Colleges Do Not Want Well-Rounded Applicants

Colleges Do Not Want Well-Rounded Applicants

We talk about the myth of well-roundedness a lot around here, so glad to see it talked about in this recent Forbes article!

Being a well-rounded individual is certainly admirable. What’s not to like about someone who is widely curious and has balance in their interests? When it comes to selective college admission, however, increasingly “being” well-rounded has been replaced by “doing” well-rounded. Applicants approach the experience feeling like they have to do it all. Gil Villanueva, associate vice president and dean of admission at the University of Richmond says, “the incessant belief that colleges want well-rounded students needs to just end. We want to build orchestras and we can’t have them if everyone plays the cello.” He tells students, “the reality is we want well-rounded classes. So it’s perfectly fine, if not great, that you don’t do everything at your schools. Ultimately, we simply want to see a positive impact in whatever co-curricular activity(s) you do because we can predict that you will contribute to our campuses outside of academics.”

The whole article is worth a read!

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Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

COVID is still hindering in-person learning, forcing clubs to meet online (if not canceling them outright), and may even throw a wrench in in-person educational and extracurricular planning for the spring and summer. A primary focus of our work with 10th and 11th graders is extracurricular planning, and there’s one that is almost never dependent on needing to be anywhere in person: the independent study. 

Independent studies (IS) can be done anywhere and work with almost any area of interest, which is why in such uncertain times, they are our go-to EC. Like the “purpose” or “passion” projects many of our students undertake, the IS is a create your own educational opportunity, so there’s no one size fits all model to follow or template you can use to just plug and play. Below are some of the details we suggest thinking through if you are interested in conceptualizing an IS.

Who

The IS requires the student to have an area of interest that they want to explore (or explore more), as well as the time, energy, and foresight to plan it on their own. However, students may want to seek out support from a teacher at their high school or a mentor from outside of school if they desire to formalize it or have some guidance or check-ins along the way. 

What

Anything goes! But we suggest an area of academic interest related to what you may pursue in college. It might be a new topic, or it might be an extension of a topic you have already researched. The bottom line is, it should 1) be a topic/area you choose because you will need to be into it to make the work happen on your own and 2) if possible, it should work with your academic narrative (the academic story that unfolds in your college apps). 

Where

Planning the IS as a remote activity is a good call given the uncertainties around COVID. Doing so also provides the flexibility to add on other activities/formal programming or have time for a job if that suits you while still working on the IS, as well as plan something like travel (college visits?) if that becomes reality again! 

When

Winter break or early in the new year is the perfect time for students to start planning their independent study. As for an ideal start time? Many juniors are busy with testing so we suggest it as a summer activity, although students who may not have AP testing in May or who have finished or not yet started ACT/SAT testing could realistically start in the spring if their courseload allowed. The classes that appear on your transcript will always be the most important to colleges, so you don’t want your IS to get in the way of excelling in those courses. 

Why

Beyond how the restrictions that might be in place around COVID make it an ideal activity, an independent study helps demonstrate to colleges your commitment to learning, your intellectual focus and curiosity, and that you are a self-directed learner interested in charting your own course and not limiting yourself to what you can take in school (or afford to take outside of it). 

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Remote Volunteer Opportunities!

Remote Volunteer Opportunities!

We shared a bunch of these back in the early days of COVID. However, we found a few others recently that looked interesting. Check them out below!

Robotics for All: Robotics for All strives to provide equitable educational opportunities to students of all backgrounds, particularly low income and under-represented students, with an emphasis on teaching the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The goal is to reduce the opportunity gap, allowing students to gain beneficial skills for the rest of their academic and professional careers. We believe that it is important for students to have access to a quality STEM education, regardless of socio-economic status.

As an online volunteer teacher, you will be responsible for running an eight week long online class. This includes leading the two weekly synchronous classes (either on Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday), evaluating student homework (assigned between each synchronous class) and managing teacher’s assistants. It will be your responsibility to ensure that the class runs smoothly and take care of any issues, whether related to student behavior or errors in code. You must possess strong leadership skills and a high level of independence. Our current curricula for online classes are the Code.org Curriculum (for K-3rd graders), Scratch Curriculum (for 4th-6th graders), Python Curriculum (for 6th-8th graders), CAD Curriculum (for 6th-8th graders), and Fusion Curriculum (for 7th-8th graders). You are expected to have mastered the curriculum they teach. Learn more here.

The Empowerment Factory (TEF): a non-profit dedicated to giving youth the skills they need to lead happier, healthier more empowered lives. We focus on three areas of development: creativity, self esteem, and civic pride. Our Creative Squad programs blend hands-on activities with social emotional learning (SEL) and environmental education. Our vision is for every child to develop the confidence and ability to express themselves and become successful in school and life. Every child should feel that they matter and can make a difference in the world around them.

