Some advice on choosing activities…

What you choose to do outside the classroom, and the passion with which you pursue it, tells the colleges a lot about the potential impact you are likely to make on their campuses.  As you think about how you want to spend your time outside the classroom, here are some pointers to keep in mind:

1.  Start with what you already know and like.
Think about what you like, and ask yourself, "What else could I do in this area?"  For example, if your passion is sports, there are a lot of ways to get involved.  Join a team at your school.  Be the manager of the baseball team.  Write the sports column for the school newspaper.  Be the announcer at the basketball games.  Take pictures of sports for the yearbook.  No matter what you like to do, if you commit yourself to it, the colleges will be impressed.

2.  Don't be a "joiner."

Don't sign up for every club on campus to try and make the colleges
think you were involved.  A long list of activities alone isn't going
to impress the colleges as much as a substantial commitment will.  Pick
the things you really enjoy instead of padding your resume.

3.  Always try to make an impact.
When you graduate from high school, what
legacy will you leave behind in your involvements?  It might be
something big, like the fact that you founded an organization that
raised $12,000 for Juvenile Diabetes.  It might be something small,
like the fact that even though you rarely played, you still got the
Coach's Award on the soccer team because of your dedication.  Whatever
you do, find a way to make contributions in your own way.  Colleges
like the students who make an impact wherever they are.

4.  Never ask, "Would (insert activity here) look good?"

Every time one of our Collegewise students asks us this, we make that
student go run a lap around our offices.  OK, not really, but that
question is like fingernails on the blackboard for us, and for the
colleges.  Instead, ask yourself, "Am I really interested in this, and
does is seem like something to which I could commit to substantially?"
If the answer is "yes," you're probably on the right track.

5.  Never quit an activity you enjoy just because you aren't succeeding.
If you love being on the soccer team even though you spend most of your time on the bench, don't
quit!  Colleges understand that you're not going to be great at
everything you do.  Besides, it takes just as much fortitude to stick
with something that's challenging as it does to continue in an activity
where everybody is always telling you how great you are.

Conversely, if you don't like an activity, get out!  If you hate every
second of wrestling and you got beaten so badly at the last match that
your liver fell out, stop.  Don’t wrestle anymore.  Find something else
that you enjoy where you won’t be slammed into a mat quite so often.

Not The Same Old Back-To-School Advice

Back_to_schoolGet good grades.  Get involved.  Get good test scores.  It’s all good advice.  But it’s advice you’ve probably heard before… a lot.  As students head back to school, here are five bits of Collegewise admissions advice to help you get in to college that might be new for you. 

1.  Practice the art of participating in class.

Raise your hand.  Ask questions.  Participate in classroom discussions.  Colleges don’t want students who just plow through courses and get good grades; they want students who are engaged in class, who like to learn, and who make contributions by participating.  In fact, that’s why colleges ask for letters of recommendation from your teachers–to learn if you’ve demonstrated these qualities.    

[Read more…]

Extra! Extra! “Regular Kids” Still Get In!

Nytimes Whenever we preach that kids can be regular teenagers and get into college, we always like to say that they can play guitar and work at the grocery store rather than paddle down the Amazon and cure athletes’ foot.  Those latter hyperboles tend to change depending upon our mood, but the guitar and grocery store are old standbys for us to show how regular kids with real passion are very appealing to colleges.

Imagine our delight at reading about Kevin Robinson in today’s New York Times, and 18 year-old senior in Pennsylvania who did exactly those things and is going to The George Washington University.  He even wrote his essay about how much he likes Parliament Funkadelic.

And this blogger will openly admit that he’s accused the New York Times of only printing the bad news about college admissions.  Thanks for showing us the good side!