fire” that powers our being – and become cookie-cutter people.

The essays you write are no longer good enough if they weren’t edited by a professional editor. The activities that you do are no longer good enough if they aren’t part of a national organization. The scores that you get are no longer good enough if they don’t match up to the scores of the people on College Confidential.

Through self-negation and a yearning to be “the perfect applicant,” I feel that unfortunately too many people have sacrificed who they really are in trying to be somebody they’re not.

But how is this relevant?

In this day and age, especially with ultra-competitive admissions, college admission officers would like to look for diversity in the applicant pool. To put it one way, college admissions may be akin to painting a picture – with the admission officers as the artists. Would the picture look good if it was solely comprised of a single color? College admission officers dabble some here, tweak some there with the ultimate goal of creating a beautiful painting with many interwoven colors. This is why many officers refer to the process of selecting an incoming class as “building” a class.

Thus, why would you negate your own individuality at the risk of becoming another one of those boring spots in the background?

I am a firm believer that each one of us has an unique voice that distinguishes us from any other person. Therefore, why do you need books that have compiled essays from past applicants who got in? Why would you need online databases that “demonstrate” what a “winning college application” should look like?

Seemingly harmless, it is my belief that the more that you expose yourself to the works of other people, the more you begin losing the sense of who you are. In Chinese, we have a proverb that says “those who often contact cinnabar* will turn red; those who often contact ink will turn black.” In the same vein, the more that you expose yourself to other peoples’ ideas – the more that you risk losing your own.

(*cinnabar = HgS crystal that is naturally red. The Chinese use ground cinnabar to make a red ink paste.)

“Wait,” you say, “Are you saying that we should not collaborate and share ideas with other people ever?”

Of course not. There are plenty of places where collaboration is encouraged – one glaring example is science: nowadays, almost no significant discovery is made without collaboration.

But why the college application?

First, I feel like the college application is an intimate extension of yourself – your life story presented to the college admission officers. Thus, you already have all the tools that you need to tell your story, because who knows yourself better than….yourself? What is the point of external influences? I feel like they are only swaying you away from who you truly are and your own unique ideas.

If you have ideas – then let them flow forth. Tell a story about your first love. Paint a picture of your innermost passions. Weave a tapestry of your wildest dreams.

Second, I feel like in this over-hyped, over-exploited college admissions generation, being original is a big plus. Having a slightly-flawed application probably doesn’t ruin your chances – it may even convey sincerity and honesty. Would you like to sound like a thirty-year old man who sits in front of a computer and edits essays? Would you rather be presented as a robot that has stellar grades, but is devoid of feeling?

—-

Alas, I had digressed much.

The bottom line is:

You don’t need to buy a book of collected college essays.

You don’t need to read other people’s applications to know how to apply to college.

You don’t need to read other people’s college essays to write your own stellar piece.

You don’t need a person who’s probably double or triple your age telling you what to write and what not to write on your application.

Unleash your dreams.

Let your creativity run wild.

Let the torrents of energy flow forth.

And then, you will have achieved your most fervent desires.

With sincere regards,

 

Chris Su, ’11
ask-oasis [at] mit.edu

60 responses to “The Value of Creativity”

  1. Vinay says:

    I love this blog.

  2. Piper '12 says:

    Thanks for writing this entry, Chris. I got the same email – though, unlike you, I think this is only the first or second email of that nature I’ve received, and I did not know what to make of it.

    Prospective students, listen to this post.

  3. '13 says:

    This is cute. You can sure get into MIT by being passively passionate. Maybe admissions will recognize that. Maybe.

    Don’t count on anyone recognizing your passion. You need to be a littly weasly, a little conniving to get your passion recognized. Emily Dickinson wrote “tell the truth but tell it slant,” and its very sound advice. If your passion is science, but you don’t really care that much for science olympiads and research fairs, too bad.

    Go to the science fair. Write the Siemens paper. Copy your homework if you’re running late. Guilt your teacher into getting an exam put off (because you were working on a science fair project). Do what you enjoy, but remember to pad your resume too. Just don’t outright lie.

