right arrow
GUEST STUDENT OF THE WEEK: ski_racer, a high-achiever in high school, was rejected by some of the elite schools she applied to. This rejection was the best thing that happened to her as she got to choose her own path. Learn how she fell in love with her safety school, ASK HER ANYTHING!
Make sure to check out our August Checklist for HS Seniors. Consult these quick resources to get you started on the process this month.
As we work to adjust to the current reality, make sure to check out these dedicated COVID-19 resources: our directory of virtual campus tours, our directory of extended deadlines, as well as the list of schools going test optional this fall.

Is it bad to be too well rounded?

helpmetocollegehelpmetocollege 27 replies7 threads Junior Member
Nowadays, I am often told college admissions don't like well rounded people. I recently was thinking about all the things I've done, and I feel like I seem way too well rounded. I have competed in numerous business and healthcare competitions and have done well at the national and international levels. I have been invited to international galas and invited to perform dance routines for international television a number of times. I've placed first for dance and international competitions as well. I also have many leadership positions in school clubs, and I am also the founder and president of a human rights organization. My academic stats are also relatively high (having a 4.0 gpa unweighted and having a 4.56 gpa weighted, have taken 18 AP classes, scored an 800 on math ii subject test and a 780 on bio m subject test). I have also interned with a congressman, interned at a manufacturing company where I built and designed a website entirely on my own, and I plan to apply to Wharton's LBW program. On the side, I also make youtube videos that have become somewhat successful. Is doing all of these extracurriculars going to hurt my chances of going to ivies or elite schools likes Upenn, Princeton, and Stanford?
19 replies
· Reply · Share

Replies to: Is it bad to be too well rounded?

  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30464 replies59 threads Senior Member
    It’s not that colleges don’t like well rounded candidates. It’s just that they have enough of them to fill their class 20x over— the highly selective ones, anyways. In fact for 99% of the colleges, being well rounded with very good everything is a great thing.

    Yes, you can be too well rounded if the rounding is below thresholds , obviously. But to be well rounded and excellent is a great thing. But the highly selective schools have the luxury of finding true excellence in things. They want the high academic but with an extra talent, a gift, a skill, often called hook. Most of us , especially teenagers dong have that by very definition.
    · Reply · Share
  • helpmetocollegehelpmetocollege 27 replies7 threads Junior Member
    @cptofthehouse So should I continue to pursue all of my extracurriculars or should I drop some?
    · Reply · Share
  • skieuropeskieurope 41067 replies7713 threads Super Moderator
    edited July 2019
    I've heard admissions officers say that they want a well rounded class -- and that will include well rounded individuals as well as individuals with particular interests/talents.
    I have heard the same thing, and agree with @happy1 's advice. Having said that, your description of yourself does not match what I think of as well-rounded.
    edited July 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • circuitridercircuitrider 3999 replies182 threads Senior Member
    Frankly, you don't sound all that well-rounded. You come across as highly entrepreneurial with a knack for commnications and performance art. It's all in how you package yourself, especially in terms of your essay.
    · Reply · Share
  • helpmetocollegehelpmetocollege 27 replies7 threads Junior Member
    Thank you all so much for the responses! I guess the people around me have influenced me enough to a point that I was paranoid about being well rounded.
    · Reply · Share
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30464 replies59 threads Senior Member
    The best anyone can do is to continue in excellence in academics and testing, continue in the activities you enjoy and do best, and look for a unique presentation, event or experience in that framework.

    Very few people have a true gift, huge talent. Otherwise it wouldn’t be special. Also schools have their own laundry list of things they want at the time which they don’t share with others. Of course the most selective schools are going to look for these rare birds. At this point, pretty much you are it aren’t. And by definition, very few are.

    An example of a rare bird that suddenly came up in that category is David Hogg. That Jazz, of the TV show is so high profile and a celebrity in a trending issue also puts her in that category. Really, there is nothing most kids can do to gain that sort of status.
    · Reply · Share
  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1666 replies8 threads Senior Member
    IMO, this whole you have to have a "spike" thing has been blown out of proportion by the consulting and college advice industry. It gives them the opportunity to say they can create "value" and a potential line of hope for their clients. In my conversations with senior AO's at Yale, they have consistently said they are building an entire class. It consists of round and spikey kids. The spikes themselves are an assortment, STEM, music, art, literary talent, athletics, activism ... Even spikey kids though will be rounded in that they will have stellar academics, and many are actually very accomplished in multiple areas. I don't know how this can ever be quantified because it is such a subjective judgment, but my observations based on everyone I know from college, albeit that was in wagon train days, all the kids I have interviewed since or were accepted in my regions, all my son's friends currently attending and all my friends' kids who ended up at T20 schools, the vast majority were pretty well rounded but that means excellent in multiple areas, but not necessarily national or international recognition level.
    · Reply · Share
  • mathmommathmom 33234 replies163 threads Senior Member
    Even my super spikey kid took APs in subjects he didn't care for and did well in them. At tippy-top schools you have to have it all - so even the spikey kids are academically well-rounded, even if their ECs cluster around their interests. My younger son did surprisingly well with ECs that included Science Olympiad, orchestra (2 of them), literary magazine and making and selling origami earrings. He was most interested in history and took all the history APs, but also Calc BC and Physics C and Bio.
    · Reply · Share
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83834 replies743 threads Senior Member
    Seems like you have both desirable well roundedness and very high achievement in some activities ("done well at the national and international levels"). Why do you feel that you need to do anything different in this respect?

