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Do Colleges Want Well-Rounded or Focused Students?

churchpianist15churchpianist15 Posts: 58Registered User Junior Member
I have recently read a very helpful book called IN! College Admissions and Beyond by mother-daughter team Lillian Luterman and Jennifer Bloom. Their main thesis is that though colleges want "well-rounded" classrooms, they do not want well rounded applicants, people who are "jacks-of-all trades" and masters of none. They suggest that you should be "alike but spike": that is, be like the average student of the college academically, but excel in one specific extracurricular area to create a distinct and unique impression on an admissions officer.They would advise finding your passion and "layering" it in diverse ways that make a difference in you community and guide you toward a greater understanding of your passion. This makes sense to me, but what do ya'll think? Does a college want to see a well rounded student or one who is particularly focused on a passion? Thoughts?
Post edited by churchpianist15 on

Replies to: Do Colleges Want Well-Rounded or Focused Students?

  • RyanMKRyanMK Posts: 788Registered User Member
    That is what the top colleges say in their info sessions, and it makes sense, so I can only assume it to be true.
  • drac313drac313 Posts: 924Registered User Member
    I think that focused is more helpful to get into college for a few reasons:
    -You are showing a particular interest that you love and wish to pursue at said college, it shows the admissions office that you care enough about the university that you will make it a place where you learn your passion
    -You round out the student body better. What is a "perfect" student body if everyone does everything and no one has a real interest?
    -It shows you have a passion in something and you are invested in it, you aren't just a person that does stuff to just do it...you are one that does it for a defined reason
    -It separates you from the guy next to you, it shows why you are truly different.
  • hischoolstudenthischoolstudent Posts: 233Registered User Junior Member
    top colleges want all-around, world-class students who stand out. This means both well rounded and exceptional in specific areas. But not standing out in a specific area never bodes well.

    Part of the reason that this "specific area" thing comes up is that college applications in general are only small pictures into a student. There is usually only enough space for one or two specific achievements in essays. This is where the specialty comes in.
  • amaninakupendaamaninakupenda Posts: 94Registered User Junior Member
    the "spike" idea seems pretty ubiquitous in college guides and admissions sessions
    however, i think it's maybe overemphasized at times. colleges do want well-rounded students too! i was recently accepted into my dream school (stanford) and while i'm passionate about many things, i've spent my high school years pursuing a bunch of different activities that interest me-- theater, languages, dance team, student government, etc. i'm sure it depends on the student and the school, but i wouldn't freak out if you haven't found your one "passion" yet. just do stuff you enjoy, whatever that may be, and try to explain your connection to what you do in your essays
  • testobsessedtestobsessed Posts: 229Registered User Junior Member
    hischoolstudent, you are correct that top colleges want world-class students who stand out. However, achievements do not belong in college essays. RyanMK, and drac313, I agree with you. To the OP, it can be very enjoyable to really pursue your primary interest in a creative and deep way, above and beyond what it does for your college application, so it's a win-win!
  • JusthanginJusthangin Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    The best way I heard this expressed was at an admissions tour at Occidental College. She said, "We want well lopsided students to make a well rounded class". Well said, easy to understand and made my (then) 10th grader say "oh, I get it"!
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