During this time of year as teens are getting more involved in school activities, a question that many students and parents raise is whether it’s best to be more “well-rounded.” The term “well-rounded” refers to a student who has experiences in a range of varied activities. “Should I(my teen) be “well rounded” often translates to ‘”Will this help me(my teen) get into college?” The concept of “well–rounded “ was born in hindsight from a 1980’s myth of how students got accepted to most selective colleges.
My question back to them is “What’s your goal?” It’s not meant to be a smart-alecky response but the emphasis on every aspect of the college admissions process is the student.
My recent e-newsletter shared what colleges today want and many parents were abuzz about what this means for their college-bound teen. Colleges want engaged, curious learners. This new revelation can be unsettling because it’s the opposite of “well-rounded”.
Over the years, I’ve read thousands of applications and spoken with numerous admissions officers about what they seek in prospective candidates and “well-rounded” isn’t just dead among the most selective colleges but an even broader landscape. The activities resume filled with 15-20 activities may show busy-ness, but too often lack evidence of these qualities:
- Interest – are you really that interested in an activity that you’ve only spent a few hours doing in 9th grade? Based on your activities resume, what are you interested in?
- Commitment – where is the evidence of your commitment? College communities thrive on student commitment.
- Impact – what difference was made by your participation? do your activities show what impact you made on your school or community through your involvement? When a student is doing an activity for the sake of appearing “well rounded” then they may not be around long enough to take a leadership role, influence the direction, mentor other students, or make any impact at all.
In closing, I go back to my initial response, “What’s your goal?” The entire college admissions process is about the student NOT the college. If the student is doing an activity just for the sake of getting into college, it will come through in their laundry list of activities and especially their application essays. When students focus their time and efforts on those activities they enjoy, have an interest in pursuing, and make an impact on others involved with them . . . that’s when students have the best chances of getting in and getting money for college.