Winning Essay by Evan K., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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“He probably got into Stanford because he’s black,” a classmate told me.

For the past four years, Andrew has been competing in Science Olympiad competitions across the country, running Planetarium Club, acing his classes, and scoring unbelievably high on standardized tests. Unfortunately, I only had the pleasure of meeting him this past summer. He instantly struck me as someone who could change the world. Not only is he bright, but he has passion. I learned that he loves astronomy and spends his free time researching its intricacies. He wants to help answer some of life’s biggest questions and I know he has the capabilities and work ethic to do so.

Seeing his passion, I realized that I was lacking my own. I have been interested in computer science for years, but I have never truly been confident about spending the rest of my life in the field. Meeting Andrew caused me to question my trajectory for the first time in my life. Should I continue with computer science? I wasn’t sure. Andrew showed me that I should find a subject for which I would answer with a resounding “yes”.

Even though he has already found this subject for himself, he is considering other fields to study alongside it. He seeks out new disciplines to satisfy his deep-seated curiosity of the world’s complexities; he is not afraid to embrace those he finds fascinating, no matter how surprising. Trusting his approach, I began to delve into subjects I have always found intellectually stimulating but never fully explored.

Soon, I noticed that physics class became increasingly intriguing by the day. Before long, I was genuinely excited to go to class and learn for the sake of learning. Receiving a poor grade on a quiz or test didn't make me feel like a failure. Rather, it inspired me to take the time to reflect upon the material I didn't yet understand. This became a pattern, and I found myself studying even when there weren't assessments looming ahead. Even if the problems were challenging, I loved solving them. The same question popped into my mind: Should I continue with physics? The answer was immediately clear: yes.

Andrew is the one who helped me reach this discovery. Even though Andrew never directly gave me life advice, the way he lived his own taught me so much. Seeing the joy that pursuing his own passions brought him inspired me to find my own. Andrew is exceptionally bright, he has a passion and he's not afraid to pursue it, and he's an extremely beneficial influence to everyone in his life. I know that Andrew will find success in his life. I can't stop others from making assumptions, but he certainly didn't get into Stanford because he's black. Even when high school is a distant memory, I know he will always be making a difference in others’ lives and I will always be grateful for the impact he has had on my life.

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