Building a Well-Rounded Class: Why Colleges Want Specialists

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Colleges Want Well Rounded Classes resized 600Debunking the Myth of the Well-Rounded Student

The truth is, there is no foolproof way to guarantee admission to your top-choice college. Admissions officers look at a variety of factors when evaluating college applications, and no singular quality is going to make you a shoo-in.

However, one admissions myth that seems to persist year after year is that, the most attractive applicants are those who are “well-rounded” and involved in a diverse array of clubs and activities. In this instance, “well-rounded” is mistaken for “the complete package.”

However, colleges aren’t looking for a “jack of all trades, master of none,” or a student who dabbles in a variety of activities, yet never gains a full understanding or makes an impact in any of his or her interests. This type of student can come off as unfocused, leaving a college to wonder if that student is really sure how he or she fits into the campus community, or why that college is a great fit for his or her goals.

Instead of well-rounded students, colleges actually aim to build well-rounded classes, made up of students with varying specialties and interests, which contribute to the overall campus community.

Why a well-rounded class?

Colleges have institutional needs and they want students who are going to contribute to the campus in a meaningful way. Colleges and universities have many different majors, minors, and other established activities and organizations that need students who are committed to succeeding in that field.

Whether it’s more engineering majors, band members, community service activists, or any other interest, it’s important for a college to know how and where a student will fit into the campus fabric.

As outlined in our admissions rubric, this is a big factor when admitting students. If there’s a shortage of STEM students at the school, they’ll want to admit more students who show a defined interest in that area. This is where being a “specialist” improves your chances of admission.

Developing a specialty also shows the college that you have clear, defined goals and an idea of how you want to achieve them. This is a mark of maturity, and signifies to the school that you’re ready for the demands and rigor of a college education.

How do students become specialists?

Developing a specialty is all about exploring your interests. What are you passionate about? Is it fashion? Philanthropy? Music? Sports?

Consider what’s important to you and learn more about it. You can do this through outside reading, blogging, or just spending time with others who share the same interests.

Also, don’t be afraid to explore a few different campus activities. Freshmen and sophomore year it’s ok to try out a few activities to see which you like the most, but don’t hop from activity to activity in order to lengthen your resume. Colleges want to see students maintaining sustained and impactful involvement in their extracurriculars, so test the waters, then commit to just a couple of activities that you really enjoy and relate to your intended field of study.

Over time, deepen your involvement through leadership roles. Commit a considerable amount of time and energy to furthering your activity’s cause, whether it’s through community service, fundraisers, or other initiatives.

If your school doesn’t offer a club or organization that meets your interests, create your own! Also explore summer programs, internships, and other local opportunities in order to learn more about your field of interest and how you can make an impact in your community.

Don’t think you have to have everything figured out right away. It’s important to take time to really explore what interests you and how that plays into your future career and education goals. Many times students will explore an interest then decide it’s not for them, and that’s okay! It’s all a learning experience. By being diligent and dedicating your time to thoughtful exploration, you’ll soon identify your own niche and start to make your mark in your community.

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