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Passion Got Me to UChicago

[Skye is a former B2A student who attended our test-prep classes, our Steps program for high school academic counseling and college planning, and our college admissions Gateway program. She has been accepted to UChicago for the Class of 2021.]

I’m not going to pretend to be some kind of expert on this elusive thing called Begging That High-Ranked School to Accept You--oh, I’m sorry, I meant College Admissions, not that long and potentially dangerous exposé I just wrote. UChicago admissions officers, if you’re out there, please don’t rescind my acceptance because of my impulsiveness.

I won’t pretend to have great grades, so for the rest of you out there who look at your high school transcript and feel like drowning in self-piteous despair, I guess this is for you. Because when I say I don’t have great grades, I mean that if we were to only look at GPA, I wouldn’t be at UChicago. So, how did this miraculous thing occur?

The gist of my journey to greatness (oh, the egotism) is that when I was little, meaning about 5th grade, I knew I liked books. And usually when I’m faced with something cool or admirable, I want to make something just as cool or admirable. So I wrote a book too, and it ended up getting sold at the town fair.

I made zero profit. It was more expensive to publish than to sell. But oh well, that’s the thing with most first-time endeavors. And anyway, I knew I had fun. I also knew that I don’t like settling at the first step, and I usually push on with semi-dangerous tunnel vision. You should also know that I’m really trying very hard not to sound like a college essay.

So in middle school, in between Art of Problem Solving and SAT practice tests and all that jazz, I drafted another book. That one remained in the drafting phase; I didn’t end up publishing it. You know how when you first start something, it feels so great and sparkly and amazing and novel (pun intended)? Then you get to the middle phase, where it’s really a lot of work without most of the freshness of newness. That was middle school. Don’t get me wrong; I researched writing techniques for fun. I had a bookmark folder with 50+ pages on character development, worldbuilding, and passive/active voice and it was all fun. But the publishing got started back up in high school, and I ended up churning out two more books before the college application season got started up.

Of course this whole “pursuing your passions” thing isn’t all fun and games. A buffed-up resume is a necessary truth. So I became editor-in-chief of the Westwood High School literary magazine and snagged a few national literary awards. And since I’m not a perfectly straight ramrod when it comes to interests (most homines sapientes aren’t), I added on a few Coursera certificates on Genomics, a few all-state violin awards, and a few nice technical writing internships.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that a lot of these things I did, I started out of interest and enjoyment, not because it was part of checklist on How to Get Into a Top College. And I know: it sounds sappy, it sounds overly idealistic, it sounds too dreamy for the cynical attitude you might have taken on as a defense mechanism against possibly crushed hopes. But honestly, just use the college application as a way of describing the things you already care about, rather than letting the college application decide what you care about. Then no matter what you do, I think it’ll all work out for you. Because being passionate about what you do is what matters most in the end.

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