Working with Bobby for almost two years–from March 2014 until February 2016–I realized early on that the main challenge would be presenting him as something more than one-dimensional.
International students have the reputation of being STEM-focused with zero other interests, and this was initially true about Bobby. He didn’t care about any subjects other than math and science, and his only extracurricular was Robotics Club.
The other challenge was that Bobby tended to put off application work until the last minute, even when we were just doing simple writing exercises, and the quality of his work would suffer.
Working with Bobby from his sophomore year onward, I had ample time to guide him before application work began. Early on, I encouraged Bobby to immerse himself in activities other than Robotics Club. He played piano for most of his life and expressed an interest in visual arts. However, he firmly refused to devote any time to these pursuits outside of school.
Next, I challenged Bobby to create an extracurricular of his own, something that expressed his passions. This was met with resistance initially, but I managed to get him to try, though the first few ideas were false starts.
The Admissionado Approach
After realizing that Bobby was not going to be the well-rounded student I initially envisioned, I decided it would be best if he embraced his interests to the highest degree. If he wasn’t going to be a Jack-of-all-Trades, then he should be a master of one: robotics.
The successful activity I designed with Bobby was a robotics tutoring club. Every week, Bobby spent a few hours at the local middle school teaching robotics. About a dozen students became involved in the club, and the opportunity to teach them about his passion proved to be exciting for Bobby.
Since Bobby was already passionate about Robotics Club, I realized that instead of forcing him into other extracurriculars, I should allow him to devote himself to it full-stop. During his junior year, Bobby worked hard to get his team to the regional VEX robotics competition, where they advanced to the Asia-Pacific level. Bobby became a leader on the team, helping them achieve victory and qualify for the Worldwide VEX Championship in the US. This was a pivotal experience that generated excellent material for Bobby’s application essays. Subsequently, I kept him motivated and excited throughout the application process, successfully battling against his procrastinatory nature.
Bobby applied to many technical schools, aiming for a degree in engineering. He was recently accepted to Virginia Tech, and he’s awaiting admissions decisions from several other schools. Thanks to his strong experience in robotics, he has been able to rise above the level of the prototypical international applicant, distinguishing himself on the worldwide stage.
You battled valiantly in the VEX ring and on your applications, Bobby. Now it’s time for the main stage: COLLEGE. Keep up the fight… Glory in the engineering world awaits!!