Find Yourself Not Your "Passion"

By Kelly Braun
 Int'l School of Sacred Heart, Tokyo

If I have another admission rep come into my school and tell my students that the best thing for them to do in high school is find their passion, I am going to scream. No joke. I am going to scream at the top of my lungs with reckless abandon. 

Passion is such a huge word. These kids are dealing with waaaaaay more pressure than I ever remember dealing with. They worry about their SAT scores, the amount of vocabulary they know, what their parents want, trying to ace all those classes that they are taking, and round out their extracurriculars with violin practice and basketball. Kids think that they need to fit into the “perfect student cookie cutter” so they can get into Harvard, even though I tell them that the cookie cutter is going to get them nowhere, just a mental breakdown.

So when admission people tell them they need to find their passion?

Add that to the short list of things they still need to do. 

When people tell them to find their passion,  their eyes get really big and they say “Ms. Braun, I don’t have a passion, I need to go out and find one!” Then I try to explain to them that passion doesn’t just come overnight, that it’s something that you grow into and that you may not even know until after university. “But Ms. Braun, they said I have to be PASSIONATE!” That’s when I shake my head and hope that I can talk them off the ledge.

According to a simple Google search of “Passion Definition”  the first  definition of “passion” is a “strong and barely controllable emotion”. 

  1. Have you ever met a kid who was under the age of 18 with a true “strong and barely controllable emotion”? Yeah, I have too. Maybe three in my last two graduating classes. But mostly, I meet kids who are excited about things, or really have no clue what they want so they are trying a lot of different things (which is what our school encourages).
  2. Can you honestly say what your passion is? Do you have “strong and barely controllable emotion” about it? I don’t know about you--but I think I am still searching.
  3. What exactly do people mean when they say “tell us about your passion”? You want me to explain my “strong and barely controllable emotion” to you in 500 words? Eeek. Pretty sure that’s not going to happen.

I don’t want to scream. In fact, I don’t even want to get frustrated. To be honest, I understand how hard it is to explain to students how to really show their interests and talents. It’s hard to tell a student that you just want to know them through their writing and application materials. What are they committed to? What kinds of things do they want to pursue later on? What makes them get out of bed in the morning? You want them to show you that they will be a good fit in your institution and I totally understand that. But, for the love of all that is good, please do not use that awful P word. That word puts the fear in students that they are not good enough, when they already are. They don’t need another thing on their checklist, they already have a list of things that make them interesting and unique.

Instead... when trying to get across your point ask them things like what inspires them? What gets them excited about going to school, what their favourite subject is and how they have delved further into it? Do they have a favourite extracurricular? If so, why? If they know why ask them to show you, not just tell you. Maybe after asking these questions they will see that they don’t have to add another checklist item into their “get into university” list, because the list they have is all they really need.  

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Comments 0-5 of 2

SEUNG GIL YOON - Wednesday, April 01, 2015

I wonder whether the speaker (usu admissions offier) could really get a clear picture of the meaning, not definition, of this P word when he/she asks students to show their passion more than what students already have done. What is his/her criteria that decides who is passionate or not? What kind of passion is desirable or not? I imagine the scene from Waiting for Godot in which Pozzo asks Lucky to "Think!" Does Pozzo really get a handle on Lucky's passion and thought? With this article, I feel the heavy burden on my shoulder again with the ceaseless questiond, haunting me day by day. "What is the conspicuous marker of passion? How can I illuminate that word to my students? Am I not another Pozzo?

María-Emilia Villalba - Friday, March 27, 2015

This article made me re-think the way to approach junior and senior students about their future life.

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