    The nice guy finishes last (in life in general, too). If you, in your heart, think that MIT is the place for you — make it easy for admissions to admit you. Passion is quite easy to see when you have the A instead of the B (even if you did extra credit), first place instead of second (even if your data was your wishful thinking). “Passion” talking about butterflies and bunnies and saving the world on your essay? Grow up.

    Bottom line: Misdirected passion will NOT get you into MIT. You need to direct every joule of energy you have into making you look good on paper. If you have a choice between doing olympiads / taking photos of your creations, or just exploring without documenting anything, hoping for “passion” to get you in… you have a choice between MIT and state school.

    See you on campus.

  4. J.B. '13? says:

    I liked this, and I support it 100%.

    @ future applicants: IMHO (truly), I think it was my imperfections, my quirks, the chips in my block of marble I gave to the colleges to consider that made that block a statue of me instead of a perfect block, that got me into my dreamlist of colleges. If there is something about you that you haven’t said yet that makes you who you are, PUT IT IN THE ADDITIONAL COMMENTS SECTION! Don’t let any of your favorite things about yourself stay hidden.

    /lecture

    Best of luck guys; it’s painful, but the sense of relief when it is over is incredible.

  5. @'13 says:

    Tha was quiet interesting. I have come across many “passionate” students like you. I like to call them “smart liers/cheaters.” I admire that you do anything to be succesfull/get what you want, though, even if it means copying “…your homework when you’re running late.”

  6. Chris '13 says:

    I have to disagree to some extent with the post above mine. If you really are passionate about science or math (or whatever, it doesn’t matter), you will have something to show for it – regardless of whether or not it’s something concrete like winning a science fair. I didn’t pad my resume for college applications – never did science olympiad, never did any math or science competitions… and I did fine. Instead of listing stuff like that onto the “activities” section of the application, I just showed my passion for science in my essays. You really don’t have to do anything amazing like cure cancer or be valedictorian to get in. If the passion is there, admissions will be able to see it… for example, I participated in a summer research program for high school students at my local university – nothing groundbreaking, but it interested me and I had a lot of fun with the project. I went into the program without even thinking about college, I just did it because Physics is my passion. Don’t do science olympiad or hunt down research opportunities because you want to get into college – do it because you want to do it for you. If you’re honest and genuine with the application process (and your activities in high school), then you’ll be fine… whether or not that means going to MIT or somewhere else is kind of irrelevant. I’d rather go to a school that’s a great fit for me than a school that has a great name, so I would say to worry more about what is right for you than what is right for college admissions counselors. If you get rejected to MIT or elsewhere, then who cares? As long as you’re honest, you’ll find somewhere that’s a great fit for you.

    A note on essays – I didn’t get any help from outside sources on any of my essays, I think that that whole process is pretty superfluous. I know plenty of people who agonized over their essays and had practically every teacher in the school help with them, but didn’t get in to their top choices. I recommend working hard on your essays, but focus on showing admissions who YOU are, not trying to fool them into thinking you’re what they want to see. If they think you’re a good fit for their school, that’s great… if not, so be it. It really doesn’t help your case to make admissions counselors think you’re something you’re not, you’ll just end up being miserable in someplace that isn’t for you. Don’t worry about the college name or prestige, just try to give admissions the most honest view of you as a student. I know plenty of people from my high school who are far more intelligent than I am that are going to state schools – your education is what you make of it, not the name that goes across the top of your diploma.

  7. another '13 says:

    to the first ’13-

    The point of high school should not be to get into college, it should be to the pursuit of knowledge, having fun, and exploring your interests.
    About padding your resume- I disagree. You should be doing the things that you enjoy and if that is what MIT admissions wants, great. If not, then maybe MIT is not the place for you.
    future applicants- MIT wasn’t even on my radar until mid junior year. I just did what I enjoyed in high school. You should not try to make yourself the person you think MIT wants.

