Every college looks for authentic applicants. Authentic means, "Not false or copied; genuine; real." They want to get to know the real you, not some contrived version of you that's been molded to try to impress colleges.
Authentic is telling a college you want to work closely with a particular marine biology professor because you really do want to work with that professor. Authentic is not secretly thinking: "I want to work with that professor…if it will help me get in."
Working at a burger chain so you can earn extra money is authentic. Working at a senator's office in a job your dad got for you, and getting a form letter of recommendation from the senator, is not.
Playing in the marching band and loving every second of it, even in 90 degree heat when you're clad in your polyester band uniform, that's authentic.
Staying up late night after night to perfect a physics project, doing your own little celebratory dance at 4 a.m. when it finally worked, and telling that story in your college essay–that's authentic.
Admitting that the reason you became so good at cross country is because you learned during your freshman year that people throw up in races, but that when you're in the lead, nobody can ever throw up on you–that's authentic (gross, but authentic).
Authentic is the kid who admits that nobody can lose an election in a landslide like she can.
Authentic is the kid who quit the football team during his junior year so he could go home and take care of his mother during her chemotherapy.
Authentic is being the worst water polo player on the team, loving it anyway, and admitting it in your college essay.
Authentic is dreaming about being a journalist, working for the community newspaper and writing a story about the woman who grew the largest tomato in county history.
Authentic is playing in a 70's rock band. With your dad.
I found it surprisingly difficult to locate authentic Mexican food in New York
City. That doesn't necessarily apply to this article, but it's
something I felt compelled to express. Hey, I'm authentic, too.
Authentic is paying your little brother 5 dollars a session (10 dollars when it's raining) to retrieve balls for you while you practice kicking field goals.
Volunteering to help refurbish the shelter where your mother stayed when she left your abusive father, that's authentic.
Taking college level history classes over the summers, reading everything you can about the Civil War, and forcing your family to visit Gettysburg 3 times in four years, that's authentic.
Anything you do out of genuine enjoyment, interest, necessity, or sense of personal commitment, without regard to the college admissions implications of the act, that's authentic.
How authentic are you being right now? What would need to change for you to be "not false or copied; genuine; real"?