Many students try to impress college admissions officers. Many students try very hard to impress these folks. Maybe they try to impress them by volunteering at a soup kitchen. Maybe they try to impress them by bombarding their email inboxes with all of their life updates and accomplishments before they even apply to college. Or maybe they try to impress them by participating in summer enrichment programs at elite universities that are selective. If we had a nickel for every time a parent said to us…”But this summer program is different. This one is really competitive to get into. College admissions officers will know that. They will!” Oy vey. We’d have a whole lot of nickels in our piggybank. That parent just doesn’t get it. As regular readers of our college admissions blog know all too well, these students are not impressing admissions officers by volunteering at soup kitchens, by flooding their inboxes, or by attending fancy summer programs. Not one bit.
Don’t Try to Impress Admissions Officers
Don’t Try to Impress Admissions Officers with Volunteering
When you go on a date and that date brags about his high-paying job and his influential contacts, you’re unlikely to be smitten. In college admissions and in life, people generally aren’t impressed with folks who try too hard to impress. It’s really nice to work at a soup kitchen. It’s nice to feed the homeless. It’s important work. But, from a college admissions standpoint, it reads as trying to prove to college admissions officers that the student is a good person, that she cares for humanity. Of course college admissions officers wish to admit good people who care for humanity.
In the Jewish faith, tikkun olam is an important teaching. It means (more or less) to repair the world, to bring it closer to its harmonious state at creation. It’s a teaching that transcends the Jewish faith as just about every faith exalts its own version of tikkun olam. College admissions officers want students who value this teaching. But working in a soup kitchen is cliché. It’s too transparent. Admissions officers weren’t born last Tuesday. It doesn’t show lots of initiative and originality. And, worst of all, it comes across like the student is doing the activity to boost her chances of college admission. Yuck is right.
Don’t Try to Impress Admissions Officers with Emails
Likewise, sending lots of unsolicited emails to admissions officers is like sending a slew of text messages to a date in the immediate aftermath of said date. You know the messages. Maybe they go something like, “Hey if it wasn’t clear already, I’m really into you. Let’s go out again. How’s tomorrow? If that doesn’t work, how’s the next day? Wednesday?” Or “I saw there was a house for sale across the street from where you live. I just made an offer. So we can see each other all the time.” Ok, maybe that last text was a bit of an exaggeration. But you get the idea. Don’t send lots of emails to admissions officers. You’re more likely to creep them out than improve your case for admission.
Don’t Try to Impress Admissions Officers with Summer Programs
And as to those summer programs, most college admissions officers at highly selective colleges don’t know which ones are free and which ones are over $10,000. Attending such a program invariably makes the student appear privileged — and unlikable. Mom and dad spent how much money to send them to summer camp? Oh, did we say summer camp? Freudian slip. And college admissions officers don’t know which programs are competitive and which ones aren’t but more importantly…they don’t care. “This kid thought we’d be impressed that he got into some competitive summer program? Well, I’ll just have to show him that our university is more competitive than his summer camp.” Yes, admissions officers might well think this way. And when the summer camp is at Stanford and you apply Regular Decision to UPenn, it may well cross the minds of UPenn admissions officers that the student applied Early Action to Stanford and didn’t get in. So now UPenn feels that they’re second fiddle. It would have been better if UPenn admissions officers just assumed the student was a procrastinator and that’s why he didn’t apply Early.
And if you’re still considering signing up for a fancy summer program after reading all of this, watch the video below and see how the Founder of Ivy Coach, Bev Taylor, turns the conversation on summer
Don’t try to impress admissions officers. It’ll backfire. Almost always.