Curiosity: the secret that led me to Stanford

So why did I get into Stanford? While I hope I was more than a sporadic decision by an admissions officer, I don’t pretend to know how college admissions entirely work. Regardless, after visiting Stanford and some self-assessing, I believe there to be one factor that may explain some of it.

As a child, my interest lay not in baseball or climbing trees; rather, I was a little nerd. Whether it was video games or museums, I always had to be learning something new. Innocent car rides became barren wastelands, ruined from the barrage of questions launched at my parents. Why do things cost money? Why are leaves green? What is a government? These were all questions that rushed from my brain to my vocal cords, but they were more than ammunition; they were necessary. Without a solid understanding of what’s going on around me, I feel unsafe — not vulnerable, just out of place. So the stage has been set: I like to know things, and I don’t like when I don’t know things. Simple enough, it took more development to become who I am.

Freshman year at Bear Creek, I was very insecure. Self-esteem was abysmal, but my curiosity remained powerful. Curiosity kept me afloat in schoolwork, but I had close to nothing that truly interested me, invoked my passion. I studied because I was interested, I did well enough because I was curious, but after school I would go straight home, play video games, sleep, whatever my hormones told me to do. Freshman year was not a good existence.

Something changed once sophomore year struck. I started receiving praise for my academic performance. Being an insecure high schooler, compliments from peers and teachers lit up my world. As such, my interest in learning shot up. Both newfound recognition and increased rigor in my classes gave me some sense of purpose, a determination to succeed. The seed of ambition began to sprout.

While my insecurity started fading, sophomore year did not grant me true confidence. It was a nice substitute, though. It was good feelings. I had no real confidence in myself, I just felt good about myself because people praised me. The backbone of my effort was this good feeling — an animalistic desire to get more of that good feeling. To this day, I struggle to separate my own confidence from my academic performance and confidence from good feelings, but sophomore year saw no confidence.

Junior year I became involved with Leadership programs, which started to truly build my confidence. It was because of these programs that I felt that I had capability as a person, and as a result my worth as a person lay in more than just my GPA. Now with confidence and — never to be forgotten — curiosity, I was equipped with the tools I needed to become who I am today.

Curiosity dictates that I know the scope of possibilities and results of anything that could happen around me, or as a result of me. Confidence was the realization that I could change the world with enough hard work. The two formed a dangerous duo, as confidence lit a dark dungeon for curiosity to traverse. Once curiosity realized where it was, it was too late to back out, it was — and I am — lost in ambition. I immediately assessed how I could change the world, what I cared about, and it was a fun period of exploration. I came out extremely passionate about education disparity, and decided to work towards that, on a somewhat small scale. I dedicated a lot of time to tutoring and trying to invoke hidden curiosity in young children — a curiosity that I owe my life to, a curiosity that I believe to be quite powerful. I dedicated my summer to tutoring at the local library and secured a position as Co-President of National Honor Society, a tutoring-based program. I want others to experience the bountiful gifts that curiosity has granted me; I passionately believe in the power of curiosity, so I dedicated myself to spreading it.

It was at this time that I became truly passionate about Stanford, as well. My ambition told me to throw myself in the fire of rigor and excellence that Stanford represented. My ambition told me that I could best accomplish my inner ambitions with the preparation of such a school, and that even if I didn’t get in, I was going to see through my passion, let new passions strike me and emerge knowing what I specifically want to focus my energy on. Stanford would best equip me to change the world, and so to some extent, I felt like a denial would be a denial to my own ability to affect the world. Application season came around, I poured my heart out into the application and five months later, it all came down to one click, one “Congratulations,” and one frantic “I GOT IN!” heard round the house.

So why did I get into Stanford? I think the most essential factor was curiosity. Curiosity alone isn’t enough — I needed confidence to put my curiosity to good use. Only when you believe that you can change the world does ambition become prevalent, and curiosity allows ambition to be passion-driven. So that’s a case study in Julian Bernado. That’s what I think has gotten me to where I am. Of course colleges still have arbitrary expectations of GPA and test scores, but a passionate ambition and a will to change the world are, in my opinion, infinitely more valuable.