Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Will that class/activity/sport look good for college?"

The above question is just one more VERY popular question I hear, over and over again. Students and parents alike want to know whether this class or that activity will "look good" for college. The answer carries way more weight than a YES or NO.

Let me explain.

Schools like my alma mater and the cross-town rival will tell you that competition gets tougher and tougher every year and that students are applying with increasing GPA's and even more extra-curricular activities every year. While that is true, not everyone is cut out for UCLA, USC, or even Harvard. There I said it. And not everyone should apply there. There I said that too.

But, not every school has an admissions rate of 22% or 8%. There are so many schools that have an admissions rate of 4o-70% and they are the schools that may even look at more than numbers (SAT, GPA, ranking, HS statistics) to determine whether they should admit you.

Before I get to the details about what "looks good" I must say this, stop trying to make yourself fit into admissions requirements for "this school" or "that school." Be YOU! Once you find out who YOU are, then the rest will come. The schools will be easier to look for because you will be trying to determine whether the school is a good fit for who you are as a person.

I'm not the only one who says this.

Truth is, too many students are applying to these schools NOT because they are a good fit but because mom or dad wants them to go there and/or because that's where everyone applies. That is true, but that also means that even if you have a 4.2 GPA and 14 AP classes on your transcript, you are STILL going to look just average to that college.

These schools may read your essay, look at extracurricular activities, and read letters of recommendation to determine if you as a student fit with the school. But they could just play it by the numbers. You, the student should be doing the same for the school-doing your homework. Determine whether the school fits what you stand for and what makes you, you.

Find schools that make you happy, that offer the class like "Harry Potter as literature" or "biochemical warfare" or "sustainable living" or whatever floats your boat. Find dorms that have other students with similar interests as you or that want to study/party as much (or as little) as you.

Find the school with kids who will join you and nature while living for two weeks in the wilderness during intercession or who are just as excited as you are taking a class on the History of the Beatles.

Know WHY you are applying to the school.....don't just apply because your friends are doing it or just to see if you will get accepted. That's a waste of money. Once you know what makes you happy, then the other stuff will fall into place. Your parents will be proud of you no matter what (as long as you have a plan/idea/vision for your future).

Now....many words later, I will answer the question "Will it look good for college?" I hear all the time.

It will look good for college if it makes you happy and not drive you crazy.

If you are doing what you love (like playing baseball, coaching baseball and volunteering to teach kids baseball fundamentals), then yes that looks good for college. If you are also doing beach clean up but you can't say why or how that impacts your life, then does not look good. And you are wasting your time.

Colleges want to see that you not only are making a meaningful contribution to your school and community, but that you are also getting something out of that contribution. And if you know how to balance your classes along with the extra-curricular activities and can do more than one or two things at a time, well that is good too. But don't jeopardize your academic career (and GPA) because you decided to join too many clubs. Channel surfing does not count as an extracurricular activity.

You only have three years to create the best package to send out to college. Make it a good one that best defines who you are as a person. Balance is key but laziness and missed opportunities will make you look like a weak sauce.

On to classes.

Not only must students learn to balance their time with extracurricular activities but also with your classes. Taking 5 Advanced Placement classes and getting C's on all of them doesn't make you "look good" it makes you look like you're trying too hard. Find a balance between the rigor and what you can handle. And read my other posting.

I know this is not what you want to hear. That's OK.

There is no secret to getting in to Harvard. Harvard decides that. There is a secret to getting in to the college that best fits is to JUST BE YOU!

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