Lee was an international student with very stellar GPA and math scores, but his extracurricular experiences completely lacked depth and any sort of distinction. He only really began involvement during his junior year, and his reasoning for doing it “because he felt he should” was rather transparent.
His performance in the classroom (especially math and science) was impressive, but without any extracurricular color to his application he was in danger of presenting a lifeless profile without any signs of the person behind the test scores.
- One approach, although a bit risky, would be to see if we could meaningfully align any existing interests with his involved extracurriculars. The goal would be to try and pull out a deeper thought process behind the activities he was involved in. We need to find a compelling story for why he chose those specific activities as apposed to all of the others he could have. However, the risk here was potentially coming off forced or insincere.
- Another approach would be to search for a personal story from his background to focus on that could bring color and a distinguishable narrative to his application.
The Admissionado Approach
If he had started working with us sooner we could have used a targeted approach to his extracurriculars, taking time to develop a deep and meaningful array of activities that supported his profile. However, since Lee was already past his summer before senior year when he began working with Admissionado, we chose to dig deep into his personal life instead. We needed to search for experiences and stories he already had that could distinguish his application without having to rely on his extracurriculars.
In high school he had switched schools three times in addition to being an international student. We ended up using this to craft an argument that he would bring experience and perspective from different cultural, socioeconomic, and racial backgrounds to campus as a sort of ambassador of diversity.
Lee was accepted to over 50% of the schools he applied to including New York University, Texas A&M, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Boston University, and the University of Washington.
Lee was very confident… maybe a little too confident. A student’s personal statement provides a HUGE opportunity for colleges to learn about who a student really is and what they have to offer. I was initially concerned that his overconfidence might prevent the type of mature writing college admissions committee members seek.
We worked hard on his writing tone and style to make sure Lee was putting in enough self-reflection to strike the perfect balance of humility and maturity needed for a successful personal statement. As we did, he consistently surprised me with how much he was willing to try and understand my perspective in order to put forth his best writing – and perhaps it was fitting considering his personal statement became all about understanding and listening to the diverse perspectives of others!