Are You A Tuba Player?
Are you a tuba player? One of the wisest things I heard during the early stages of our first college search was a counselor telling us “Every college band needs a tuba player”. Huh? I had to think that one over for a minute. The kid had numerous talents, but certainly was not musical… Ohhhh, I got it. There may be unbearable similarities among students when comparing grades, test scores and even the ubiquitous advisor-written letter of recommendation. However, some students have a skill or interest that makes them extremely unique and desirable to the admissions office.
Such skills can take many forms. It can be sports related. And not just football/baseball/soccer. Do you row crew? Do you play field hockey? Volleyball? Think outside the typical varsity box and research the opportunities at a school related to intramural/club sports. Female athletes in particular help schools maintain the federally required Title IX balance. Even if a varsity letter is beyond your skill set, commitment and participation at all levels are valued commodities.
Has community service been more than just a requirement for graduation in your life? Have you participated in activities beyond the walls of your high school and made a contribution to improve the local community in which you live? Just because an activity was not related to school clubs doesn’t mean you leave it out!
Are you a theater enthusiast? Do you participate in community productions as well as (or instead of )the ones at school? Does the local community theater group count on you for lighting or set crew work? Tell the colleges you are applying to!
How about a job? Believe it or not, paid employment is a plus. It demonstrates commitment, responsibility and a willingness to take on the “reality” of life beyond the family home. Don’t shy away from telling a college you folded shirts at the Gap. It means you went out, got a job and held onto it using determination, respect and reliability.
Don’t be shy about revealing what you truly are passionate about. If video games are your thing, or sharpening an encyclopedic knowledge of Harry Potter trivia is your talent, use those interests as essay material and keep them in your activities list. Brag if you started an on-line gaming group or school based Quidditch team. (By the way, at least one college has designated video gaming as a “sport”!)
Don’t reach and stretch to list 10 activities just because the Common App lets you put in that many. It is far more impressive to show that you were active- REALLY active- in 3 or 4 opportunities, and that you sustained that interest over the length of your high school career. Use your application space wisely. Show a college who you really, truly are. Deep commitments, honed interests and true participation are what admissions officers looking for. Play on, tuba players, play on!