UPDATE: refer to this post.
Help Alvin Get Into School! is an online appeal by Alvin Wang for a place to study Computer Science at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
It is really inspiring to see another person with such immense passion for what he does, and it makes me wonder why the university rejected his application? Perhaps the university has a valid reason, or perhaps being good at developing apps, or knowing many languages does not increase your chances of a place in university, or maybe it is just a foolish administration error. These questions can only be appropriately addressed by the authorities.
Although I am truly inspired by his passion and love for his work, I am rather surprised by this appeal, and his decision to publicly post this online. Perhaps due to the successes of operations such as the Jasmine Revolution or the Occupy movements, Alvin has decided to reach out to the masses using social media to rally people in support of his causes, whether in the form of Likes, Tweets or +1’s. The power of social media cannot be underestimated, but perhaps in this particular matter, it might not be the appropriate channel. Being an established educational institute, NUS has an official channel (Office of Admissions) for prospective students to file inquiries and appeals. It is possible that Alvin has already done so and wishes to enforce his appeal by this online movement. But the idea I get while visiting his website is that he hopes to use the power of the mass to make the Professors review his application. And that I feel itself is incorrect.
If Alvin wishes to appeal based on the impressive portfolio he has built up, an online website featuring all his work and experiences would be a quick and convenient way for him to showcase to the staff of NUS. In the email for appeal, he can simply paste a link to the website and the professors would be able to review his work. But that is not what the current website is about.
Helpalvingetintoschool.com blatantly calls for people to “help” him get into school, to join his appeal, to virtually sign a sheet that says “I want Alvin to get into school”. I am no statistician, but I am sure every year, there is a large number of people who fail to get into University, what more their choice of course. Does Alvin think that if 9 thousand (as of now his website has 9k likes) people wishes him to get into University, the staff should reconsider? Or to phrase it in another way, what value do the likes of the masses hold? Is the value substantial? Perhaps Alvin just wishes for the committee to review his portfolio because he believes that they missed out, but an explicit call for appeal isn’t the right way to do so. Rather a polite and sincere call would be much more suitable.
With the help online learning facilities like CodeAcademy, Udacity and much more, programming is much more accessible than before. Many people are already building up a strong portfolio on their own, without going to official school to pick up the skills. Reading through Alvin’s website, I can’t help but feel a tinge of arrogance and selfishness in his part: Arrogance because the focus on the website is on his experiences and knowledge, and he aptly showcases a demo, and it leads me to believe that he thinks he should not have been rejected because he possess a strong portfolio; Selfishness because ultimately even if this appeal successfully goes through and he gets a placing, only he stands to gain, so why trouble people?
Perhaps I am thinking so much. Like Alvin has said in his introduction, he was disappointed but decided to give it another shot because this is what he wants. I respect that spirit and I respect his courage, but I do not agree with his way of appeal. Ultimately what is important is that Alvin continues to do what he loves to and I really wish him all the best for his future, not every one has the determination like him to try again after a failure, and I’m sure this attitude will go a long way.