A wee bit of soul searching…

4 10 2011

It’s that time of the year again when hoards of final-year high school students search far and wide on the Internet for universities and colleges to apply to. I myself am going through this process now, and along with it, a wee bit of soul searching.

Why soul searching? For one thing,  actively assessing whether a certain university will suit me means asking myself what I want to do, what kind of living environment I would enjoy, how I like to work, and so on.

The ‘meat’ of the soul searching, however, comes later. The search really shifts up a few gears when you move on to the next stage of the whole application process: that of writing college essays.

Imagine writing essays for questions like:

  • Find x.
  • Using the following quotation from “The Moral Obligations of Living in a Democratic Society” as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world:
    “Empathy is not simply a matter of trying to imagine what others are going through, but having the will to muster enough courage to do something about it. In a way, empathy is predicated upon hope.”
  • Imagine looking through a window at any environment that is particularly significant to you. Reflect on the scene, paying close attention to the relation between what you are seeing and why it is meaningful to you.

It really takes a lot of soul searching to answer questions as thought provoking as these. You’ve really got to dig deep into the crevasses of your own personality that have until now been hidden from view, obscured by the hubbub of daily routines.

The question I’m asking myself now is, “What are my values?”

I’ve never given this question a thought ever before, but some quick Googling brought me to this list of values – and I’m struck by how many values I actually have.

My soul-searching/college essay writing process is still in its early stages, but I hope to have an epiphany sometime soon – perhaps on my hike tomorrow!




The Start-Up of You

15 07 2011

I was reading Thomas L. Friedman’s column the other day, titled ‘The Start-Up of You’. Reading it made me think, what does this mean for the things that I’m investing time in now – my school work, SAT preparation, the whole college admission process…?

Basically, Mr. Friedman pointed out that increasingly, we’re going to have to invent our own jobs instead of expecting someone to hire you just because you have a degree. He quotes LinkedIn’s founder:

“The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone. No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.”

Which all is very interesting, because I had just walked into an SAT exam preparation center hoping to see if there was anything that might be of use. Flipping through the center’s brochure, I balked at the incredulously exorbitant prices they charged.

$13 000 HKD for a 30 hour ‘SAT Essentials’ prep course??

You can’t be serious. If people are worried about the tech bubble bursting because various companies are being over-valued, then I’d tell them to come check out HK’s tutorial industry! Clearly SAT’s are important, but to spend $13 000 HKD on a course to prepare you for an exam, when HK’s median monthly income is around $18 000 HKD? Whilst I don’t think education can ever be overvalued, I think certain aspects of it is definitely being grossly overvalued here in HK.

I don’t have much a conclusion. Perhaps Mr. Friedman is right – it’s time we started thinking about how to create our own jobs rather than waiting for a job to find you. If that’s the case then are SATs, colleges and all that still as important as they seem? Maybe. But definitely not important enough to charge $13 000 HKD for a 30 hour course!