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Be Bold and Explore Wildly in College

by Yingbin Mei, on Jul 6, 2016 5:00:00 AM

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The journey to and through college has changed. What do today's students' stories tell us about the new reality, and how can storytelling usher in a new approach to success in this changed world? This was the driving question behind Stories at the Intersection, student-driven session that immersed participants in the power of storytelling by sharing stories and exploring how students can align their visions of the future with their educational journeys. This story is from Yingbin, a Stories at the Intersection participant.


On the snow-covered ground rests a rectangular architect of which golden lights lit up the dark blue night of winter. This is the first impression I had of my Alma mater, Hamilton College after viewing a photograph on U.S. news. I came to know Hamilton late in my college application process. But the moment that I saw the golden science building in the winter background, I knew that this is the school for me if I got in.

After doing some research, I learned that Hamilton was a selective school and that it was a reach for me. To stand out from other equally if not more qualified applicants, I knew I had to stand out by telling my own story. At the time, I was blessed to have an opportunity to participate in a workshop led by Story2.

In the workshop, I learned how to write my college essay in a way that captures the reader’s attention and leaves them wanting more. In particular, the coaches at Story2 first taught me how to map out a story from my life that reflects the traits that I would like to project.

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Then, I learned how to draw the reader’s in using a "magnet" first sentence, keeping the reader in action and leaving more questions to be asked. In retrospect, my storytelling essay played a pivotal role in helping me gain admission to Hamilton.

Since then, I started applying the storytelling technique in other areas such as scholarship and summer internship applications throughout the four years of my college career. As I was trained in the sciences, I later came across the fact that evolution has molded our brains for storytelling. When we narrate a story, we activate certain areas of other people’s brain and make our ideas and experiences become more relatable and consequently more impactful. Therefore, I strongly recommend students to employ this technique in their college application whether in the form of essays or even interviews.

After studying for four years in college, I would like to share some tips on how to do well in college and debunk a few myths surrounding it. Before coming to college, I was a straight A student. So, I expected that I could just study a day or two before exams and I can earn A’s in college. But after going through freshman year, I learned that especially if you did not take AP courses, introductory college courses such as general chemistry can be quite difficult. The reality is that unless you are one of those geniuses who can absorb information at an accelerated pace, it is unlikely that you will do well by cramming. Therefore, I recommend that you study on a constant basis because the coursework in selective colleges is often massive compared to what you were used to in high school.

Before I entered college, I thought that learning in college would primarily take place inside the classroom. But from experience, most learning actually takes place outside of the classrooms. It happens when you collaborate with group mates on projects, when you study for an exam with your classmates in the library, and when you attend lectures and seminars given by educators visiting the school. College is full with a myriad of opportunities. For example, there is the Kite Club and Ento Club at my school club in which you can learn how to fly kites and eat bugs.

For those of you who don’t know what your future holds, be bold and explore wildly in college. And for those of you who may already have a clear goal, stay open-minded because you may encounter something totally different that might set your soul on fire.

As students begin their educational journey in college, I advise them to venture out of their comfort zone. Now I have graduated from college, the moments that I remember are those when I truly challenged myself. For example, I trained and swam 525 yards in the school’s annual triathlon event even though I could not even swim three laps continuously two months prior to the event.

Four years of college fly by really quickly. In retrospect, the day of my college graduation did not feel distant at all from the day I graduated from high school. Cherish every moment you have in college. Learn, grow, and collect memorable stories. For many of you, those will the best four years of your life.

Yingbin is graduate from Hamilton College, where he earned a BS in Biochemistry.

Topics:High School and College

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