Passion and College Admission

Talent and College Admission, Talents and College Admission, Passion Areas and College Admission

Highly selective colleges do not seek out well-rounded students.

There’s an interesting editorial in “The Wall Street Journal” entitled “The College Admissions Passion Play” written by M.N. Stabler that we thought we’d bring to the attention of our readers. In her editorial, Ms. Stabler discusses how it’s kind of ridiculous that highly selective colleges — like the Ivy League colleges — search for students with singular passions. She sarcastically writes how so many parents — like herself — weren’t thinking clearly when they let their children engage in a lot of different activities so they could discover themselves better and just try out things in their childhood and teenage years. Instead, she sarcastically writes, she should have been encouraging them to do only one activity an to hone in on that activity as their “passion.”

Ms. Stabler is making reference to the fact that highly selective colleges do not seek out well-rounded students but instead search for exceptionally talented individuals in a specific “passion” area to together form a well-rounded class of talented students. She writes about how there really aren’t any kids who have this singular interest (wrong!) and how her daughter certainly doesn’t. But then she mentions her son and how he does have this sort of singular interest (although he forgets his lunch and would essentially lose his head if it were not screwed on). Ms. Stabler — how can you say these students aren’t out there when your son might be one of these students? It doesn’t matter that he has the traits of an absent-minded professor. Colleges don’t care if he forgets his lunch.

What do you think of Ms. Stabler’s editorial Is it sour grapes because her daughter might have a hard time getting into the college of her dreams? Let us know your thoughts by posting below. We look forward to hearing from you!


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  • M. Sivapatham says:

    It might be more accurate to say that there are not too many kids who have ‘singular passions’; and those who don’t might find their time better served by exploring as many areas as arouse their curiosity, regardless of whether or not it will help them secure an Ivy League admission.

    Parents probably should not over-estimate their influence on their children’s natural aptitudes (I definitely have the Tiger Mothers and Fathers in mind when I say this). The kids with deeply singular interests don’t get that way merely through parental encouragement/harassment; meaning that prodigies are born, not moulded.

  • Nick Pingitore says:

    I read over your piece on taking summer classes. Over ninth grade I took a summer class at UC Berkeley for high school credit. Its not one of those sleep away “earn college credit so you look good classes.” I was thinking about doing it again this year to get a head start on math or do some science course that my school doesn’t offer but after reading your suggestions I am rethinking it. What do you recommend? Should I take it and not record it on my transcript or just not take it period? Is this class any different then the classes you spoke about above?

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