With so much pressure placed on high school students to participate in activities that will help them get accepted into a top university, many of them are gravitating towards hobbies that they believe will “look good” on a college application.
In some cases, this means pursuing activities that don’t even interest them. We strongly advise against this. If students aren’t careful, their actions may be perceived as too calculated. The admissions committee might think, “This student clearly did X simply because they believed it would look good on their application.”
A disingenuous attitude will especially shine through in an application essay. Instead, we suggest that students commit to one of the hobbies they are most passionate about… and double down…
Take a note from everyone’s favorite fried chicken joint here. The folks at KFC are passionate about chicken, right? So what did they do? They made a “sandwich” that literally skips the bread part all together and puts bacon and cheese in between, you guessed it, two slices of fried chicken. Maybe it’s not the MOST RELEVANT example, but you get the picture.
Double Down On Something You’re Passionate About
Whether it’s a sport or an instrument, an art form or some other extracurricular pursuit, (or an idea for a sandwich), do something SPECIAL with it. Whatever you do, make it clear that you’re not just going through the motions. Instead, show that you are laser-focused on achieving something meaningful. With three whole months to devote to a passion, summer vacation is the perfect opportunity for students to dive in and demonstrate their interest in a particular passion.
So, how should a student go about choosing a summer activity? We believe the ideal summer experience should (a) align with the student’s interest or goals and (b) generate positive growth and maturity. This could include volunteering, an internship, or intensive summer workshop. It’s less important WHAT you do, and more important what you get out of the experience. To illustrate, here are two case studies:
Choosing the WRONG Hobby: Marina the Fainting, Sneezing Marketing Major
Marina is a student who is interested in pursuing a career in marketing, but she heard from a friend who got into UPenn that “colleges love it when you volunteer at animal shelters!” Despite the fact that Marina is allergic to cats and has always been afraid of dogs, she decides to spend her summer volunteering at the local SPCA.
She witnesses some truly moving (and adorable) experiences, even the birth of a black labrador puppy. Problem is, Marina spends most of the summer not feeling so well, fainting at the sight of any big dogs and sneezing whenever she isn’t unconscious.
In the fall, Marina sits down to write an essay about this experience. At first, she’s stuck and finds that she doesn’t have anything positive to say, so she fudges the details to make it seem like she was a heroic, leading volunteer in the shelter. The college admissions committee, consummate experts in sniffing out deceit, don’t believe a word of the essay and reject Marina’s application.
Choosing the RIGHT hobby: Nicolas the Creative Assistant
Much like Marina, Nicholas is a student who is also interested in marketing. Instead of choosing to do something he hates, Nicolas makes a smarter decision during his summer vacation.
Nicholas’s Aunt Sarah is an entrepreneur who freelances as an advertising consultant. Nicholas spends his summer working as his aunt’s assistant and learning the ins and outs of the advertising business. It’s tough work at times (his aunt can be pretty demanding!) but Nicholas persists and learns valuable lessons about website design, merchandising, and marketing strategy. And he has a blast.
When it comes time to write an application essay, Nicholas has an easy time recounting this meaningful summer experience. In fact, he’s EXCITED to do so! After all, working with his aunt aligned perfectly with his goals, and even though he wasn’t interning at a fancy, well-known firm, Michael was still learning the foundations of marketing.
The college admissions committee reads this essay and is doubly impressed; it’s honest, endearing, and reveals a lot about Nicholas’s character. With an overall solid application package, the essay puts Nicholas over the top, and he’s offered admission.
The moral of this story…
The ideal summer activity should both align with a student’s interests and generate positive growth and maturity. By choosing an activity that fits both of these requirements, students can have a productive, meaningful and FUN summer.
Need some help with a college application? That’s what we’re here for!