College and Beyond

Summa alum Erwin Li shares his thoughts and experiences on the roles of identity development and a wide perspective in college prep, as a current student at Yale University. 

Erwin LiSumma alum Erwin Li

My name is Erwin Li. I graduated from Torrey Pines High School in the summer of 2012, and am now a prospective Global Affairs major at Yale University. I don’t exactly have a concrete idea of what my future career would be, but something related to political activism or diplomacy would be awesome. 

In today’s world, the value of attending a prestigious college has become increasingly more important, and while I’d like to think this phenomenon has created a better world, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. In high school, students have become pressured to “pad their college app” and adopt mindsets where every academic class and every extracurricular is just another opportunity to look better for some educational institution.  I know I definitely thought about this from time to time, and for some people, this attitude carries into college.

But here’s what I’ve learned over the years. Stop making an identity for yourself according to some external good. We as humans are so set on this idea of goal-setting, in which the general thought is often:

 “If I get good grades and achieve in my extracurriculars, I will go to a good college. If I go to a good college and repeat what I did in high school, I will go to a good graduate school. If I go to a good graduate school, and get a good job. If I have a good job I will make tons of money and I will be happy.”

Sure, these thoughts are certainly logical, but in my opinion it’s the wrong way to go about living. If you think like the quote above, you have put yourself into a situation where you jump over one fence and all you see in front of you are more fences. So where does this stop? It stops when you start with just trying to be happy. College is great, but hey, so are you; give yourself time to have fun and relax with friends, to start an awesome project that you’re interested in. Not only does research suggest that people with this type of thinking are the most successful, but also it’s just an awesome way to live. I’m sorry if I’m preaching, but this is something I’ve had to tell myself each and every day. You only get one shot at life, so make it count. I promise you, the obstacles and pressure you face will seem much less intimidating when you start with changing your attitude.

Summa possesses a wonderful staff who will be your teachers, companions, and role models, always supporting and pushing you even if you fall along the way. I’ve had the honor and pleasure with working with Summa’s staff for two years; you certainly can too.

If you’ve somehow read all of this terribly long post, I commend you, and if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at erwin dot li at yale dot edu.