For the last three days, I participated in the admissions interviews for KAIST. During the whole process, the question that’s been bugging me was, “what kind of a student body do we want?” By “a student body”, I mean the total distribution and population of undergraduate students in terms of their intellectual capacity, curiosity, diligence, academic rigor, talent, passion, and personality.

The format of the interviews–group discussion, individual q&a, 5-minute speech–all seem to favor those with good public speaking skills. But these students, coming from an educational system based on reading, writing, and working on math and science problems on paper, are not accustomed to public speaking, especially in front of professors. The Admissions Office has decided on this interview format because they wanted to recruit students who will become future leaders in science and engineering. I agree wholeheartedly that public speaking skills, along with other leadership skills, are important for future S&E leaders, but still, I could not resist sympathizing with these seventeen-year-olds who were just not trained to speak up. We, the interviewers, were supposed to rate the students on their creativity, thoughtfulness, attitude, and other subjective metrics that were not shown on their school records, but in many cases, I felt the students probably possessed many of these qualities but just could not express them because they were so nervous.

The other professor in my room, who is probably in his late 50s or early 60s, expressed a similar viewpoint several times during the three days. He wanted to give everyone a chance to study at KAIST. I agree with him. After all, these are seventeen (some are sixteen) year-olds who have been working so hard to get into KAIST. I felt that most of the students had plenty of potential to become great leaders, if they are trained well at KAIST. Of course, there is only a limited number of students we can accept each year, but I want to congratulate each and every student who came into our room, “GREAT JOB!”

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