By Henry Wang
Shy, humble, but determined, she is my student who is going to Caltech this fall. I have worked with her for almost two years on her high school academics, standardized tests, extracurricular activities, summer programs, and ultimately college applications. Besides leading student clubs and taking additional classes outside the school, like most of the applicants to top colleges, she has the perfect GPA and superior ACT and SAT Subject Test scores. But the key factor that helped her gain admission to top universities is her passion for research.
During the summer before her senior year, I helped her secure a biomedical engineering research internship at one of the top public universities where she not only was introduced to the cutting-edge technologies and advanced research skills but also had the precious opportunity to meet and connect with researchers and professors learning about their research and the future of research. One of the professors even wrote her a letter of recommendation that endorses her passion for research and her intangible qualities.
To further take advantage of this unique research experience, we decided to emphasize this experience and its significance to her in her college application essays. I always tell my students that essays are the best opportunity for them to communicate with admissions officers to show who they really are. It’s their opportunity to show something beyond the numbers and facts. It’s the opportunity for them to help admissions officers envision whom they will become: the next Paul Farmer known for his humanitarian work providing suitable health care to rural and under-resourced areas, the next Albert Einstein who redefined the way we understand gravity and universe, or perhaps, the next Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science. We spent a tremendous amount of time contemplating her life, research, and accomplishments, having metaphysical talks about everything, from the interactions of atoms at the microscopic level to the mechanism and meaning of the universe, and creatively merging everything together into an essay masterpiece that beautifully presents her growth and journey as a young researcher. It’s a discovery process that helped her learn and write about herself. It’s hard, but it’s fun.
Admitted by almost all schools she applied to, Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Johns Hopkins, Berkeley, UCLA, etc., it might seem surprising that she has chosen to decline Harvard and MIT’s offer and embrace Caltech. In fact, this is the right choice for her. As a student who wants to conduct research in biomedical engineering and pursues a Ph.D., Caltech’s research resources and the unparalleled 3:1 student-faculty ratio are unbeatable. Most importantly, Caltech has the professors whose research she would like to participate in. As her consultant and friend, I am absolutely certain that Caltech is going to become her next home.
As a ThinkTank Learning Master Consultant, I work with my students closely to help them discover who they really are, uncover their true potential, and realize their dream.