Two students gather around laptops and a model of the solar system in discussion.

Inhabiting Perseverance

Finding the will to persevere in the college search process

Last year, I wrote a blog post about my love of space, specifically NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover, and how it related to the college search process. For the record, this was published before Curiosity made the entire internet cry on its tenth birthday by no longer having the power to sing itself happy birthday, as it had done every year prior. Yes, this necessitated some ugly crying on my part. No, we don’t need to talk about it.


I mentioned in that post that since Curiosity launched in 2011, there was another launch of the Mars Perseverance Rover in July 2020. I said, and I quote, “There’s also probably a lot to say about perseverance in the college process, but that’s another blog post.”


Congratulations, you’ve made it to that blog post!


While the Curiosity Rover will always hold a very special place in my heart, the Perseverance is interesting in its own right. Perseverance is trying to identify past environments that could support microbial life, seeking signs of biosignatures of that microbial life, collecting core rock and soil samples and testing oxygen production in the atmosphere. In other words, while Curiosity was trying to figure out if there has ever been life on Mars, Perseverance is looking into how that life survived and how humans could theoretically visit Mars.


And, while all of that is very cool, Perseverance again represented an important part of both space travel and its times: perseverance.

Perseverance is defined as persistence in doing something despite difficulty, obstacles or delay in achieving success. The name of the Perseverance Rover is particularly apt; you may have noticed that the rover launched in July 2020. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists were unsure if the rover would even get to launch because of the shut-downs. Yet despite delays and numerous obstacles, it launched and made it to Mars on February 18, 2021 (roughly the time period when most people in the U.S. were receiving their first doses of the COVID vaccine).


Perseverance made it to Mars despite what seemed like overwhelming obstacles; your journey to college may be filled with the same. For my rising seniors in the high school graduation class of 2024, you started your high school experience during a pandemic. You’ve seen social and political turmoil both nationally and worldwide. You’ve overcome personal obstacles to make it all the way through to your senior year; your accomplishments in that area should not be minimized. In order to continue to push through to your college search process, you are going to need to inhabit perseverance.


Make perseverance your mindset. Even when the tasks seem overwhelming, you can push through; you’ve done it before. You will make it through the college search and application process, you will find the college that is the best fit for you, and this time next year you will be preparing to move in. But you have to focus on making it to that point.


As a proper English Lit nerd, one of my favorite things about the Perseverance Rover is two sensors that sit on the end of its robotic arm: SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) and WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering). (Okay, so they took some liberties on that last one). As their names suggest, these two instruments scan and image rocks up close to determine their composition. They are constantly making new discoveries about the astrobiology of Mars, just like the detectives for which they are named.

Speaking of those detectives, Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Red Circle once said, “Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last.” You need only persevere through those lessons to learn more.


For the record, the Curiosity Rover is still alive, somehow; it may not be able to sing happy birthday, but it continues to move and take images for NASA. Perhaps it is drawing inspiration from its sibling as it perseveres despite low power. 


Regardless, our two fearless little rovers keep pushing, just as we hope you will.


Rachel West is the Director of Enrollment Marketing at Agnes Scott College. She is a self-proclaimed space nerd, and she very kindly did not make any references to science fiction in this blog post (despite really, really wanting to).

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