    But those colleges are still reaches. Make sure that you have an affordable safety that you like.
    · Reply · Share
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 3039 replies5 threads Senior Member
    "An example of a rare bird that suddenly came up in that category is David Hogg. "
    Interesting you bring this up, as three students from MSD have gotten into Harvard, with one offer being rescinded (Kyle Kashuv). There were five kids that started the "never again" movement, 2 of those are at Harvard, probably not a coincidence. If any college has a soft spot for school shooting survivors (esp ones that want to make a difference), that's fine, but you have to know the difference between that and someone using the shooting to enhance their application.
    · Reply · Share
  • circuitridercircuitrider 3999 replies182 threads Senior Member
    If any college has a soft spot for school shooting survivors (esp ones that want to make a difference), that's fine, but you have to know the difference between that and someone using the shooting to enhance their application.
    Kind of sad that there's a whole category of applicant in America called, "school shooting survivor."
    · Reply · Share
  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35414 replies399 threads Senior Member
    Let's back up. Count on (as in CYA) "a well rounded class of well rounded individuals."

    IOW, I'll go with BKSquared snd mathmom, Alex. "...excellent in multiple areas, but not necessarily national or international recognition level."

    The very term, well rounded means done right. Depth and breadth.
    · Reply · Share
  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 7596 replies36 threads Senior Member
    Personally you sound like a great candidate for just about any school. Block out the noise and keep doing activities that make you happy and you enjoy. Don't do activities that you think a college wants to see. Be yourself and you will be fine. Doing activities for like 2-3 years shows dedication and commitment. In your case also skill. Those are great attributes to have but as stated cast a wider net with safeties and other schools you would be happy attending.
    · Reply · Share
  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35414 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2019
    But. "I am often told college admissions don't like well rounded people." I expect better than hearsay when kids want a tippy top...and claim lots of academic power. Assuming OP is a rising senior, 18 AP done? What scores? And even I think there aren't enough hours for what he/she claims to be involved in.

    This OP, aiming high, still needs to learn what her targets want, from their sites.

    And don't "block out the noise. " instead, process it, to get the right picture. OP needs a clear narrative.
    edited July 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • helpmetocollegehelpmetocollege 27 replies7 threads Junior Member
    @lookingforward I am a rising junior and I have gotten mostly 5s and some 4s on all my AP exams. Also, I sacrifice my sleep time in order to fit all of these activities in. I know, it is not healthy, I try my best to work efficiently to fit all these extracurriculars
    · Reply · Share
  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35414 replies399 threads Senior Member
    You need to make some sense of the picture you present. If they get hint of burning the candle at both ends, it can be an issue. They care about how a candidate thinks, balances, in the ways the college wants to see. You seem to be so overloaded that they can wonder what you're thinking. (And how you'll operate, in college.)

    18 AP is not a tip, either- and it will matter which AP, the easy ones and electives matter less than those related to your hoped-for major and cores. (Same for scores.)

    Best advice is to sit back and breathe, dig into what, say, Wharton and Penn look for. Get that idea, so you have a better idea how to nail your apps and supps. You have time to get this better understanding.
    · Reply · Share
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 3039 replies5 threads Senior Member
    "IOW, I'll go with BKSquared snd mathmom, Alex. "...excellent in multiple areas, but not necessarily national or international recognition level."
    We've disagreed on this, but the evidence shows that national and international winners in STEM competitions - science fairs, olympiads do really well in admissions. Over a six year span, 25% of Intel winners are at Harvard, Olympiad winners are at Stanford, MIT, Cal Tech, Berkeley, CMU, Harvey Mudd. MIT hosts a session at Intel finals and blog from there. Now athletes are also treated similarly, I did a quick google of where the top track and field athletes are going, and quite a few will be at Stanford, Michigan, Duke, USC etc.

    So if you represent the US in the athletic Olympics or the math olympiad, you'll do fine wrt college admission.
    · Reply · Share
  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35414 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2019
    TM, many of those kids are a different sort of "driven," in the first place. I don't ascribe to a blanket "you'll do fine," when it comes to certain colleges. I advocate more of a CYA approach, not assuming. With very rare exceptions, an applicant still has to match, their record (the whole app/supp) needs to make sense to those adcoms. In many cases, on CC, it's not that more is better or one higher award trumps all the rest the colleges want in their classes.

    OP does have some breadth. But tippy top adcoms are going to comb that resume differently than CC. She needs better understanding. Years of dance is good, but being on tv adds interest, not tip. A manufacturing internship is good, but she describes only building a website, not a tip. (We don't know if she experienced more.) Founding a HRO likely means in high school- and adcoms will still look for how she also rolled up her sleeves locally. And so on.
    edited July 2019
    · Reply · Share
This discussion has been closed.

Recent Activity