In an article on college essay topics and summer plans, the “New York Times” has gotten it wrong. In an article on college essays entitled “Planning Summer Breaks With Eye on College Essays,” Jenny Anderson describes how high school students are more and more frequently turning to expensive summer programs and lavish travel in the hope of standing out to admissions counselors at highly selective colleges in their college essays. Let’s take a look at what the article says and then let’s correct these misconceptions.
In the article, Anderson writes, “Specialized, exotic and sometimes costly activities, [students] hope, will polish a skill, cultivate an interest and put them in the spotlight in a crowded field of straight-A students with strong test scores, community service hours and plenty of extracurricular activities…Students can study health care in Rwanda, veterinary medicine in the Caribbean or cell cloning at Brown University, or learn about Sikkim, India’s only Buddhist state.”
The truth is, college admissions counselors don’t want to read about lavish summer travel. Not only is it one of the most boring, overdone essay topics, but it says something else to admissions counselors that you may not have intended. It says: You. Have. Money. And so, since you have money, admissions counselors are going to review your application with a very critical eye. They’re going to assume those strong SAT scores were aided by expensive test prep. They’re going to assume that A- in calculus was a result of a fancy math tutor.
Keep in mind that college admissions counselors are searching for, among other things, underserved students. They’re searching for the exceptional. Can you be rich and still exceptional? Absolutely. But college admissions counselors are combing through applications with a keen eye for finding students with unique talents and demonstrated intellectual curiosity who, in their own creative way, managed to make the most of their high school experience.
You don’t have to go to China in order to stand out. You can do it right here at home…and it just might make for a college essay topic that is all the more interesting…