while(self++) { #26 } // What a 2400 SAT Score Means

Very little. And I don’t mean to devalue the work that goes into studying for the SAT. Personally, I had the right opportunities, learned the right concepts, applied the right tricks, and I did well. But doing well on the SAT means one thing — that you did well on the SAT. And the importance that so many people put on the exam, on getting the perfect grades, on doing the right activities in high school… well, that’s something that I was sorely guilty of. It’s not something I regret doing. But only because it taught me that it was something that I shouldn’t do. It taught me that the self-imposed stress that characterized my high school days would not make me a better person, neither professionally nor personally. Engaging in hard work is one thing. But working hard for the wrong reasons (such as getting into a top-tier college) was another.

College was an opportunity for me to unlearn all the bad habits I developed in high school. It was by no means instantaneous, but I slowly started to let go of the need to get perfect grades. I decided that I wouldn’t do extracurricular activities just for the sake of putting them on my resume. It’s ultimately a waste of time — time that could be better spent on more discerning, exploratory, and productive efforts. I resolved only to do what I enjoyed or wanted to get better at. I strove to engage in enriching endeavors and to learn from them. By no means did I ignore reality. People need jobs. It can’t be only fun and games. We have to eventually support ourselves and those we care about. And I readily recognize the privilege here. Not everyone can simply do what they want. People have obligations that they can’t always control and taking a risk is, well, too risky. It can mean taking a safer or less optimal route to make the present day possible.

But where risk is possible, great things can happen. Taking chances, trying new things, engaging in what I enjoyed opened me up to opportunities that I wouldn’t have pictured myself doing. Founding and leading a debate team. Whimsically auditioning and (surprisingly) getting a role in my first ever play. Taking a CS course for no good reason, majoring in CS, spending a summer at Stanford, becoming a hackNY Fellow, engaging as a tutor, assuming an adjunct position… you get it. One thing led to another. Bad experiences became learning experiences. Good experiences became stepping stones. Great experiences became turning points. But none of it would’ve happened if I hadn’t clarified to myself why I was doing what I was doing. Doing well on the SAT in order to get into a good college? That wasn’t a good enough goal. College had to be different.

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