When is the last time you thought about AND acted on your personal theory of change? I mean we all want to evolve and get to that mythical “next level”. But when have you taken inventory of pursuing your curiosities, of defining your next adventure–and then taken action?“The challenge is in every moment and the time is always now.” James Baldwin
Just completed my middle daughter’s college tour. The search for the right campus but also the search within. Where do I see myself and what do I want to do? Questions we must ask ourselves over and over again. Visited Stanford University and other top schools. When we got to Stanford, my daughter said, “why are we here? I am not going to get into Stanford.” I told her, “You have to see the best schools to appreciate what is out there.” But what does her old Dad know anyway. Long story short, my daughter whispered to me about halfway into our tour, “I want to go here!” Maybe the old man knows something after all:) Went into the info session. And the group started to naturally divide and separate into sub-groups as they sat down. Large humans, tall, big students and their large parents sat to the left. The geeky gear head kids and their somewhat nerdy guardians sat to the right. The back row was filled with Asian immigrant families with their kids close at hand. The middle section was a diverse group of regular folks. Being smaller framed people and not knowing where we should sit we ended up toward the back on the right side. The info session commenced and we were treated to the usual impressive data about the university. Then a review of admission requirements. This is when the fun began. “You need good grades and scores to get into Stanford”, the admission officer revealed. Duh! He was going to skip ahead, when one of the Asian moms in the back waved her hand. “My son has a 4.5 gpa, will he get into Stanford?” The admission rep attempted to be impressed and said, “That’s very good, but grades are just one factor at Stanford and no gpa guarantees your admission.” She looked perplexed and her son looked to her for an explanation. But the rep continued, and then the Asian mom shot her hand back up and exclaimed with a strong hint of her native tongue, “He also has perfect SAT scores–perfect! Does that get him into Stanford?” The son has now bowed his head and was counting his shoelaces. “Nope,” the rep stated politely, “scores and grades are just part of the qualifications for Stanford.” He continued uninterrupted now and launched into a speech about passion. How Stanford wants to recruit students who have pursued interests deeply–for four years or more. How the “well balanced” students, students with a couple years of student government, band, community service, athletics were rejected because they were the products of their Svengali like parents. This “well-balanced” student was now a commodity and Stanford many elite schools receive thousands of these pre-fabricated apps. The big people were nodding their heads, knowing athletics was their passion. And the nerds nodded too because their focused erudition would qualify them. A young hip-hop kid in front of me, his hat off to the side of his head, raised his hand at this point. He mumbled his query, “So, what if your passion was say…., video games? Could that be your passion?” A quick glance at the Asian mom saw her shaking her head… The rep said, “Yes, yes! It depends what you did with video games. Are you a game designer, a world champion?–depends on what you did and how you pursued it, but video games could be your passion and that could help you get into Stanford.” The Asian mom threw up her hands and her son was more confused than ever.
Moral of the story: Stanford admissions has valued passion for a long time– “well-lopsidedness” over grades and scores and any appearance of contrived well roundedness. Stanford and many smart people know that after you are qualified, passion is the big differentiator and the greatest predictor of success. What’s your passion?