This season I asked three of my graduating seniors what they learned during the college admissions process. Do they have any sage advice to pass on to juniors, sophomores or even freshmen?
Yes, it turns out, they do. But each one reached a different conclusion, which I might have predicted, based on how very different and wonderfully unique these kids are.
Here, then, are the words of wisdom from three triumphant seniors, each headed to a highly-selective, top-flight college or university. Take from their experiences what you will.
Philip: Targeted writing can really make an essay stand out
On the subject of those famously challenging college essays, Philip, who’s headed to Columbia in the fall, said, “It’s important to edit and re-edit your essays. I went through multiple drafts but found that perseverance, attention to detail and targeted writing can really make a piece stand out in the admissions process.”
Well said, Philip, and very true. Targeting is one of the keys to a successful college application package, and a well-focused essay is an essential part of it. (Note to the uninitiated: to avoid panic, you should complete your personal college essay before September of senior year.)
Yueyue: At some point, it’s important to let go
Yueyue, who will be enrolling at Wellesley, is one of the most diligent and hard-working students I’ve advised. She had this to say. “I’ve learned it’s important to know when to let go. This applies to essays—no essay will ever be perfect. And it applies to academics—academics aren’t everything.”
Keep in mind, dear reader, this is no kind of slacker speaking. Yueyue’s advice is absolutely on-target . . . for all those high-achieving, super-perfectionists out there. All others, plug your ears.
Peter: Follow what you actually have a passion for
Peter, who will be attending Brown in the fall, took the broad view. And I’m so glad he did. “Follow what you actually enjoy and have a passion for, rather than what you think will be the best for college admissions,” he advises younger students. “That’s what I did, and in the end, it worked out pretty well. All my interviews went great because I had an actual interest in the subject the interviewer was asking about. I was able to write essays that wove together my different interests too.”
Peter is so right. Allowing yourself to develop your true passions—and excel at them—during high school is the most important single thing you can do. Not only will it enable you to stand out from the crowd in the college admissions process, but it will make you a happier person too.
Let’s not forget: beyond getting into college, there’s a bigger goal out there. There’s your whole life, and your happiness, to consider. Think ahead, far ahead. And think big!
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