The main hurdle that Jason had to overcome was his inability to reflect upon and consider ways in which to improve a situation, activity, or approach to a problem.
I frequently learned that he assumed that a problem was too difficult for him to overcome or that a situation was completely out of his control. And when he would develop these feelings toward a specific issue, the outcome would be for him to ignore it for as long as possible. However, he has learned that the procrastination approach to an issue usually results in scrambling just to get the job done at the expense of quality.
Once I learned that this was a problem that could potentially affect our productivity in the future, I considered three approaches in order to break the cycle of procrastination. The first idea to solve this issue of procrastination was to focus solely on academic work that I would have him complete for me outside of his schoolwork. By coming up with the assignments for him to complete, I would have complete control over the progression of our work, be able to plan ahead, and draw out the value/skill from each assignment. The second idea was to focus solely on the academic work he was completing for his class assignments. In this way, I could help Jason work on his time management skills in a way that is more applicable to his life.
The Admissionado Approach
In the end, I decided that the two previous approaches were not as effective as my third idea: to use his own extracurricular interests to teach him the skills of time management and how destructive time mismanagement can be to the quality of his accomplishments. After reflecting on these three ideas, I realized that the first two ideas did not address the main issue of Jason not having the opportunity to choose what he was learning/doing.
The first two approaches give him zero accountability and therefore give him no intrinsic motivation to get the job done. For this reason, the third approach made the most sense given what I had learned about Jason when I first started working with him. And when given the freedom to choose what he and I would be working on together, he thrived. He decided that he wanted to organize a charity event to raise money for the foundation, Free the Children, specifically for the children of the rural community in the Fujian province that he had visited the previous winter holiday. His decision to pursue this activity gave him the opportunity to reflect on the importance of a previous activity while also giving him plans for related activities that he could create for himself in the future.
In the end, Jason ended up organizing and hosting an incredibly successful event that was partly sponsored by the Free the Children Foundation, Yao Ming—who was in attendance at the event—and several other companies based here in Shanghai. He then used this experience as the topic of his common application essay. He was accepted to Claremont McKenna College.
Working with Jason on his college apps was like “Fast and Furious 7″—intense, with a lot of twists and turns, but ultimately very fun! Eric, good luck next year; hope it’s just as fast and just as furious, but also just as organized.