By Chloe Brown
When I started my college search, I knew I wanted to go to a small, liberal arts school, either in New England or California. But once I visited Williams College, I fell in love. I knew that was where I wanted to go. So when fall of senior year rolled around, I sent off my Early Decision application and waited, typing up my other applications in between rounds of biting my nails. As you may have guessed, things worked out alright and in December I got a big, thick, purple envelope.
While I don’t know exactly what goes on in the head of an admissions officer, I can tell you what sort of applicant I looked like. I had spent all of high school singing in choir, took voice lessons, and for three years had been in the regional honor choir. I was captain of my Mock Trial team, which that year, went onto the national competition in Oklahoma City. I threw shotput and discus on the Track and Field team, took guitar lessons, and was interested in creative writing. I took AP English and History classes, and as many Philosophy electives as the school offered. In short, I worked very hard.
However, I’d also like to spend some time talking about the things I didn’t to: I didn’t take Calculus, I took Statistics instead. I didn’t take an AP science class my senior year so that I’d be able to take a new philosophy class that my favorite English teacher was offering. I was on Varsity Track and Field my first two years of high school, but quit. I didn’t write a very traditional application essay but instead tried to use it as an opportunity to showcase my writing.
Why is this important? I think a lot of the time, students feel like they have to do everything excellently in order to get into their top school. And while working hard is essential, it’s also important to make choices. You see, I didn’t take Calculus not only because math wasn’t my favorite subject, but also because it was offered at the same time as an English class I wanted to take. When I quit the track team, it was because I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to both the track meets and Mock Trial competitions, and had to pick one.
In short, you should pursue things passionately, but only the ones you’re genuinely passionate about. Schools want to be impressed and want to see that you’re involved in many activities, but they also know that one person can’t do literally everything. It’s just not possible, and this is something that they know too. Instead, showing focus and commitment are key. If there’s something you love doing, do as much of it as possible, get a leadership position, or start your own club. Colleges are looking for people who will add something to their communities, so once you start to get a sense of what makes you most excited, whether it’s sports, theater, math, or languages, dive into it. It gives colleges a more honest picture of you and what you’re interested in, and moreover, makes you a more interesting candidate.