January 08, 2013
As much as some parents and college applicants like to think otherwise, Ivy League schools are not after “well-rounded” applicants. In highly selective college admissions, the three-sport jock is an anachronism of decades past. Instead, Ivy League admissions counselors seek out students with singular remarkable talents. When the singular talents of the incoming class are brought together, Ivy League colleges then have their well-rounded class. But many college applicants and their parents now know this. We’ve been writing about it for years.
There is, however, a difference in knowing what colleges do and don’t want and actually getting it right in your application to Ivy League schools. So let’s talk specifics with Ivy League admissions activities. Many Ivy League applicants cite being members of the National Honor Society on their applications. They think that this is a considerable honor that they should be proud of. Some applicants even choose to list their membership in NHS as a few hours each week. But this isn’t a good idea. Ivy League admissions counselors aren’t impressed that you do an activity for three hours a week. And they’re certainly not impressed that you’re a member of the National Honor Society. In reality, there aren’t too many Ivy League applicants who aren’t members of their high school’s National Honor Society. The Ivy League admissions process is about differentiation and the National Honor Society is not a differentiator but rather merely a bland line on an application that Ivy League admissions counselors glaze over.
Ivy League applicants should not list every single activity that they’ve ever participated in throughout their high school careers. Playing the flute for an hour a week isn’t going to get you into Yale. Instead, devote that hour to your science research, to your robotics team, to your theatrical performances, or to a sport that you really excel at and invest quite a bit of your time in already. Listing a few activities that you’re really passionate about and dedicated to is a whole lot more of an asset on your application than listing a bunch of activities that you spend a couple hours at each week. If you really loved an activity, you’d do it for more than an hour a week!
Similarly, citing awards that everyone has won doesn’t impress Ivy League admissions counselors. Citing awards such as “Who’s Who Among American High School Students” that are absolutely meaningless is even worse. Talk about a worthless award! Did you really think an Ivy League admissions counselor would be impressed because you paid to have your name included in a book? It’s amazing how many people this publication fools.
As you list your activities and honors, think about whether or not you’re really passionate about the activities you’re listing. Think about whether or not the honors you’re mentioning are really impressive or if you’re just listing them as filler because you don’t want to think too hard about what to write. Less is more in your Ivy League admissions activities!