  8. another '13 says:

    hah, Chris beat me to the punch, although he said it much more eloquently than I XD

  9. There’s a point where you’re doing something strictly to get into college, and where you’re doing something for yourself. It’s important to make sure that at the very least, most of those things overlap. A lot of the things you face in attaining your goal of getting into schools such as MIT will challenge you, will improve the person you are, and will inspire an even greater interest in science and math.

    If you love it, you have to show it. No one stares at the wall all day and repeats to themselves that they are passionate about science. But let’s not be so cynical as to degrade admissions into MIT as just a sort of game that we’re playing with the system.

  10. original '13 says:

    You can’t be the “passionate” kid who sits in the basement, “passionately” reading Brian Greene and mixing chemicals for fun.

    You need to take pictures. You need to go to science competitions. You need to get good grades. Any CEO will tell you presentation is 90% of making the sale (or getting into college).

    Passion == fuel
    Getting recognized == steering

    Passion alone is not enough. Market yourself!

  11. original '13 says:

    (and if you think you’re worth it, there’s nothing wrong with embellishing your application (and your life) to better commmunicate YOUR PASSION)

  12. Piper '12 says:

    I did exactly zero science competitions. I’ve heard plenty of stories about people who did Siemens and USAMO and everything else in the book who got rejected.

    I don’t know where you people get these ideas from that you must do a science competition to get into MIT.

  13. I hate college, honestly. It’s funny that I went to a community college for two years because during my entire time at high school I had no motivation whatsoever- everything was overran by people’s parents and teachers who only cared what kind of last name a student had. No one was really talented, yet everyone got into good schools. Those that did–nearly all except for..literally..one or two–have partied away into obscurity and hopelessness. Now I hear about students who were grades below me whose parents were always lining up to complain to the teacher because their child wasn’t understanding the material and it was undoubtedly their fault.

    I of course transferred on to a pretty prestige university and am thriving compared to nearly everyone else I graduated with. In all honesty, I learned a lot there and my math teacher was probably one of the most skilled mathematicians I’ve met thus far. You can laugh if you want, but I don’t really mind. From my prospective,there are very few students these days who are truly motivated, the rest are just visions that their parents have crafted and molded to make themselves feel better.

    Point being, there’s no ways college admissions can truly pick out the students who truly deserve to be there (well, they haphazardly can). I think MIT is probably an exception, but 90% of colleges nationwide are probably bursting at the seams with mediocrity.

    And oh yeah – keep up the good work, prospective applicants.

    One wonders: are admissions blog becoming the only source of truthfulness?

  14. Anonymous says:

    “even if your data was your wishful thinking”

    Uh, no, not at MIT

  15. And all of this is why college admissions are one of the most stressful and confusing things in the entire world. raspberry And I say that with zero pessimism.

  16. '13 says:

    @anonymous

    talk to some ISEF and siemens kids wink

  17. The truth is that there is no such thing as a “perfect applicant”, at least not for MIT. For example, I never participated in any science fairs during high school, never did research at any university despite a very good state school being in close proximity to my home, and didn’t manage to get above 2100 on the SATs. My class rank, a statistic which I am extremely adamant against as it promotes a cutthroat attitude towards your classmates instead of collaboration, was barely in the 9th percentile. I know many of my friends who currently go to state school are far more intelligent than I am. The only passion I can say I truly conveyed to MIT was my love of running. Almost everything I wrote was in some way tied with the feeling of love towards a sport that I lack genetic talent in. If they admitted a foolish person like me, one who will never become a champion or even a decent competitor in cross country, then they will certainly admit anyone who is honest about themselves.
    Another thing I would like to point out is that colleges will not always admit someone who has passion. Every year I guarantee someone who could have got in will not get in because there is simply not enough space. Over 90% of applicants are qualified to get into MIT, and the admissions officers are forced to whittle it down to 10%. If you do not receive admission to MIT, you can blame overpopulation, blame the admissions officers, blame the crappy SAT prep courses, hell, blame Affirmative Action if you really want to play the race card! But never blame yourself.

