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SS, 17, was reading Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to arms, when I met him this past weekend in Stone Mountain, Georgia. He’s just graduated at top of his class at a special public STEM school and will start pursuing his Computer science degree at Princeton this fall. Princeton University, in the same league of Yale and Harvard, is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Here’s the transcript of my face to face interview with him.
Heart: Is the general theme of your life these days, hope? I mean, hope for the future?
SS: No, I think its working for the future. Its like, unabashed, constant, perseverance for a goal, and not even hoping for anything. Just work for it and not hope for it, that’s the stage I’m in right now.
Heart: That’s very profound. What did you have to sacrifice to get here?
SS: Um, sometimes, personal relationships. Sometimes, going out with friends. Um, I really didn’t have to sacrifice much, I enjoy what I do.
Heart: So, you’re where you are because of your passion?
SS: I would say so. But, on the same note, I wish I was passionate about other things like, I wish I could be as passionate as I’m about academics, about community service because that’s something I really want to get into. So, I wish there was a duality to my personality, but there isn’t.
Heart: What parameters does Princeton see before accepting you into their program, other than academics? Obviously, your GPA must’ve been high and you’re a valedictorian.
SS: They review my all round character, passion for learning, they look for an overall package, I guess. They admit some people who’re all stars in their field like Swimming National champions or Math geniuses.
I think I was admitted in that kind of like, overall good category, you know, I’ve academics, I’m involved in school, I’m in leadership positions, so, yeah, I guess overall and strong academics.
Heart: I’ve recently read a book called Hillbilly Elegy and J.D. Vance, whose memoir it is, is this poor kid from rural Appalachia who ends up going to Yale law school, because he gets a need based scholarship. But, the point is, he talks about this almost cult like atmosphere there. You belong to this high powered Yale fraternity and somehow you’ll always have to keep up with that. Have you heard of anything like that in the Ivy league culture?
SS: Yeah, there’s a lot of elitism in the Ivy league culture, and you see a lot of economic disparity in the Ivy leagues. Because, I think the average income of the families that send their kids here is well above 150,000$ a year.
And like, almost 40% don’t qualify for financial aid at all. So, that indicates that there’s a high proportion of these rich people in comparison with the general population. So, yeah, there’s like a social enclaves present in the ivy leagues that keep the first generation and low income students out of the ivy leagues. Yeah, I would agree with that statement. And also, because I think these institutions tend to be liberal there’s a gap between the conservative silent majority, per se, and the liberal nature of these institutions.
Heart: What’s your ultimate goal in life?
SS: Um, Wall street, financial analyst, computer scientist, designing those algorithms that they use to trade.
Heart: There’s almost a guarantee that you’ll end up there. But, what about the burnout rate? I guess, if you want that kind of a life, you need to start meditating right away. (Laughs)
SS: Oh yeah, yeah, I’ve heard the hours on places like Goldman Sachs are like, just crazy. So, yeah, its a scary life. Maybe for a few years I’ll do that, and then see what I can do.
Heart: And then you’ll become a yogi (monk)?
SS: (Laughs) Yes.
Heart: Its a balancing act and I’m sure you’ll do well. So, when you see kids who have no direction, how does that make you feel?
SS: No, actually, I don’t think anyone of us really knows what we’re doing.
Heart: That’s a good answer that can fit the broader public.
SS: Um, I think we’re just trying to adapt for the world that we’re put in. I guess, we’re in different stages to getting to where we want to be, so there’s a range of time where we’re directionless, including me. I still think I’m there.
Heart: Yeah, I think a lot of us are totally clueless for the most part. (Laughs) So, are there any apps that you can’t live without?
SS: I don’t use a lot of social media, I just have Facebook and Snapchat.
Earlier episodes available at The Anonymous Manifesto™.