US Senior Consultant
The most important factor in one’s life is exploring, discovering, and developing one’s interests and passions. This is especially true for young students, who have their entire lives ahead of them to embark on this journey of self-discovery.
Colleges are looking for students who are really excited about something and actually pursue that in some way. The reason for this is that colleges want students who are coming to their campuses and actually participate in their education, not just sit back and let it come to them.
A term for this characteristic is “intellectual vitality” – meaning you are both a thinker and a doer, not just someone who has an interest in a topic, but someone that regularly acts on this interest. This manifests itself in the idea that intelligence is developed through experience.
So what experiences should one seek to gain intelligence? The answer, while different for everyone, lies in the heart – focus on what you care about. Taking this a step further – focus on what you care about and take action.
Having the right mindset
Taking action requires having a certain mindset. What is the difference between a “fixed” mindset and a “growth” mindset? What about in relation to taking action on your interests?
Let me illustrate through an example of a student who thinks they want to be an engineer. If this student has a “fixed” mindset, they might take classes in school related to robotics and physics and talk about their passion for the field with parents and friends. This is great – they are academically exploring the interest and having meaningful conversations about the topic.
If this same student who is interested in engineering adopts a “growth” mindset, they will take their interest to the next level: they might start building their own robots or machines, do an extensive research project with a professor to discover something new, or take part in a summer program that, for example, focuses on improving water systems in a city or a rural area.
The difference here is clear: the “fixed” mindset student works within his or her available resources, while the “growth” mindset student reaches to the world outside and finds new opportunities. Why limit yourself just to what is available in your school when it comes to your interests?
BE students and intellectual vitality
Two of our students pushed beyond their comfort zones this summer to explore their passions. They participated in programs that were related to their academic interests and which went beyond the classroom to learn and make an impact in a community.
One student participated in a program with Global Leadership Adventures that went to Bali to learn about local and global health issues and present some solutions to these problems.
This student has an interest in medicine and enjoys science class, but never had an opportunity to explore the field of medicine. Since the student had never traveled alone before and the group was mostly American students, this was also an opportunity for her to gain some independence and improve her English skills.
“One of my purposes of going on this trip was to explore my interest in the health field. Something I learned about myself is that I really enjoy offering others help with my knowledge of health. The feeling of knowing I am doing something meaningful is unparalleled. Though it was rather hot during the home health checks, I was patient about every home visit. ”
There was some difficulty in checking blood pressure, but I never gave up trying. I had a lot of fun. If I had gone to Bali only for vacation, I probably would not have had the chance to deeply understand its culture. Bali undoubtedly has beautiful landscapes, but I also experienced its humanity and culture.”
Another student took an entrepreneurship course at Brown University this summer. She has an interest in business, but this was her first time taking a business-related course. After the course was over, she returned to Shanghai and attended a program with Keru.
The aim of the program was to help a local non-profit organization (NPO) to make a new business plan in order to more effectively achieve its goals.
The student, along with a small group, performed a comparative analysis on the NPO's business model, merchandising, web page and volunteers to gauge how it competes with other NPOs and how it can improve. This was not only an actionable experience, but also one that made a real difference in the student's own community in Shanghai.
“Working with Shanghai Sunrise (SHSR) through Keru was my first time working with an NPO. While it was difficult, as I imagined it would be, I still had fun and gained a meaningful experience. One day, I met a girl about my age, whose family could not support her high-school tuition of 6000 per semester.
Our students had life-changing experiences this summer and made a true difference in the communities in which they visited. They will continue to build on these interests in medicine and business through research projects and starting their own business ventures, through professional and self-guided programs.
Whether participating in these activities made them realize their true calling in life, or just honed their interest in a specific field, these students gained new insights and learned about themselves and their respective topics of interest.
These are pivotal steps for young adults to take in their lives – they show initiative, growth, and potential to be future leaders and great thinkers. This is what will set them apart as applicants and, more importantly, as individuals.