The Empowerment Factory is partnering with The United Way to bring you a fun and safe volunteer opportunity folding paper Peace Cranes! The purpose of this initiative is to share positivity and hopeful aspirations for our community. The Peace Cranes will be used to create a public art installation in January that aspires to exemplify the goal of this tradition. Learn more here.

Girl Scouts: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. We seek to accomplish this by providing girls opportunities to develop their potential and have fun with their peers in a supportive, all-girl setting.

Do you have a passion for a particular topic or life skill? Do you want to create a fun event that shares your enthusiasm with girls? You could design an event that helps girls earn a Girl Scout badge related to your specialty or help teach girls a skill they need to grow into the leaders of tomorrow! If you have a love for STEM, outdoors, or the arts – there are ways you can use your skills and resources to provide an experience that helps girls explore something new. There are dozens of new badges that will inspire you to think of creative ways to bring the projects to life for a group of girls, including things like “Inside Government”, “Eco Advocate” or “Philanthropist” badges! You can decide how many girls you’d like to participate, select what age girls you’d like to involve, and pick a date and time, and an online meeting platform that you’re comfortable with! You can also use materials we provide to host a meeting rather than making your own program. Learn more here.

Head to Volunteer Match to search for other remote roles!

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Reminder: It’s Okay To Do Less

Reminder: It’s Okay To Do Less

We are entering the time of year when we re-post old (sometimes very old) posts. This subject seems relevant as we approach summer (and in the midst of COVID, when doing more can be tough anyway).

Colleges look for students with something unique, a specific talent, skill, or interest to add to their next class. Students who drill down on an interest or two early on in high school will be better positioned to tell a clear, focused story in their applications. By doing so, they hand the reader of their file exactly what they are looking for—they make it easy to see the value you will add on campus.

This might mean doing a lot of exploration early in high school and this is okay. However, don’t be afraid to find something you like, drill down on it, and not do too much else extracurricularly. You don’t want a resume that reads like a laundry list anyway.

Here’s what a few top colleges have to say on the subject via Niche:

  • “You [should] demonstrate a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for what you spend your time doing. The joy you take in the pursuits that really matter to you – rather than a resume padded with a long list of activities – will strengthen your candidacy.” –Yale’s advice on Activities
  • “When we evaluate an applicant’s activity list, we’re not looking for a specific number of involvements or even specific types.  We are much more interested in seeing an applicant follow their passions and show dedication over time to a few specific involvements rather than spreading themselves too thin.” –USC Admissions Blog
  • “We are looking for students who will contribute their talents, interests, perspectives, and distinct voices to our community… We are more interested in your focus on a few activities over time (such as work, care for parents and siblings, service, or athletics), rather than membership in a long list of clubs—although we understand that some students can balance an assortment of activities.” –Swarthmore College, “What We Look for in a Swattie”
  • “You’re joining a team. And because we’re recruiting a team of people who will work together, we want a variety of strengths and talents that, together, will form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, not every talented student needs to be talented in the same way.” – UNC-Chapel Hill, “Who We Want”

The question I ask a lot when thinking about activities: How much can you meaningfully contribute to more than a few activities? Narrowing down your interests and corresponding activities can provide the time and space needed to engage more meaningfully and at a higher level in the one or two things you love the most. It’s a bonus if these activities relate to your potential college major, or support it in some way!

Remember, colleges seek to build a well-rounded class comprised of students with unique talents and skills, not a class full of generalists.

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3rd Annual New York Times Podcast Contest

3rd Annual New York Times Podcast Contest

Awesome opportunity via the NYT/The Learning Network:

“We are running our Third Annual Podcast Contest right now for middle and high school students until May 19. To enter, students should submit a five-minute podcast on any subject they want, including sports, music, politics and literature. They can work individually or as a team, and they can create their podcasts from home.

If you’re not sure how to get started with podcasting, we just published two new resources that can help: our Podcasting Unit and our Podcasting Mentor Text. Each provides a step-by-step guide for creating an original podcast, and we offer 23 winning student podcasts as models.

Sign up for our free webinar on April 29 to help you learn more about our podcast contest and podcasting in general. After all, podcasting is a great way for students to strengthen their writing, research and digital media skills.”

 

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Free Digital Access to The New York Times Until July 6

Free Digital Access to The New York Times Until July 6

Starting this week, all high school students and teachers in the United States can get free digital access to The New York Times until July 6. If you want to sign up here’s how.

And…20 ways the paper can keep you entertained and informed. Hint: you can use it to explore your academic interests!

 

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Why Did Yale Choose You

Why Did Yale Choose You

Although I did smirk reading the subtitle Embracing Average, I really enjoyed Alexandra Gers’ reflection in the Yale News on her application file and why Yale chose her. Anyway, what stood out to me was this:

When I flipped the page, it was kind of like being slapped in the face. “She didn’t strike me as thoughtful, introspective or determined.” Repeatedly. “I couldn’t figure out what she was passionate about.”

