What happens next

Some college admissions strategies gain a reputation in admissions circles as just that—a strategy to gain admission, rather than a sincere reflection of an applicant’s passion. Expensive pre-college programs at prestigious universities, summer trips to far-flung lands in the name of relief work, internships (often secured through parent connections) at famous firms—not every student who does these things is trying to game the system. But admissions officers have a keen eye for separating sincere, substantial commitments from those completed for the sake of adding them to a college application.

The new flavor? Starting non-profits.

Starting a non-profit isn’t the hard part. Sticking with it, doing the hard work to fulfill the mission, showing up again and again to help those the non-profit ostensibly exists to serve—that’s the hard part.

If you’ve thought about starting a non-profit in the interest of impressing colleges, please know that colleges will be far more interested in what you and your non-profit do after starting.

And if you’ve identified a cause or group you’d sincerely like to help, you might consider joining an existing program if one exists. There are hundreds of non-profits, volunteer groups, or even just circles of like-minded citizens who are already doing the work to help those who need it.  You can bypass all the paperwork, red tape, and preliminary start-up steps and instead jump right in and start helping.

I applaud any student who finds the time and energy to help people, including those students who found organizations committed to causes they care about.

But like most work worth starting, what happens next is what matters most.