You Do Not Have to Be a Superhero to Get Accepted to College!
When a high school senior applies to a top college, how can their application stand out among the tens of thousands of other applicants? Certainly, not an easy task! Think about this for a moment. How does a brilliant high school senior shine above similarly situated brilliant students?
Wait for it… often times it is a student’s legitimate participation in extraordinary Extracurricular Activities (“EA”) that evidence an #ENGAGED and ultimately #COMPELLING applicant in the eyes of the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions.
The three magic words in college admissions are qualified, engaged and compelling. The Dean wants applicants who are the embodiment of these qualities.
The first part of the application process is for the Dean to determine whether the applicant is qualified. A qualified applicant meets the academic and standardized testing admissions requirements. In some ways, this is the easy part of the application process. Students who aspire to attend a top college have been preparing for this moment for the better part of their lives. The academic caliber of these prospects is top notch and expected.
However, it is the engaged and compelling student who is propelled to the final rounds of the admissions process.
Year in and year out, the Deans of Undergraduate Admissions at top colleges publicly lament how the applicant pool for early decision was larger than the previous year and comprised of exceptionally smart, uniquely talented students.
But why were some students accepted ED while others who were smart and talented deferred to regular decision or rejected?
The Deans at top Colleges have similar criteria for ultimately accepting applicants. The Deans want students who are actively engaged in activities they are passionate about for long periods of time, not just for the summer, a semester, or one year.
To weave a personal narrative of legitimate engagement, it is incumbent upon the applicant to thread the proverbial needle to connect their EC’s to evidence the evolution of a true passion. In addition to legitimate engagement, the Deans wants students who will be active members of their college community. Local community participation in high school is considered to be the precursor to future college community participation.
The Deans know what their respective college will do for the applicant; The Deans want to know what you the applicant will do for your future campus community.
Who has been accepted Early Decision to the class of 2025?
According to the Dean of Admissions at Johns Hopkins, Ellen Kim during her interview with the Johns Hopkins Magazine stated that “among the newest class are a developer of an EEG headband prototype for individuals with epilepsy to wear in order to predict and detect seizures, a prison reform advocate who drafted an expungement bill with attorneys in their home state, an inventor who built an earthquake resistant desk with a sensor and alarm, and a community organizer who helped farmers get access to crisis relief funds and share their crops with food insecure families during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Dean Kim described the ED class of 2025 applicants as creative thinkers, passionate learners, and committed advocates for causes they care about…they are distinguished for their interdisciplinary aptitudes as well as their personal qualities and contributions to their social and extracurricular groups.”
Chris Petersen, an Assistant Director at MIT Admissions, wrote about some of the EA accepted applicants in the MIT Admission Blog. He stated, “though they are all different in their own way — fencers and farmers, pilots and powerlifters, beekeepers and biologists — they are united by a shared standard of rigorous academics, high character, and a strong match with MIT’s mission to use science, technology, and the useful arts to make the world a better place.”
Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 told the Harvard Crimson “though this year’s applications may have looked different from previous years due to the global health crisis, he said the College continues to look for applicant strength with the same criteria.” “The applications look different in lots of ways,” he said. “But I think the principle of seeing what people have done, and what we think they’re going to do in the future is probably the one to keep in mind.”
Dean Fitzsimmons identified accepted applicants “…who are great musicians, who are great at quantitative science. We have the usual excellences,” Fitzsimmons said. “But they’re doing it in the middle of a pandemic and also oftentimes in the middle of desperate financial circumstances.”
Year in and year out, the competition to win the golden ticket to a top college is exacting. Seemingly more overqualified, exceptional high school students from diverse backgrounds vie for a freshman seat. When admissions shapes an incoming freshman class, the key is for the applicant to satisfy the subjective qualities sought by the Dean.
WISEWORDS: The Deans of Undergraduate Admissions at most colleges want to know how the pandemic affected you, the applicant, and how did you help your community during this crisis.
REMEMBER: The Deans want leaders who are proactive in their community.
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