Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
I grew up in a nonreligious household, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve been taught to worship my academics as the key to my success in the future. Instead of praying 5 times daily or memorizing biblical verses, nearly every day my mother and I would sit down with workbooks she bought, always with Clip-Art pictures of apples and pencils on the cover. Through countless addition problems and grammar exercise after grammar exercise, my mother – almost militantly – assured that my reading, writing, and math skills were always 2 grade levels ahead. Instead of a Bat Mitzvah or confirmation, my rites of passage were making the national spelling bee and scoring at the 93rd percentile on the SAT in 8th grade.Why? Because just as devout Christians work for salvation, or Buddhists and Hindus struggle to attain nirvana, I have labored along the path toward a Holy Grail (an Ivy League education) and a vague fruition that my parents define as a prosperous career. As they love to say, my high school education is “laying a foundation for the rest of my life”. I bought into this belief, reading Wikipedia article after Wikipedia article on the college admissions process. In 7th grade, I could recite all the names of the Ivy League schools. That same year, my mom borrowed a Princeton Review book profiling the Best 377 Colleges. I read every word, cover to cover, in the massive tome. By the time I started high school, I knew most of their acceptance rates, SAT score ranges, and rankings according to both Forbes and U.S. and World Report.In an insightful French storybook entitled Le Petit Prince, the narrator remarks that “les grandes personnes aiment les chiffres”: big people love numbers. The saying holds true for Eastern parenting. To other parents, and more painfully your own, you become a list of numbers and accomplishments – SAT scores, GPAs, awards, competitions you’ve placed in.I think few people want to be defined that way. I know I don’t. I think of myself as far more than a handful of scores and percentiles that can be haphazardly flung onto a graph. I have much more dimension, both literally and figuratively, than that single red dot on a scatterplot, indistinguishable from the others except for its location. And yet, my brain is measured by the amount of calculus it can do or the number of grammar rules it knows.Why not by its confidence and solidarity? Why not by the originality of itsperspective? Why not by its unquenchable thirst for knowledge? Because “quickness of mind” and “depth of understanding” can’t be put on a résumé, and SAT scores and honor bands can.My academic career, my intelligence, the quality of my intellect should not bemeasured by, or confined to a double-spaced, 12-point-font list of bullet points that can fit on a single sheet of paper. Because a parent who constantly defines their child as a series of numbers risks forgetting, and thereby devaluing, the rest of that child’s still-blooming being. I can explain the main causes of the Civil War in language that my 11 year old sister can understand. I can discuss the benefits of microloans for women in 3rd world countries. I can face a panel full of critics in a debate without faltering.I am eloquent, inquisitive, open-minded – none of which can be measured by any amount of numbers.