  18. anon says:

    As a rising senior, I have to say that the college admissions process is some of the most confusing jumble I’ve ever been through, giving me all sorts of mixed messages that kind of want to make me plug my ears and run to the safety of community college.

    So people who get into good colleges (in a way, I’m going with original ’13 here) do plenty of community service of their own will, right? But wait, I’m also supposed to “show” my passion for science somehow, so I also join those extracurriculars! And I’m also supposed to be in All State for both violin and voice (people have actually told me this to my face.) and oh, Carnegie Hall is definitely a plus! 4 APs is adequate, but only if I maintain As in all of them. I’m supposed to show diversity by being in several different campus clubs and activities, but passion by following just a few and leadership by holding board positions? And don’t forget religious involvement!

    …Sleep? o_o;

  19. anon above says:

    And yes, I realize that there are people who quite successfully do all of those. But I think I made my point..?

  20. Steve says:

    Chris makes some great points. The take home message should be: (1) don’t obssess about college admissions and (2) don’t try too hard to game the system. It’s not an easy system to game.

    But for balance, no know really knows if consulting programs, esssay editing, and test prep courses will improve your chances. We don’t have randomized controlled trials on any of these programs either so whatever data we have might have a big selection bias.

    I think its a safe bet that test prep improves your scores usually and that improved scores help you get in. Likewise with essays and consulting but to a lesser extent. Also, these services are almost certainly not worth what you pay for them unless it reduces your stress level.

  21. Oasis '11 says:

    I think many of you guys raise very valid points. I guess the “take home message” I want to convey is just to let your individuality shine forth in your application and just be who you are.

    When I talk about passion, it goes without saying that your passion will manifest itself one way or the other if you were truly passionate. Just like someone else pointed out above, if you were truly passionate about science, you wouldn’t just stare at a wall all day and repeat, “I love science.”

    At the same time, I don’t agree with the fact that you MUST have had done science competitions to demonstrate your love of science. Many kids come from backgrounds that are not very conducive for them to participate in science competitions, and many kids do not even know the existence of science competitions. It would be unfair to discredit them just because they didn’t participate in competitions like what some people do. Joining a competition is just one of many ways that you can manifest your passion.

    For example, one of my friends grew up near the beach and subsequently developed a love of the marine organisms on the seashore that he played with while he was growing up. When he was in high school, he noticed that the resident hermit crab population was at the danger of disappearing. Thus, in an effort to prevent the hermit crabs from being exterminated, he began collecting seashells and small mollusky shells from nearby seafood restaurants, washing the shells at home, and then scattering the shells on the beach. In just 2 years, the hermit crab population doubled. He never turned it into a science fair project or joined a competition (although he very well could have), but wouldn’t you agree that he demonstrated what he really cared about?

    Also, one major point of this blog was to express my disappointment both at people who create services that basically stifle applicant creativity and the applicants who use it. By this I don’t mean things like getting your friends to read your essays for feedback or your teachers proofreading your application for mistakes. I mean services that write your essay for you, services that encourage you to emulate what someone else has done. There is a clear distinction between these two types of help that people get in college admissions, and to me – the latter type is regrettable.

  22. I put a lot of passion into writing my essay. Hell, I was worried that it was overzealous. It was natural though, and perfectly directed towards what I wanted to do.

    Heh, didn’t get accepted into MIT. Ironically, I did get accepted, and am currently studying in another top university which I put no passion at all into – applied simply because all my friends did.

    But you do have a point, Chris. A lot of the “perfect application” suggestions are garbage. It’s a flawed attempt at trying to slap a formula onto an art. Like when you have one blockbuster movie and expect every movie copying the same theme and same style to be a hit. Just doesn’t work that way.

    Thinking back a little, I may have emulated some family and friends (of family) who were accepted into MIT. Advice from parents can be a little coercive and ultimately, I think my essay changed too much from what I meant for it to be.

