It seems like every college applicant tries to be the well-rounded student, since this is what they’ve been told colleges want. But it turns out that colleges don’t want well-rounded students; they want well-rounded classes of students.
What does this mean and how can you apply this knowledge in high school? Here’s how you can benefit from rejecting the well-rounded student myth.
Who Are Well-Rounded Students?
The typical well-rounded student is involved in a little bit of everything. For example, if you participate in the drama club, the track team, choir, student council, and charity — in addition to getting good grades — you’re probably a well-rounded student.
Maybe you truly enjoy being involved in this wide range of activities. But the fact is that most students don’t. They’re only this well-rounded because they think it’s what colleges want, and it turns out this isn’t the case.
Why Don’t Colleges Want Well-Rounded Students?
The problem with being well-rounded is that you don’t have much depth in each activity. You’re basically a jack of all trades, master of none. Colleges want specialists in specific areas, so you should work on making sure you’re great at one or two activities rather than okay at several.
For example, if you’re going to try to impress colleges by being on the track team, you should be going to the state meet and winning medals at invitationals. Or, how about trying out for team captain?
If you’re going to be in the school musical, don’t just be in the background in the chorus. Strive to get one of the lead roles. Or, if competition is steep but your passionate about theater, get involved in more than one way. Just keep it specific to that area.
For example, volunteer to help out with set design or raising funds for production costs. Make an impression on the director — they could prove a great option for your letter of recommendation.
Essentially, colleges don’t need each student to be involved in a bunch of different activities ranging from pep team to chess club member. They need each class to be well-rounded instead, which means having a range of students with different passions and talents. They’re looking for at least a few standout athletes, talented musicians, passionate actors, inspiring leaders, great writers and so on.
If you want to improve your chances of college admission, don’t fall prey to the myth of the well-rounded student whose involved in tons of extracurriculars. Instead, find one or two activities that really matter to you.
How Can You Show Your Depth in Each Area?
As a high school student applying for college within the next year or two, it’s not too late to avoid being viewed as a non-specific student. If you want to be seen as a standout student, you need to discover what it is that you are truly passionate and excited about. Once you do, take the time to really get involved.
This might mean quitting a couple of clubs or sports teams you were only marginally involved with or interested in to begin with. This gives you more time to focus on improving those one or two other activities that really spark your interest.
If you’re not sure of the right high school extracurricular activity for you, first think about what you most enjoy. This will make it easier for you to put in extra practice time so you can really make your mark.
If you’re still not sure, consider an activity that is especially valued at the colleges you want to get into. This may be the newspaper, or it might be an up-and-coming sport (Quidditch anyone?) or other activity that will stand out when the admissions team sees it on your college application.
So if you want to avoid falling into the well-rounded student trap, you should do your research, choose one or two things to excel at, and then make sure your top colleges know about your extracurricular activities.