Students: Are you well-rounded or well-lopsided? (and which is best)

High school students–when filling out your college applications, there’s plenty of space to show your stuff–sports, clubs, volunteer work, and on.  Here’s the catch:  colleges want a well-rounded admission class, but a lop-sided you.  Huh?

What’s a well-rounded admissions class?

Colleges are seeking a freshman class that enriches the life of the entire campus and your fellow classmates.  Combine  top-notch scholars, athletes, musicians, artists, scientists, writers, etc. and what do you have?  A well-rounded class certain to promote the college’s mission and excellence.  The key is top notch, a class that shows passion.

What’s a lop-sided you? 

There’s an expression us old folks use, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  It means someone who dabbles in this and that, lots of stuff, but never really gets beyond the dabbling part to the excelling part in anything.  It would be best if they did several things well, but one thing very well.  Even remarkably.  And to do that, you can’t spread yourself too thin.

You know the student.  They want to be “well-rounded” so they join Book Club.  But, they don’t finish the book and miss meetings.  They just want something to put on their college application.  The admissions folks know this.  They are looking for someone who was an officer of Book Club, who led the book drive for the local library, or read to students at the local shelter.  Someone who did more than just show up.  Or not even that.

When looking for activities in high school, be sure to find several to expose yourself to new activities and ideas.  BUT instead of spreading yourself thin, be top-notch in one.  Which one?  The one that fits your interests and passion.

Being Mr. T or Ms. T

Recruiters in both college and the job market are looking for applicants who are “T” shaped.  Like the capital letter, it means having breadth in several areas (the horizontal line) and depth in one particular area (the vertical line.)

What does this look like?  It may mean playing on the tennis team, singing in the show choir, AND being president of the Art Club, organizing a community art show and winning a drawing competition.  Little bit o’ Breadth AND a lot of Depth.

Good news?  It’s easy to show depth in something you’re interested in and love doing.  Colleges love that about you.

Trust me, you’ll fit that college to a “T”


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Book Review: “Countdown to College: 21 ‘To Do’ Lists for High School”

Boy,  I wish I had this book when our kids were freshmen in high school!

When I applied to college (yup, LONG time ago) I took the ACT once, filled out a simple form, and was accepted.  Fast forward to their college search and there was so much to know:  Early Action, Safety Schools, Early Admission, Common Application–you name it and I didn’t know about it.  Plus, I waited too long to find out and was overwhelmed.

Here’s the book I wish I had then, that you can get now–“Countdown to College:  21 ‘To Do’ Lists for High School” that gives you and your high school student “an easy-to-follow time line to maximize high school years and optimize their chances of ‘getting where they want to go.'”   It combines personal self-discovery (majors, campus visits, careers, etc.) with the nitty-gritty of important deadlines, scholarship aid, essay writing and the FAFSA.  Best part is the book is very readable, with a check-list for grades 9 through 12.

“Countdown to College” also contains excellent resources and websites for further research.  As the book says, “Don’t miss a deadline–or an opportunity!” If you are beginning (or in) the college process with your high school student, this may be the best $11.95 you’ve ever spent.

Authors:  Valerie Pierce with Cheryl Riley (2009 Front Porch Press)

By: Valerie Pierce with Cheryl Riley

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