A Letter to Students and Parents Regarding College Apps

By Jin Heo, Business Manager

Dear parents and students,

   I recently went through the long and arduous process of applying to college and the subsequent headache-inducing task of deciding which one to attend. I entered these six months full of hope and energy and came out, quite frankly, disappointed and fatigued.

   I am sure that I am not alone in this feeling. I witnessed many of my friends and peers bitterly and painfully face rejection after rejection from their top-choice elite schools, experiencing a slowly-creeping sense of panic. That is not to say that these individuals were not qualified to attend such schools, nor to say that they were undeserving. Many had the grades, the scores, and the extracurriculars that we, as a community, believed would get them into the school of their choice.

   This is where we were wrong.

   Many of us were surprised by the results when we should not have been. From day one, we were warned to avoid “the checklist”—the activities that would demonstrate to colleges that we were well-rounded individuals, deserving to be admitted to the school of our choosing. And yet, I, and many others, fell into the trap.

   I am not saying that grades, test scores, and extracurriculars do not matter; all schools have a general standard that they hold students to. In an age where thousands upon thousands of applicants have great grades and test scores and a healthy list of extracurricular activities, the question to ask is, ‘What makes me different?’ and not, ‘What else can I add?’

   Those who get into elite schools have some aspect that is truly unique; perhaps it is scientific research that has heavy implications in the real world, an instrument or sport at which they excel, or a meaningful project initiated for a community in need, whether or not it be their own.

   For example, a component of my community service was volunteering at the Lafayette Library. It was largely volunteering “for the sake of checking off a box” and not intrinsically motivated. Plenty of other applicants could have done the same and probably did do the same. It was not unique and had no story and probably added no gravitas to my application.

   Let this letter serve as a warning to those who believe that a full checkbox will guarantee admission into top colleges. While I realize this sounds cliche and repetitive, instead of looking for activities to check off the boxes, look for ones that you find passion and interest in.


Jin Heo

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