Undertaking the College Process

Pursuing higher education has become an expected rite of passage for most students whose families can afford it. By 2009, the number of U.S. undergraduate students doubled per a report by NBC News.

Of course, with a higher pool of students to select from, colleges have made their admissions process a lot more selective. Students are now almost obligated to perfect their standardized test scores, GPA, and extracurricular resume if they expect to enroll at a respectable school.

Yes, all these things are good goals to achieve and they show a good work ethic in a student. But how much of it is just plopped onto a checklist that the student feels they need to complete in order to superficially brighten up their application? How genuine are those goals and do they actually have a real purpose other than to flex in front of the admissions personnel?

The renowned phrase “because it looks good on college apps” is something I commonly hear when I ask why someone took a leadership role, joined a community service club, or auditioned for an ensemble they never wanted to be in. Many who join these organizations do it for a real reason – to actually become a better leader, get an opportunity to help the underrepresented, or improve in an instrument they’re passionate about. But there are also the people who look to these organizations as an opportunity not to improve themselves, but to improve the image of themselves.

There’s nothing wrong with improving your external image. But if you devote the entirety of your high school life to it, there’s a lot you lose. You lose the opportunity for genuine self-improvement, you lose the chance to put your passions to practical use, and you lose the moments of actually enjoying doing what you love.

I play the violin. Taking an hour out of each day to practice is difficult in conjunction with school. Family and friends have advised me to spend less time on music if I don’t plan to pursue it as a career, and this is something that I resent hearing. The sense of personal accomplishment through the years and the ability to perform charity music for the communities around me has impacted my life much more than the college application process ever will. The worst thing you can do is drop your passion for something much less important.

The point is, there should be an overarching purpose to the things you do in high school, whatever that may be. Four years is a lot of time to grow character – and if you take that time away to dedicate solely to the SAT and your AP scores, sure you’ll improve your academic record, but you’ve left every other aspect of your identity unimproved and unchanged.

You also won’t be able to commit to certain goals that you genuinely want to accomplish. By concealing yourself in a world where only admittance to a gbn ood college is important, you leave less time for those goals and miss the satisfaction of real achievement. And those kinds of achievements are the ones that you can really grow from. Find something you love, explore outside of your comfort, or take on a challenge; just don’t let college applications stop you or take you on a path you don’t want to be on. Admission officers will notice commitment and passion, but they won’t notice

If you want to do something, do it. But if the only motivation you have for something is to deceptively enhance the image of yourself, don’t waste your time on it.


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