There's some vigorous debate going on at The Choice blog right now over their thread, "The Perils of Being Too Cute in Your College Application." It all started with a question of whether or not you should list something like being president of the Lady Gaga fan club. Yesterday, a former admissions officer from Stanford even weighed in.
Here's my take. Authenticity always trumps strategy. In 11 years of doing this, I have never once seen a student who came off as endearingly cute or funny on a college application by trying to be that way. Endearing responses always come from students just being themselves–funny, intellectual, geeky, or whatever else they might be.
If you're a Lady Gaga fanatic and you proudly serve as the president of her fan club, you obviously have no shame about it. Why should you have any shame about it on your college application? List it. Maybe even write an essay entitled, "I Go Gaga for Gaga." That's who you are.
But if you couldn't name a single artist selling songs right now, and can instead name the last 20 recipients of the Nobel Prize in physics, list your membership in the physics club and fly your physics flag high. It's not better or worse than the Gaga kid. It's just who you are.
Trying too hard to be something you're not is pretty much always a bad idea (unless you're, say, a kleptomaniac trying not to be one). Don't try to be cute, or funny, or intellectual, or anything else on your college application. Just be yourself and you'll do a great job of sharing whichever of those qualities really are yours.