It’s important to do fancy activities like enrolling in competitive, often costly summer programs to improve your case for admission to elite universities, right? A key objective of this college admissions blog is to debunk misconceptions about the highly selective college admissions process — misconceptions so often perpetuated by everyone ranging from school counselors to admissions officers to the press to local plumbers. One such misconception that is so often perpetuated is the importance of getting involved in fancy schmancy summer programs and otherwise. It’s the exact opposite approach our students at Ivy Coach take to optimize their cases for admission to elite universities and it’s about time folks stop spreading this narrative which, we argue, hurts rather than helps students’ cases for admission.
Many Think Elite College Admissions Is About Enrolling in Fancy Summer Programs and Such
As a case in point, in a piece out today in International Policy Digest (because who doesn’t read International Policy Digest alongside Reader’s Digest each week?) entitled “America’s Broken College Admissions System” by Kacey Fifield, she writes, “Aside from test scores, colleges take a close look at the extracurricular activities of each applicant, admitting only those who demonstrate excellence and passion. Leadership positions are treasured, and so are rare opportunities like internships and summer programs. However, at a concerningly rapid rate, high school students get involved in as many activities as possible, believing that spreading themselves thin is the only way that they can get into college. Being involved in activities solely for the purpose of college applications takes a toll on students; they’re often filling their time with activities that they don’t even enjoy while consequently jeopardizing their grades, social lives, and mental health. With an ever-growing ‘arms race’ mentality, each generation of high school students increasingly attempt to one-up their peers, constantly adding onto their workloads in order to appear more impressive than their classmates in front of colleges.”
Ivy Coach’s Approach Is Quite the Opposite as We’ve Long Opposed Such Fancy Programs
But Ms. Fitfield is, unfortunately, perpetuating a misconception about highly selective college admissions. Elite colleges don’t treasure enrollment in summer programs. Heck, it’s a signal to them that the student is privileged, that mom and dad paid for the student to attend (rather than demonstrate initiative of their own), and the program will likely demonstrate nothing more to colleges than the student is trying ever so hard to impress them. A college applicant to elite universities doesn’t want to try to impress admissions officers. They want to actually impress admissions officers. And, contrary to Ms. Fitfield’s words, it’s not about getting “involved in as many activities as possible” — far from it. College admissions officers want to see involvement in targeted activities; it’s not about quantity but quality. Finally, as to a high school student doing activities they don’t like to get into college, well, that too defies logic and it defies the approach of Ivy Coach’s students. Our students are always involved in activities that reflect their singular hook, which is their key interest. Why would they do activities they don’t like? Admissions officers would see right through that anyway! Let’s get it right, Ms. Fitfield, as writing falsehoods about college admissions only makes the process more stressful for all.
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