Discovering Passion in the Monolithic College Application
Updated: Jan 20
We hear a lot of positive buzz in the college application world about ‘passion’ but what is it and why are applicants with ‘passion’ so attractive to colleges? And how does a student find their ‘thing’?
I once worked with a student whose face lit up when he talked about his love of all things food-related. Since he was a very small boy, whenever he had a spare moment, he was creating new recipes and trying new foods, and while his peers were playing Batman and Superman, his heroes were famous chefs. In high school, he founded an organization in which he taught underprivileged children to cook healthy meals; he had lots to write about in his personal statement and to talk about in college interviews, and he went on to write for a food publication at college. This boy had a passion, food was his ' thing.'
Eager young parents, with the best of intentions, scramble to enrol their children in a slew of the ‘right’ activities from a young age. They often feel that if their child is not doing as much as Dillon next door is, then they are failing at their job and not setting them up for a successful future as a good parent should. Their children are not choosing these activities, in fact they may not enjoy them at all, and they are certainly too overscheduled and exhausted to develop any kind of passion.
In high school, this pattern often continues, fueled by the anxiety that often surrounds the looming college application, with teenagers frantically joining multiple clubs in order to build a resume that will show colleges how busy they have been and how accomplished they are. It is no wonder that many high school students report feeling burnt out (at 18 years old!) when they graduate.
We often hear the word ‘authentic’ applied to successful college applicants. Indeed, the personal statement is a place on the application where admissions officers can hear an applicant’s ‘voice’. Colleges want to know who is going to arrive on their campus and they don’t want students to stop being themselves when they do. They want their campuses to be vibrant and diverse places, full of leaders who will inspire their peers and create new opportunities and learning. Students who are experts in a field enrich campuses and form communities, ideas are shared, progress is made, innovation happens. Passionate people make things happen.
So, during high school, it is better for a student to ‘go deep’ with two or three activities than to spread themself thin over eight or nine. They should pursue the things that make them light up when they talk about them, the things they choose to do in their spare time, the things they’re experts at. This could be anything from medieval weaponry to working with the elderly or painting murals but it’s that thing they can talk about, and that engages their interest for hours on end. Even better, they should make their ‘thing’ into an activity - found a club, write an article, teach their peers their skill. They should do something with it.
And parents should listen to their children and follow their lead and cues, provide opportunities and encouragement, feed their passion, and buy them that set of pots and pans they are begging for. In turn, they will be thankful that they don’t have to sit for hours watching their children pick daisies on a soccer field. And their children will be happier, more independent and more authentic versions of themselves.
By Emma Hoffman, Bennett Senior Consultant, College Application Expert
To see & hear Emma talk more about it on our porch, please click here
Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.