BY: CAMERON YUEN
Hello! My name is Cameron Yuen, a current senior in high school. I'm going to be attending Tufts University, and I intend on studying Computer Science. I want to use technology to incite change, whether it's bridging the digital divide, aiding public health or bolstering sustainability efforts. Outside of academics, I'm a competitive diver and an avid Overwatch player!
With tests accumulating on our schedules, pressures to perform well piling on from those around us, and the gargantuan task of managing the college admissions process looming over students across the country, we all wish there were alternate ways to succeed. Average GPAs and standardized test scores are at an all-time high, and we all scramble to include ourselves in those statistics in an effort to appear impressive. The system seems to demand all of our time and energy, to produce results that outshine everyone else. However, fostering this mindset, in my experience, only disillusions you into thinking you’ve improved as an individual.
Countless times in my battle with the Common App, I’ve felt pressured to have filler content in my awards and extracurriculars section, so I scrambled around school and the Internet to feign more passions. That mentality didn’t take me far. Although I was able to put more words in my essays and activities sections, that’s all that they were — words. They didn’t present any other dimension about myself and surely didn’t demonstrate interest, because they were so disjointed from my core identity they didn’t make sense to be there. Stuck trying to weave a thread between each aspect of my application, I struggled to fully express my journey as a human being, and instead sounded like a robot programmed into the admissions process. I, towards the end of the journey, did clean up my application and let my selfhood shine more which is where I believe my acceptances stemmed from. However, I wouldn’t consider it a complete success; I still believe I made plenty of mistakes.
In retrospect, to have improved my standing I would’ve had to change my attitude before I even started thinking about colleges. On the surface, I’ve known for a while that STEM topics piqued my interest, and went about my school career chasing ways to express that. Between taking the hardest classes and achieving high grades in those fields and forcing myself into STEM-based volunteer work and clubs, I felt like I was doing everything correctly. But looking back, I was missing the most critical aspect: growth. I never let the seed of my STEM interest blossom into what it was meant to be; instead, I forced it to become what I thought would be most presentable. I thought that those results would increase my utility in the future, but in reality, only maturing and learning can do that. Simply put, subscribing to the natural course of human growth not only improves your aptitude but facilitates your journey to becoming the person you want to be.
However, many people don’t believe this mentality works for everyone. It makes total sense that this path seems impractical at times, as people’s interests don’t always align with a lucrative career. On the surface, I can agree, but with deep introspection and exploration of what’s out there, I think any interest can become fruitful. For example, I’ve always been obsessed with video games, yet have only viewed them as a hobby, as video game development didn’t interest me. But if I had let my love for gaming and STEM subjects grow alongside one another, I would’ve seen far more possibilities. If I decided to start streaming on Twitch or creating YouTube content in gaming, I may have discovered that I enjoy editing/graphic design and audio engineering, both of which companies in diverse fields demand. Even with more specific interests like soap carving or bird watching, there still are advantageous paths to follow as long as you let them grow. For example, through soap carving, you may find that market bar soaps are not as ergonomically designed as they could be, and you could delve into engineering psychology to restructure how companies think to make soap. With bird watching, maybe you’ve begun to catalog your findings and publish them, building a proclivity to express your observations about nature in writing. From there, maybe you’ve begun to appreciate that art form and could start using those writing samples to get involved with TV and movie scriptwriting, novel and poem authorship, or nature journalism.
So if you’re ever questioning what direction your interests can take you, think about them like plants. Regardless of what seed you start with, if you give it the correct space and resources to grow, it will always produce oxygen, just like how all of our interests can make meaningful contributions to the world.
Barber, Nathan. “Focus on the Process and Results Will Follow.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 2 Oct. 2014, www.edutopia.org/blog/focus-process-results-will-follow-nathan-barber.