For high school students targeting (or preparing to target) selective colleges and universities, take note:

  • Thoughtful
  • Introspective
  • Determined
  • A clearly defined passion (I don’t love the word passion so let’s call this “interest”)

 

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Call for Applications: Experimental Study Program for Teens

Call for Applications: Experimental Study Program for Teens

Cool program alert!

Experimental Study Program
Spring 2020 Season
February 26–April 29
Applications due February 9

This spring, the New Museum offers its free semester-long program for young people aged fifteen to nineteen. Participants will meet from 4 to 6 p.m. every Wednesday from February 26 to April 29 (excluding April 15). Now in its fourteenth season, this program provides youth the chance to learn about contemporary art and engage in intimate, critical discussions about culture.

Through a series of workshops, young people will have the opportunity to collaborate meaningfully with peers and guest artists. This season, the Experimental Study Program (ESP) will explore contemporary portraiture and figuration. The program will take as its starting point the work of Jordan Casteel, whose exhibition “Within Reach” includes large-scale paintings of people she encounters in various settings, including individuals from her neighborhood of Harlem and, more recently, her students at Rutgers University-Newark. Participants will meet Casteel and discuss ideas and approaches to portraiture with her. Throughout the remainder of the season, we will consider the variety of ways that she and other artists use the figure—from expressive and intimate to wildly satirical, abstract, and surreal depictions of the human form—experiment with their own, and reflect on how these choices intersect with identity, representation, social histories, and imaginations.

The Museum seeks applications from people between ages fifteen and nineteen who are curious about contemporary art and enthusiastic about connecting with their peers.

The Experimental Study Program is free.How to Apply:

  • Click here to apply
  • Fill out the application and respond to the prompts
  • Include the contact information of a teacher, counselor, or supervisor who can provide a reference
  • Submit the completed application by February 9, 2020

 

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Weekend Workshops for High School Students

Weekend Workshops for High School Students

The NYU School of Professional Studies High School Academy offers Weekend Workshops that provide high school students with programs of study that allow them to explore their professional options and enhance their college portfolio. Although I do not usually recommend formal pre-college type programs, I do think this is a great way for underclassmen to explore areas of academic interest. The deadline to apply is January 22, and classes start on February 8. The cost is $450 for 4 sessions. Read more here.

We’ve also got new programs launching in 2020!  To stay up-to-date on program announcements, please subscribe.

The first is a purpose project collaboration with Strategy Girl. A purpose project is a project that draws on your interests and talents—the things you love, that bring you joy, that excite you academically—that you feel would fill a need in your school, community, or the world. Participants will:

  • Conceptualize a Purpose project—a project that students design and implement on their own, which taps into the students’ talents—the things they love, that bring them joy, that they want to study in college, or how they feel they could best help their school, community, or the world. They’re connected to your deeper meaning and purpose and they have tangible outcomes. Anyone can do them. What is most important is inspiration, commitment, and support!
  • Learn about the importance of collaboration over competition, seeking out support from others, and understanding that leadership is not a path walked alone. 
  • Gain insights on goal-setting, strategy, learning from hurdles and setbacks, and how to stay sane in today’s highly competitive high school scene (including the craziness around college admissions!).
  • Draft a resume/activity sheet and learn about how their work in this program might be utilized when applying to college.

Past projects include writing a book, completing a literature review or book challenge, creating a trailer for a documentary, prototyping an app, spearheading an innovative volunteer event, creating a club at school, fundraising for an organization of your choice in a creative way (selling artwork, an Etsy shop, etc), and hosting a yearly beach clean-up. 

This program meets online once weekly for 1.5 hours, for 5 weeks, with the option to meet other local participants in-person in the NYC-area. The deadline to apply is January 31, and classes start on February 15. The cost is $750, and scholarships are available.

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What Colleges Want

The following was taken directly from the JHU website, but it’s so applicable to any selective college/university, that I wanted to share it:

Academic Character 

How do you demonstrate your academic passions? What is important to you? To get a good idea of where your academic spirit lies, we’ll look at your transcripts and testing, but also your teacher and counselor recommendations.

Impact and Initiative

Our undergraduates contribute to our campus and our community. We urge students to think about how they can make a difference through service, leadership, and innovation. The admissions committee looks closely at applicants’ extracurricular activities and recommendations to assess commitments outside the classroom.

Personal Contributions

How do you engage with your community—academically, personally, and socially? What personal qualities do you possess that would make you a good fit for our campus? We’re looking for students who are eager to follow their interests at the college level and are enthusiastic about joining the campus community.

So what does all of this boil down to? Colleges seek students who are actively engaged participants in life! Everyone has time to:

  • Pursue their academic/intellectual interests outside of classes
  • Make an impact by meaningfully engaging in and giving back to their community

You don’t need that much time to make it happen. Ask us how!

 

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