  23. navdeep says:

    nice post chris
    and yea ..it seems as if admissions blogs are the only source of truthfulness.
    I receive about 12-15 mails everyday advertising any new essay proofreading service .

  24. Reena '13 says:

    Ack, I have to admit an e-mail like that would annoy me to no end too.
    This was awesomely written Chris.

  25. Alex '13 says:

    I am not really sure about how all those prep courses and essay proofreading services work because I don’t live in the States, and I do not see all those advertisements; however there is one thing I know. If all those services create a false image of who you are, there are two things that can mnost probably happen:
    1) You don’t get admitted because the picture presented as you is just like the one of 5000 students who had the same “genius” idea of having someone else describe them.
    2) You get into the college you are applying to (MIT for instance). Nevertheless, they are admitting someone that will be happy at such University, get along well with the rest of the students and even share a part of him/her to make it a better place, and that someone is not you, it is a fictional character. In this case you could end up transferring after one or two semesters because that prestige school you are at is going to be the most terrible place FOR YOU to be in.
    What I am trying to say is, don’t try so hard. The people in the admissions committee know their job and are telling you whether a specific College is the adequate place for you or not. If it is not, thank them for being honest and go follow your dreams. Your success in life is not bound to the College you attend, but it is a reflection of your dedication and hard work.
    When I started applying to MIT I was in only following a dream, I did it because the idea of waking up in 40 years and wonder “How would my life be had I applied to MIT?” bothered me. I was almost sure that I would be rejected and so was most of the people around me (even my teachers), however I never resigned.
    I was admitted to MIT and I can only attribute it to the fact that I always spoke the truth about myself, my activities, my interests and my dreams. Everyone is special and can do whatever she/he wants, it is only a matter of being true to oneself and following one’s dreams.
    (hope you didn’t get bored reading this)

  26. Anonymous says:

    OBAMA
    THINKS
    THAT
    WE
    CAN
    TOO!

  27. Anonymous says:

    hey chris,

    nice post…enjoy dubai…i should have gone too…

    sincerest,
    co-director

  28. Shivang says:

    Thank you very very much Chris. Awesome post!

    @original’13
    My dad talks about this notion of “marketing yourself” too. I disagree with it. Take for example- Albert Einstein. He got into ETH Zurich, which is presently ranked at #20 on some natural science courses world ranking list. It is reasonable to assume that it was a wonderful science university even a century back. Now, Einstein knew that to get a good job, he needed “good recommendations”, which meant abiding by and respecting your professors. But the moment he finds out that his professor doesn’t believe/like and will not teach Maxwell’s theories he stops calling his name properly and skips his classes.

    There could’ve been a lot of students in the class who had the same notion as Einstein. They didn’t repel; they were too busy “marketing” themselves.

    Einstein was himself. He had faith in his ideas. And he wasn’t afraid to display his true feelings.

    Just the act of being himself, made him study Maxwell’s equations, from where he would ultimately derive the notion that ‘c’ is the ultimate speed, which would go on to be the basic postulate of all his theories.

    Some of Einstein’s college mates might’ve held respectable positions at top universities just because they “marketed” themselves well. Alas! Things didn’t work that way.

  29. Steve says:

    Chris, you talk a lot about emulation and how its bad, then you steal my comment structure and phrases (take home message).

    At this rate, in 2 weeks you will be writing about the fat cats, legacies, and why you really aren’t much better of going to MIT compared to your state school.

  30. Narce says:

    Such a meaningful entry in such a blunt format~ Love it!

  31. @’13

    you said
    “@anonymous, talk to some ISEF and siemens kids wink

    I find it a bit insulting that you’re suggesting that the average ISEF (or Siemens) participant has fabricated their data. I’m sure there are some people who have done that. Maybe you have? But, it is by no means the norm. Not even close to that. Plus, I would conjecture, from experience, that most of the people at the upper level science competitions are primarily interested in the science. They are not there to get into college. Once again, there are definitely exceptions. Why do you assume such bad motives?

