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Journey from Clueless to Williams, post 3 of 3: Extracurriculars and SAT

TheGreyKingTheGreyKing Forum Champion Williams College Posts: 1,967 Forum Champion
There is one other comment I want to make about the admissions process.

I tried to let my kid be a kid.

I never encouraged him to join any clubs and sports with resume-building in mind. Anything he did, he chose to do of his own volition, and he did it because it was interesting to him. I figured he was working hard in school, and his extracurriculars should be fun and a release from pressure, as opposed to more pressure.

And guess what? He was admitted to Williams without having invented a cure for a major disease, without spending a fortune to fly somewhere exotic to do service work, without having won any major competitions, without having a title of President of anything. This does not imply that his activities were not meaningful. They were. He cared about them, and I am proud of his accomplishments. He developed good leadership and social abilities, kept in good physical shape, felt the thrill of accomplishment and the joy of being part of various types of teams/group experiences. But his activities weren’t “unusual” and they didn’t need to be. He was a happy kid doing things he enjoyed. And if he had “only” gotten into his safeties, I still would be glad that he did what he enjoyed during high school.

One of his essays was based on something that happened during his summer camp job, and his mini-descriptions in his activities sections demonstrated his interests, dedication, and character.

Also, he did not take a test prep course, nor have a test prep tutor, nor spend hours prepping. He did some practice tests and exercises on the free online Khan Academy, and that was the extent of his preparation. And he took the SAT only once, in December of junior year. I think he scored “in the mid-50 percent range” for every college to which he was applying, but not in the top 25% for the most selective colleges on his list. I was a little nervous that maybe a kid from suburban New York with educated parents would need higher scores for the most competitive schools, and that maybe I should have pushed him to retake them. But he was satisfied with and proud of his scores and wanted to be finished with testing. And his GPA and course rigor were sky high. I figured that investing more time into his schoolwork and extracurriculars— and getting to be a high school kid and have fun with his friends— probably would yield a better result than devoting his time to a ton of test prep anyway. I am glad to say it worked out.
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Replies to: Journey from Clueless to Williams, post 3 of 3: Extracurriculars and SAT

  • ChrisG77ChrisG77 Registered User Posts: 21 Junior Member
    Glad to hear your story. I've taken the same approach with my kids (a senior and a sophomore). I've been adamant that they do things because they enjoy and care about them and not because it might look good on a college application.
  • porcupine98porcupine98 Registered User Posts: 1,617 Senior Member
    Amen. Thanks for the report, and congratulations on a great result!
  • 3SailAway3SailAway Registered User Posts: 333 Member
    Thanks! I needed to hear this after reading too much about angular applicants, and hearing how great it is if EC's relate to the student's academic passion. DD19's ECs are whatever she (and her friends) are drawn to and love. If anything, we encouraged her to embrace variety rather than doing one thing all year round, and to chose active/outdoor things since she spends so much time at a desk already . . .

    I appreciate your grounded approach and congrats to your son!
  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing Forum Champion Williams College Posts: 1,967 Forum Champion
    Thank you, and good luck and much happiness to your daughter!
  • CTDadof2CTDadof2 Registered User Posts: 66 Junior Member
    OP, but if I'm not mistaken, you went to Williams yourself, making your son a legacy and conferring upon him an advantage not enjoyed by unhooked applicants. And don't you think having a father who went to Williams gave him some insight into getting in there? Sorry, but you and your son were hardly clueless. Might want to throttle back the humble bragging.
  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing Forum Champion Williams College Posts: 1,967 Forum Champion
    edited November 2018
    @CTDadof2 - This was an ancient thread you have revived from almost a year ago (December 2017). It was the third in a series sharing my son’s admissions journey (how he narrowed down his college choices, decided on his ED school, etc.) in an attempt to be helpful to other applicants using CC to help them learn about the process. College Confidential was a very helpful resource to my family during the process. Just trying to “pay it forward!”

    Yes, he was a legacy. Did legacy status help? Quite possibly. Who knows? But that does not affect my point in this particular part of my three-part series, which was to enjoy being a kid while you are in high school. High school should be a joyful time of growth and learning, not a time of making your every decision with college admissions in mind.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 6,323 Senior Member
    I agree with @CTDadof2 in the sense that your post may be a disservice to some as legacy status counts for a substantial bump in LAC admissions.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 6,323 Senior Member
    @TheGreyKing: I am not trying to be inconsiderate as I understand your sense of pride & accomplishment. However, I know many heartbroken students who suffered from a lack of guidance during the college admission process & spent 3, 4 or 5 years in misery as a result.
  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing Forum Champion Williams College Posts: 1,967 Forum Champion
    edited November 2018
    I believe that one of the most important services we can do for high school students is to encourage them to relieve just a little of the pressure on themselves and allow themselves time and space to grow and discover their interests and talents. That is best done by encouraging them to choose extracurricular activities that match their interests... and to change these as they discover new interests along the way.

    The posts on College Confidential in which kids, particularly younger kids starting out high school, are making changes in what they do in their leisure time explicitly because they are weighing the impact of their choices on potential future college admissions, are heartbreaking...

