College Admissions and Talent

In a previous post on talented college applicants, we wrote about how college admissions counselors are in search of talented students to form a well rounded class. They’re not in search of well rounded students to form a somewhat talented class of students who are fairly decent at a number of things. How would that sit with the basketball coach? Or the swim coach? Do you think the swim coach wants a male 100 breaststroker who can swim a :55 or a 100 breaststroker who can swim a 1:15 but also sings somewhat like Ben Harper (minus any ability whatsoever to carry a tune). So, yeah, he’s not such a good singer or swimmer. Do you think the bball coach would want to play the girl who can’t make an unguarded layup but who can play a mean piano (though she struggles with differentiating a C from a C Sharp) or the girl who can come close to jamming and averages 24 points a game? The basketball coach wants the latter student and thus that’s the student college admissions officers will want as well.

So what if you’re only mediocre at, say, water polo and you’ve tried playing other sports but you’re even worse? And what if you really love water polo and you want to keep playing but now you’ve read that you need to be talented in a particular area to really succeed in the college admissions process? That’s ridiculous! Do what you love and you’ll find you get better at it. Don’t believe us? Will you take Malcolm Gladwell’s word? He’s the author of “Outliers” in which he argued that to be exceptional at anything, to be an outlier (think of a great water polo player like Tony Azevedo as compared to the typical water polo players), you need to practice for 10,000 hours. Yes, you read that right — 10,000 hours during your lifetime.

Bill Gates programmed at the computer for 10,000 hours and he founded Microsoft in his garage. Michael Phelps swam for 10,000 hours and he won eight Olympic golds in the last Olympic Games (not to mention six the previous Olympics). Larry Bird shot a basketball for 10,000 hours on his Indiana farm and developed one of the greatest shots in the history of the game. Does Larry Bird look athletic to you? Did he ever? He trained. He shot ball after ball through a hoop and he excelled. Larry Legend was not born a basketball sensation. He became one through hard work. And you can excel in your talent area as well!

Check out our article on talented students and college admissions and watch the Charlie Rose interview clip with Malcolm Gladwell!

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