A great server at a restaurant can completely transform the experience. Lots of people can be polite and get your order right. But there’s an art to being great. The server who makes you feel right at home, who strikes the perfect balance of attentive service without unnecessary interruption, someone who strings together so many contributions—both tangible and intangible—that you leave the restaurant talking about him. Even if you’re dining at the local pizza joint, a server like that delivers an experience that would not have been the same without him. He’s not just doing the job; he’s using it as a platform to put on a show.
When high school students look for ways to stand out, most think immediately of higher achievements—better grades, higher test scores, more notable accomplishments and honors and accolades. There’s no doubt that colleges recognize and reward the hard work that goes into all of those things.
But there’s an additional path that’s more open and accessible—treating each opportunity as a platform, a chance to deliver a performance.
Platforms can be found in any role, from the section editor of the yearbook to the president of the senior class to the kid who takes the orders at the drive-through window to make extra spending money. The president of the club and the member who just joined both have platforms, different ones for sure, but still opportunities to put on performances. They get to decide how hard to work, how they can best make an impact, and how to ensure they’ll be missed when they eventually move on. There’s no need for the new member to wait until she holds an elected office. She’s got a platform right now. Why not start performing?
Admissions officers talk about how they look for “high impact admits,” students who appear bound to make a difference right away both inside and outside of class. The best way to judge the potential for impact is to look for evidence of it in a student’s past. Whether you’re sitting in Spanish class, refereeing youth soccer games, learning karate, or playing the French horn, you have a choice. You can do what’s required and know that you’ll be just like every other student. Or you can use the opportunity to stand out. Your platform is your chance to perform. Go break a leg.