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Authenticity Matters in College Admission

July 24, 2017 | by pac-admin

Jennifer BraseDean of College Counseling

“You should do this; it will look good on your college resume.” When I hear this sentiment–and I quite often do while interacting with my kids’ high school-aged friends–I can’t help but cringe. This well-intentioned phrase is thrown around in high school circles to motivate students toward engagement in co-curricular activities, clubs, and volunteer work. The problem with this rationale for student involvement is that it will ultimately hinder them in the college admission process.

View More: http://danesanders.pass.us/pacificaI once read the essay of a very intelligent student who was seeking admission to some of the top universities in the country. As I read the account of his Eagle Scout project, I thought, “This essay is well written, but falls flat. It doesn’t convey this wonderful young man’s personality or character.” Though becoming an Eagle Scout is a very honorable accomplishment, his Eagle Scout project had not shaped him as much as other events in his life. So I asked, “How do you like your essay?” He responded, “I don’t like it that much. My mom thought I should write about this.” This young man ended up writing about a school project for which he received a failing grade. His final product was an essay that sang with passion, conviction, and authenticity.

As a former college admission officer, I know firsthand how easy it is to identify when a student is writing without conviction or including activities they think the admission officers “want to hear.” This is why I suggest students only participate in activities that are truly meaningful to them. The litmus test used to determine participation in co-curricular activities should be, “Will I be able to write an authentic and passionate essay about this?” or, “Will this experience shape me in a meaningful way?” If the answer is “no,” it is better for the student to investigate other options. Think outside of the box! An after school job or a creative project can be just as valuable as leading a club–it just has to matter to you.

Pursue the activities that inspire and energize you rather than those that serve as another item on your college admission checklist. This authenticity will be noticeable in the eyes of admission officers and leave you with a sense of satisfaction and purpose. Remember, it is not the quantity of co-curricular activities listed on your resume, but the quality of your investment in those activities that matters.