  32. Oasis '11 says:

    @ Steve –

    For the record, “take home message” is used by the instructor in every single one of my 7.02 SciComm classes (I kept a tally).

    I credit that instead of you. :D

    (I don’t even remember you saying take home message lol)

  33. Shax says:

    thanks a ton,chris

    believe me u just made my day,probably life,i mean past couple of months had really me on the edge,u see i’ll tell u my story

    right from my childhood,i have been passionate abt science and i mean it{i always stood in the top five in my school},i always have been good in studies{even cracked some national competitions},and then i enter 10th grade,and a change starts to take place,suddenly i’m not scoring as i used to,suddenly,wht i loved is sort of becoming a burden for me because i’m having a tough time staying in the top 10 in my class of 40,and now i realise the difference….

    in my 10th & 11th grade i started studying the way i could clear JEE{i m an indian},i mean my mindset is like i should study it coz JEE wants me to,not because i love it,i just lose the sense of who i am and what i wanna be……

    during my childhood,i never did tht,i just studied for the love of it,not for ranks or anything,frankly speaking those things never came to mind when i used to study…

    now i’ll be entering 12th grade this year,at the end of which lie all the exams{JEE,BITSAT,SAT,TOEFL},but now i’ll try to reclaim myself,know wht,change is good,but one should not try to become what he isn’t,bcoz everybody has his unique identity….

    i made mistakes,but,i’m in peace with them,u knw,u learn from ur mistakes,i guess i did….

    once again,thanks a lot for this post,and yes,best of luck for ur life{afterall,50 yrs. down the line it won’t matter how many exams u cracked,but how good a man u became,and how good a life u lived}

  34. Alex says:

    Thanks. This really helped me. I’ve hit a rough spot of junior year and I hope I can relax soon with the confidence that I can succeed in the college admissions process.

  35. :D your language is so eloquent haha.
    and full of hope for us hopefuls!

    @shax:
    “once again,thanks a lot for this post,and yes,best of luck for ur life{afterall,50 yrs. down the line it won’t matter how many exams u cracked,but how good a man u became,and how good a life u lived}”
    yup!

  36. Claire says:

    Yes, indeed we CAN!

  37. Dr. McNinjA says:

    Amazing blog. Thank you, chris

  38. I just wanted to say thanks so much for that post – the first few lines perfectly characterize my mental state after hearing about my senior friends getting into their dream schools (some prestigious, some not) and this just made me feel a lot better about life in general.

    To those who believe passion is not enough to get you in – certainly I haven’t been through college applications yet, but I thought the point of the selection process was to find those who are a good fit for the school. If someone’s passion isn’t a good fit for MIT, but is a good fit for Amherst, then who’s to condemn that person’s passion as “misdirected”? Perhaps it’s putting too much faith into the system to believe that MIT will see me as the person I am – someone who loves math and science and wants to work with them for the rest of her life and has the full capacity to do so. But if I can only get into MIT by being someone I’m not, then it’s not worth going to. If I be myself and I get in, then I know MIT will be the right place for me. Personally, I’m going to be myself on the application, with all of my passion for calculus and physics (but not so much chemistry) and hope that it shows through.

  39. Piper '12 says:

    I’m a firm believer that doing what you love will get you to the place you should be – it’s just that, sometimes, it won’t be what you expected or wanted at first.

  40. comboy says:

    i’m back from lab. i did it…

    all tasks working, within kdevelop

    my hands hit the mouse of a near computer and windows logo appeared
    i opened my laptop lid, slept a little bit and there it was.
    debian with kids icon pack, say no to bill gates and harvard. harvard dorms full of bill and ballmer, MIT && PIKA

    assistant saw one task only and then asked me to do an extra task, drawing triangle with asterisks (reason was: she said students copy tasks from each other)

    unfortunately i took aspirin before, so i changed the code of finding prime numbers and made it twice faster.
    1 to 66666 was two times faster.
    how: i changed the step to 2 so all even numbers out

    why i choose 66666: Daniel Barkowitz like it, and 666666 would take more than 6 seconds.

    why i took aspirin before: i got up at 5:30 this morning and i didn’t swim, i was in kdevelop (chris su is smiling up there)

    btw, they may give zero again because of no triangle.
    hey chris, your page was open in iceweasel. but no internet connection is allowed in lab. you were in my laptop since morning. last morning also you were here.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Extraordinary people come from extraordinary circumstances.

