Most high school seniors have college admissions on their mind. Many students have the same desire: opening an acceptance letter which says “Welcome to Harvard”.
It is no easy feat to be accepted to the Ivy League and top-tier universities throughout the U.S.
The admission rate for Stanford University hovers around 4%. It is not uncommon for a valedictorian to be rejected. The valedictorian, and their parents, are always shocked when this occurs. How could a student with a perfect GPA and test scores be rejected?
The answer is simple.
There are nearly 40,000 high schools across the country. That means 40,000 valedictorians. With only eight Ivy League universities, the number of valedictorians is more than three times the number of open slots. What this means is that these highly selective universities turn down students who are “perfect on paper” all the time. Being valedictorian is great, but it is definitely not enough to warrant admission to the most selective colleges in the country.
Academics are the first hurdle to overcome in the college admissions process, but there are additional hurdles.
Countless parents and counselors advise their students to be well-rounded, in terms of their academics, participation in sports, volunteering, extracurricular activities, etc.
I suggest that you do the exact opposite.
Most students, and people in general, work hard on improving their weaknesses. They try to present an adequate skill level across all areas. As a result, they are mediocre at most things. The well-rounded strategy backfires in most cases because the student comes across to the admissions officers as average in all fields and does not shine in any one field.
Harvard is not an average college, so why would they accept an average student?
I advise that students work diligently on their strengths. Forget about striving to be well-rounded. I see “pointy” students gain admission to the top universities in the country. They are exceptional in one, maybe two areas.
This strategy takes time to implement; it requires persistence and dedication to become a specialist in your field, and that is the exact reason why it is so extraordinary. The first time Tiger Woods picked up a golf club he was not a pro. Even Pablo Picasso had to start somewhere.
The university wants to know that you are willing to put in consistent, sustained effort in your chosen field until you achieve the kind of success that makes you stand out amongst your peers. ‘Pointy’ students demonstrate that they have the direction, the passion and have laid the groundwork to do this, and that is why they are preferred candidates for any university.
Top universities seek specialists: individuals who are so driven by one aspect or one field that they are enthusiastic about devoting their entire time and attention to achieve outstanding results in that area.
By choosing different students with ambition, initiative and demonstrated skills in different areas, the college builds a class that is well-rounded yet made up of ‘pointy’ students.
I will let you in on another secret.
The most innovative companies in the world – such as Apple, Google, and Amazon – follow the same strategy. They hire “pointy” candidates.
The “pointy” students stand out, not just in college admissions, but in life.
About the author:
Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com. Moon Prep provides one-on-one counseling services catered to university admissions. They guide students through the entire application process including: completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student resumes, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.