    ...both because of the cost to the student’s well-being in defining their whole high school experience and life itself by whether they get into a top college, and failing to enjoy high school itself,

    ....and because of the opportunity cost in a student’s maybe not discovering what (s)he actually enjoys most and may later want to turn into a career or lifelong hobby,

    ...and because this approach is misguided: college admissions officers may enjoy the authentic kid who does a few things— maybe commonly enjoyed activities or maybe even quirky interests—with passion, as much or more than the cookie-cutter applicant trying to be president of as many clubs as possible.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 6,323 Senior Member
    edited November 2018
    I think that many, probably most, readers & posters will & do agree that students should explore based on their own interests, and not to please college admissions officers (who can tell the difference based on the whole application packet).

    The concern with your post which started this thread is with the tie-in to the number one ranked LAC in the country and your omission of the fact that the applicant enjoyed a meaningful boost from being a legacy applicant as pointed out by @CTDadof2.

    Admission to the nation's most prestigious colleges & universities is highly competitive and less connected applicants need to be aware of their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to enhance their attractiveness to the most selective colleges & universities.

    Not only do the top ranked colleges & universities offer enthusiastic learning environments, but they also offer some of the best financial aid and job opportunities.

    P.S. I think that it is important to point out the legacy connection to readers, in large part, because of the title of this thread "Journey From Clueless To Williams" which is somewhat misleading--all one needs to do to verify this is to read your Part ! post of 12/9/17 in which you share that your son utilized college guides Fiske, Princeton Review, Ultimate Guide & Insider's Guide in addition to lists from US News & Forbes followed by use of college websites, including College Confidential, followed by actual visits to a long list of schools before refining his target schools to a list of 21 schools.
  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing Forum Champion Williams College Posts: 1,967 Forum Champion
    edited November 2018
    @Publisher and @CTDadof2

    I guess the two posters who call me “misleading” did not bother to read my second thread in the three part series (“Journey From Clueless to Williams Part 2”), which includes the phrase “And at Williams there was a chance that the fact that I had gone there might improve the odds.” So, no, I did not attempt to “omit” or hide” his legacy status- a bizarre accusation anyway.

    I was just trying to do a nice thing and share our experience in the hopes of helping others as we had been helped by College Confidential. If my posts helped anyone, I am glad. If they did not help you, no need to resurrect them a year later.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 6,323 Senior Member
    I read, and enjoyed, that entire thread. Still doesn't change the point.

    Maybe I am sensitive to the title of your thread because I have dealt with many students who truly are clueless about colleges & the application process due to hardships beyond their control.
  • Sue22Sue22 Registered User Posts: 5,830 Senior Member
    In general I think you've been a helpful poster, @TheGreyKing, but I have to say I agree with the criticism.

    I see this a lot on CC, parents who say things like, "Relax, enjoy high school, and do what you like. My kid scored a 1500 plus on SAT the first time he took it without studying. It's not that hard."

    That's nice advice for the kid who's so naturally brilliant that they can score in the 99th percentile without effort. For mere mortals, and particularly unhooked kids who need substantial financial aid, the landscape is very different. I agree that resume building simply for the sake of college applications is a waste of time, but there are things kids can do to improve their chances, and I don't think they should be discouraged from doing so.

    Some kids need more of a push than others. I hate it when I see posts from seniors lamenting their total lack of extracurricular activities. I always wish they had had someone in their freshman year who encouraged them to go out for a no-cut team or join a club that looked interesting, not only because it's great to be involved in something outside of academics, but also because it would have made the application process less stressful.
  • suzy100suzy100 Registered User Posts: 5,606 Senior Member
    "I see this a lot on CC, parents who say things like, "Relax, enjoy high school, and do what you like. My kid scored a 1500 plus on SAT the first time he took it without studying. It's not that hard."

    I've never seen a post that advises not to study for the SAT or ACT. Quite the opposite.

    I've also never seen anyone say not to get involved in ECs. But I have seen the advice - and agree with it - that students should pursue ECs that interest them, not because it may help them in the college admissions process.

    Both of my kids are at a top 20 school. They were the dreaded well-rounded applicants. They were involved in ECs which interested them, and if they joined something they didn't turn out liking then they dropped it. I supported that.

    I think @TheGreyKing was sincerely trying to help others, so not sure why he/she is being attacked here.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 6,323 Senior Member
    She is not being "attacked". Simply pointing out that "clueless" really should have been titled "clued in".

    The threads are supposedly about a clueless high school student who did what made him happy rather than pursue activities that might clue one in to what creates a attractive college application & yet, surprise, gets admitted to the number one ranked LAC in the nation.

    Yet this was a hooked applicant to that school who had the savvy to apply ED to benefit from being a legacy. The "clueless" applicant also spent a great deal of time & resources on college application activities that probably left little time for much else in the way of ECs. Essentially the college search & application process was this young man's primary EC. This was a privileged student who had devoted parental guidance.


    By the time he applied, he probably had the equivalent of a PhD in college admissions.

    I find it humorous & charming, and informative, as presented by the poster.
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