    Not everyone, no matter how conducive their environment seems to a fruitful childhood, can actually demonstrate their passion in a unique way.

    Admission to or rejection from any particular college does not prove your worth.

  42. sunrise says:

    @ ’13-Never Give Up
    you are a great person. that’s why you got into MIT … among other reasons smile

    @ Chris S.
    this post was AMAZING. i read stuff like this, and i am touched.

    i applied to MIT and did not get in … and although that was a hit to my self esteem and made me question my self worth… i think I’m OK now. Because this post made it all better smile

    thanks you.

  43. 1430a says:

    An inspiring article Chris!I look forward to reading more of your articles here!:D

  44. This post changed my attitude in a short 5 minutes. After reading what you had to say about passion, I opened up Word and typed up a list of all the things passion meant to me. You’re right, it’s these things, the early band mornings, the late nights at play rehearsal and science olympiad, and summer weeks volunteering at camp that will speak volumes, probably more than scores and research could ever really speak. I just decided not to retake the SAT over a 750 math, that’s good enough. It’s time better spent polishing my essays and ensuring that they get across the things that make me who I am.

    Passion is eveything my mom told me I should stop doing because it makes me lose sleep. Thanks for showing me that

  45. Julio ('14?) says:

    Thanks Chris. Thanks for the encouraging words and phrases, thanks for making me reason more about my application, overall, thanks for the helpful tips smile

    I’ll take all of them in consideration and really meditate about my applications.

    smile

    PS: Suerte en tu ensayo raspberry

    ~Julio (’14?)

  46. comboy says:

    paul blog comments are closed (not 30 days yet)

    @paul it’s 8:09am and 2nd-lab tasks are ready.

    not gui, but in kdevelop and debian.
    i’ll eat some breakfast (bread) and go to my lectures. lab starts at 2:30

    beautiful, crazy, creative kids icon pack

  47. anon says:

    you. are. amazing.

    this brought tears to my eyes…. thank you so much for writing this, i really appreciate it.

    i am ridiculously motivated now… thank you. =)

  48. comboy says:

    it brought tears to my eyes twice yesterday and i made a clay slate for that after the first drop of tear. it’s drying in my closet

  49. Anonymous says:

    Hello Chris, thank you so much for this wonderful post! I agree that passion is crucial, and I think it was my love for the environment that got me in to MIT (I started a club, etc.).

    However, for future applicants – you need to know when to ask for help. This might not be a typical situation, but I went to a special ed elementary school because of speech delay. When I was tested again in 10th grade, my verbal skills were way behind my math skills. I typically take long on papers – heck, I got a 3 on my AP English exam because I couldn’t finish! My SAT writing was pretty low. But back then I refused to take the prep classes. When the time came to get my essays to these colleges (for early, another school), I refused to see a college counselor.

    I banged out at least 5-6 essay drafts, showed them to my parents and school counselor, and teachers a few times, and… didn’t get in. It was a top school, but everyone around me was still surprised. My parents then insisted that I see an counselor.

    We got a former teacher at my school. She took one look at my essay and said that she thought the college officers “didn’t get it.” With her help I wrote out at least 10 essays and short answer from scratch. I asked her to mark her comments in red on the original so that I could choose what changes to make or not. She helped me organize my thoughts – we talked about the essay topics – but I was the source of those thoughts, and I was the one that wrote the essays. And I often created my own edits to replace her suggestions to make the essays ME. And guess what? I’m in!

