We sometimes hear parents who are prospective clients say something like, “I want the best version of my child to shine through to admissions officers.” And then they ask us, “Can you help us do this?” Our answer: “Not if your child plays video games all day long. In that case, the best version of your child is being really good at those video games. That will earn your child no favor in admissions. We will not help you showcase the best version of your child in this case. Rather, we will help you showcase a better version of your child and, if you come to us early enough, we will help ensure that he or she is doing something a whole lot more interesting than playing video games all day long.”
And that, in a nutshell, is a big part of what we do to help our students optimize their chances for admission to America’s most highly selective universities. We help them showcase a better version of themselves. But it’s not a fake version of themselves — we help our students realize what they can do, how they can stand out, how they can be interesting, how they can have a compelling narrative, and how they can shape this narrative through the course of high school (if they come to us early enough).
There are some folks who say, “It’s always best to be yourself.” Well, not if “yourself” is playing video games all day long. If you regularly pick your nose, that doesn’t mean you should do this while on a date. Even if the nose-picking version of yourself is the truest version of you. You don’t wear sweatpants to job interviews, just as you shouldn’t watch television all day if you hope to gain admission to one of America’s most elite universities. “Just be yourself” might be an age-old expression, but it’s not all that informative when it comes to college admissions. No matter what mom and dad might say.