Some of the most impressive students become that way because they consciously chose to do less–to focus only on a few things at a time so they can really excel.
Cal Newport's post today tells the story Nicholas A. DiBerardino, a senior at Princeton who was just named a Rhodes Scholar. According to his bio on the Rhodes Scholar website, Nick is Phi Beta Kappa, a campus leader in student government, and an accomplished composer with many awards for his compositions. He has been a composer in residence at the Brevard Music Center and the European American Musical Alliance in Paris. He founded the Undergraduate Composer Collective at Princeton. While in high school, Nick founded a program in Bridgeport. He plans to do the M.Phil. in music at Oxford.
No question about it–he's overwhelmingly impressive. How does he do it? Nick consciously tries to do less, focusing on just one important project at a time so he has as few distractions as possible. As Cal describes it:
This pattern is common among elite students: they do very little, but do what they do very well."