    I’m sure that no one has an easy time with the application process. If you think that you won’t be able to show colleges who you are without help, then go for it. Perhaps you’ll have teachers or parents that have the time and knowledge to give you the help you need. If I had done those alone, though, I would have thrown away the other half of my first term senior year – and I’m sure most of you have things to do and lives to live. If you KNOW how to write an essay well then fine – simply be yourself and you’ll be fine. But if perhaps English is your second language, or you have a learning disability, or you’ve just been stuck for weeks and are starting to see all the stuff that you love to do fall apart for this – get help. Keep your honor code. And you’ll be fine. =)

  50. K says:

    @ ’13-Never Give Up

    Your last paragraph echoes my sentiment quite accurately.

    It SHOULD be noted, that passion isn’t a sure ticket to MIT. Especially ‘misguided passion’.
    What about the scores of truly passionate outstanding applicants who didn’t get in? Surely they must have done something wrong? Wrong. There just isn’t enough space. Plain and simple.

    Passion + a healthy dose of luck. Now that’s something that comes as close as possible to guaranteeing MIT admission.

    @ Chris

    Your post was great, but if you included this one detail, it would’ve been more complete. Maybe its not relevant. Maybe you’ve said it a million times before and you felt hell, let me skip it this one time. But I really do think that point is worth mentioning.

    Personally, reading your post was quite depressing, but elucidating. I’m sure many a post-rejection applicant will concur.

  51. Oasis '11 says:

    @ K –

    There’s a million things I can mention about why people get in and why people don’t get in. It’s impossible to comprehensively encompass these things, so sometimes I skim over some other things to focus on the big topics.

    Sure, you need luck – sure, just passion without scores and grades still won’t get you in – sure, you need to be able to market yourself to a certain extent. These are all valid factors.

    But today, I want to focus on passion, and passion only. I know this post might be especially difficult for rejected applicants who feel like they had the passion but still couldn’t get in, but like you said, many of these things are beyond your control.

    Getting into MIT (or any college) or not is not the end-all to your life. It’s also not the value of what you’re worth. However, I feel like passion is something that will be with you always, and even if you think about some of the ideas posed above, I think it’ll still help you in the future, way beyond just college admissions.

  52. nanofreak says:

    Passion is driving 2 and a half hours everyday after school to the nearest research institution just so you could do nanotechnology research.

  53. danielle says:

    thank you. this was inspiring.

  54. meech '13 says:

    Thank you for this article!

    Happily, my college applications are done now, but I had quite a few confrontations with my parents over my college essays. They wanted to be my editors because, in their words, “adults are reading your essays, so you should get adult input on what you write.”

    I can understand asking others to read it to filter for grammar and usage errors, but some of the changes that my parents suggested significantly altered the tone of some of my paragraphs, so I decided not to implement them… And after that I refused to let them read my essays until I had submitted everything.

    This round of admissions turned out well in the end, but I’m still wondering if it was the right move to keep entirely to my own voice or if I should have taken some of their advice. Any thoughts?

  55. Meagan says:

    Thanks,

    This reminds me of the entry about how there are many ways to get to the “top of the mountain”

    It is so true that society seems to have a certain stereotype of the type of person who’s going to be successful. So often those who don’t fit the stereotype get discouraged. However, the idea about what your background is only makes your more unique is often time false. In the end it doesn’t matter what your background is because the results that you produce are what shows.

    I guess what I mean is being unique and having to deal with a variety of different situations and adversity yet still doing the right thing is what matters and that can be shown by the decisions that you make. A true character of a man can then be seen by how he deals with certain situations.

  56. Anonymous says:

    i love this entry.

  57. Alex says:

    Over the past years, I’ve thought about the college process ever since I met some friends from MIT through College Confidential and the MIT blog site. I read the word “passion” numerous times. From that time, I allowed myself to become more of myself, rather than somewhat I’m really not, someone who I thought the colleges would want – science based only, for MIT. Blogs, such as the one you, Chris, made really helps future applicants, including myself to express who we really are, not someone who we’ve thought of through the movie stereotypes. Thanks for posting this blog Chris.