The Big Secret Behind College Admissions


College Admissions is much simpler than you think.

Samuel Kim, OpEd Editor

Stellar Grades. A million Extracurriculars. A list of leadership titles.

For most students, this is the person colleges are looking for. However, that could not be further from the truth.

There is a big misconception about the college admissions process. This is the idea that colleges want someone who is “well rounded” or “well learned.” Although there are some colleges that explicitly want “well rounded” students, the vast majority of American universities are looking for a specific type of student: the special student.

What do I mean by “special”? This special student is the student that, in the view of colleges, will “shape the world.” This type of student is one who demonstrates a clear direction and a passion that cannot be extinguished. Colleges are looking for an applicant who shows expertise in one area, not expertise in a million. When looking at the most selective colleges in the country, I have noticed a general trend: every applicant was good at one, specific thing (at least). I read about the Siemens semifinalist who was terrible at history and the Athlete who led his school’s team to the state championships. I read stories about a teenager who set up her own startup and (despite many academic difficulties) eventually became successful and went to her top college.

However, there are other stories with regards to admissions. There are stories about that one student who tries so hard academically, becomes the student body president, and participates in dozens of after-school activities. However, despite all of the hard work and long hours spent trying to get into his or her favorite university, that student receives a rejection letter in the mail.

The special student, who gets admitted into the most selective university (not necessarily the best), is the one who shows a clear direction and a passion for that direction. In other words, colleges want to see that you have figured it all out. They don’t want you to fulfill an outdated stereotype. They want you to simply… be yourself.

By being yourself and following your passion, you will be much more successful at the whole “college admissions process” than most American teenagers will ever be.

Just remember, when that Common App comes around to haunt you, that you are who you are. Your job is to simply show colleges that you know what you want and you will do anything to achieve your dreams.