Each year, Flinn Scholars write letters of encouragement to the hundreds of students who start applications for the Flinn Scholarship, sharing with them reflections on their own application experience and what they’ve encountered in college. Here’s what second-year Flinn Scholar Jimmy Xu, who attended Hamilton High School in Chandler, had to say.
My name is Jimmy Xu, and I am a sophomore Flinn Scholar studying chemical engineering at Arizona State University. It’s hard to believe that I clicked that ominous Submit button just two years ago, beginning my most difficult yet rewarding journey ever. I’m still bewildered and ecstatic that the scholarship I had heard songs of praise about since my sophomore year of high school is now, and will always be, an integral part of my life.
In my ultra-competitive high school, I was surrounded by a cloud of whispers that made the Flinn Scholarship seem unattainable. Flinn Scholars receive perfect SAT scores. Flinn Scholars travel the globe solving all the world’s problems. Flinn Scholars embody everything I only dream of being possible. How could I ever compare?
Although some of my doubt stemmed from reading the profiles of accomplished Flinns on the website, the majority originated from my own lack of identity. Throughout high school, I had an array of interests, ranging from international relations to science research. My biggest commitment was to Academic Decathlon, where I learned about everything from music of Kievan Rus to the depressed poetry of WWI soldiers. As great as it was to become broadly educated, this range made it difficult to pinpoint my exact areas of interest. So as I sat for hours filling out the Flinn Scholarship application and writing three incredibly crucial essays, the veritable tossed salad that was my high-school career continually bored a hole of self-doubt into me.
I am sure that almost all of you have experienced some form of an identity crisis. But if there is one mote of wisdom that I have obtained from my experience, it is that you will undoubtedly discover more about yourself than you ever expected by applying for the Flinn Scholarship, and if you become a Flinn Scholar, that won’t ever stop.
Yes, it can be intimidating. Not every Flinn can go to West Africa and eradicate Ebola (though we have one alum who spent years working on chimpanzee conservation in Sierra Leone, and we have another who’s a scientist at the CDC). What links all of us, however, is that we all care deeply about what we do. Just being around this wide span of interests teaches you a lot about yourself.
The application process is the first step. I encourage you to look over your applications and check that you’ve really painted a self-portrait, rather than a pointillist piece. Connect the dots yourself; you might be surprised at what you find. And don’t worry if your portrait seems different than what you would have expected, or what you guess that others would expect. What Flinn cares most about is dedication to the greater good and true passion for what you’re best at doing. That’s the great thing: Flinn will support all kinds of crazy projects or interests as long as you yourself are the one to take the initiative.
Be yourself. Discover yourself. Apply for the Flinn.
Class of 2014