Almost exactly two years ago I fell in love with Olin. Candidate's Weekend 2 of 2012 was probably one of the most exciting experiences of my life. My high school experience had made me grow used to a competitive, cutthroat atmosphere in which everyone wanted to be better than everyone else; students competed over test scores, rigorous classes, and research projects. I didn't really know much about Olin, but I thought that I needed to take it upon myself to represent the atmosphere my high school gave off and be competitive. Of course, I was on a team with a student from my school's "rival" school, which only increased my anxiety and view that I had to be competitive.
Suddenly, I was thrown into a situation where grades, test scores, and classes didn't matter. Olin students were running around in crazy hats and sunglasses, and my design team seemed just as excited to be a part of Olin as the current students were. There was no point in being cynical, competitive, or serious. During the first hour of Candidates Weekend, from both the excitement of Oliners and Candidates, I realized that my entire high school experience had been based upon a competitive atmosphere. Olin introduced me to what I feel is the most important part of learning, which is not in the material itself, but in the experience. Even though our contraption exploded when the slightest breeze touched it (which I admit was part of the challenge), building some crazy contraption with people that I had never met before was one of the most fun experiences I had ever had.
Our slighty awkward Candidate's Weekend group photo from 2012!
I realized that I wanted to be in a place surrounded with people who were learning for the sake of learning, and not for the sake of grades, test scores, or colleges. I wanted friends that loved to have fun with things that they learned, and after a few short minutes talking to Olin faculty members, students, and parents, I realized that Olin was exactly the place where these types of people could be found. The friends that I have made here at Olin are people who can get inspired by everyday objects; they can pick up a roll of duct tape, some wood, an Arduino, and some servo motors, and can end up with some crazy robot in a matter of hours, just for fun.
Olin has completely changed the way that I look at learning, it has helped me develop my passions, and it has shaped me into a person I didn't expect to become. Candidate's Weekend revealed a whole new world to me, and I hope that it has the same effect on all of you Candidates going through the process right now. The most important piece of advice I can give you is that you shouldn't try to be someone you aren't. Remember to be yourself, because you are awesome.