Updated: Mar 24, 2021
Since the day I visited San Francisco, I knew it was the place to be. The innovation and technology bubbling from the place excited me. I decided: I want to be in Silicon Valley.
As college applications deadlines were around the corner, I crawled through dozens of school pages, read up on their niche programs and curriculum, and decided on a list of schools.
Then, it was time to write the perfect college essay.
It turns out that writing college essays is tough for a “typical Singaporean kid”. We have been trained to write argumentative essays that require us to think in a structured manner and support our views with credible sources. But when it comes to self-expression, we are at a loss.
Stanford University’s essay prompt “What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?” stirred my inner musings. I had never thought about this question, or any similar question, to be frank. The college admission essay questions were far from straightforward, with no right or wrong answers that we were trained to answer. There is no one perfect essay.
Writing U.S. college essays is a journey of self-discovery. I wrote draft after draft. I spent a lot of time reflecting on where I saw myself in the next five to ten years, and who I wanted to become.
I wanted to graduate as a global citizen, with a keen understanding of different languages and cultures, and how they shape society. Most of all, I wanted to use technology to bring people closer, despite the barriers that separate us.
Applying to U.S. colleges is a great experience for self-reflection and discovery. This is especially important for Singaporean students, who are mainly focused on grades, achievements and outcomes. We need to also start considering our dreams and our inner callings.
We need to reflect on who we truly want to be rather than let conventional wisdom or social pressures dictate who we should become.
As of writing, I still don’t know which college I will end up at, but the experience of writing my college essays has forced me to be more introspective and brought me one step closer to understanding the person I want to be. I know that regardless of which college I get into, I will treasure the experience and most of all, the friendships that I foster.
Ryan is a graduate of Raffles Institution in Singapore and a technology enthusiast. He is currently completing his National Service before going to his dream college.