Lies My Neighbor Told Me: Be well-rounded?
Working in the admissions field, you are asked a number of questions. By far, the most popular question I receive is usually a worried parent who feels that his son should be doing much more and a little more of everything while doing the following: sports (table tennis), music (classical violin), humanitarian (building homes in Costa Rica for a summer), mathematics (Math Olympiad), science (Hackathons) -- you get the picture.
“Tamy-Fee, is there anything else my son should be doing?” I always pause and smile at the parent. My response is always the same, “yes!” Your son should be doing much more IN ONE particular area of interest to show depth and breadth within that passion. So I tell them to get rid of anything he is just doing for the sake of doing and immediately. A look of horror overcomes the parent’s face!
Here is the rationale: You want to be great at one or two things that are really significant FOR YOU! The admissions officers are not looking for well-rounded students to make up the incoming class. They are searching for students who have a single interest or passion and can bring that passion to enrich the college’s environment. You may think it's a good idea to be doing a little bit of everything but it won’t fair well in the highly selective college application. The admissions officers are looking for ways to exclude their applicants and “well-rounded” applicants are the usually the first to go because they are seen as a jack of all trades, masters of none.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to check in with yourself as the student and come up with a strategic plan on where and how the student will use the time he has outside of the classroom! You want your activities, your hobbies and overall application to tell a story- your STORY. Being “well-rounded” doesn’t lend itself to being able to tell a story that weaves together the very interests/passions that make you UNIQUELY you!