Colleges want high school applicants to present themselves in the most genuine, real and authentic way they can. They thrill at students who "dare to be themselves."
What Does It Mean to Dare to Be Yourself?
Simply said, you need to know who you are as a student and person and consciously choose what you love to do (or at least enjoy) with some or much of your free time.
Choosing Courses That Interest You
It's pretty easy to figure out who you are as a student. What courses have you taken in high school over the years and which ones have you liked and not liked? What kind of grades have you received in those courses? Are you an A, B or C student? Are your grades a reflection of what you can really do? If not, why? Do you have any learning disabilities? Are you a math/science person or a history/English buff? If neither of those groupings fits, what kinds of courses or topics turn you on, if any?
One way of daring to be yourself is to follow your interests when you select courses at school. Sure, most high schools don't give you much wiggle room to take a lot of classes you want, but almost every year there should be room for at least one course that pleases you. College admissions people love when you go out of your way to learn about things that interest you. The actual content is not important; it can be anything from astrophysics to cars to rap music. Some students follow their interests by taking online courses or classes at local junior colleges. Others look up stuff on the Internet or read. That shows curiosity, a thirst for knowledge and a desire to learn, all qualities admissions people want in their new students.
Choosing Activities That You Love (Or At Least Enjoy)
It is never too late or too early to start paying attention to who you are as a person. How do you figure that out? The famous psychologist Carl Jung once said, "You are what you do..." -- so one clue is to simply take note of how you spend your time. Everyone has the same amount of time each day: 24 hours. A bunch of your time is spent in school and studying; another block is spent sleeping. Then there's the time you spend eating, working out and/or in sports, texting and talking on your cell phone. What else do you do after school, on the weekends, on school breaks and during summers? College admissions people want to know.
Another way of daring to be yourself is to choose activities that you love or at least enjoy. What you do is not as important as how much you like doing it. Author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about "flow" experiences, when you do something with a sense of effortless action, time passes by without realizing it, you use your natural skills and get totally taken up with the activity. Athletics, music, acting, knitting, surfing, taking on animal rights causes, volunteering, you-name-it are all worthy activities through which you might experience "flow." They work for college admissions people if you do them in a way that demonstrates qualities such as competence, high energy, leadership, persistence, character, creativity or responsibility. And while we're on the subject, there is even an organization you can join that supports students who do what they love to get "naturally high," instead of turning to drugs and alcohol: Natural High. How about that!
If you don't know what you like and want to figure that out, go to my free adMISSION POSSIBLE website for help in finding things to do with your free time. I also offer a list of Ideas for Extracurricular Activities on the same site.
adMISSION POSSIBLE® Tip
Begin paying attention to what you like, what pleases you, what makes you feel good and seems meaningful. This is not being selfish; it is quite the opposite. Happy, contributing, successful people are not motivated by their own egos, but by doing something meaningful in their lives.
Dare to be yourself; it just might help you get into a college you love and that will love you back.
Follow Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/admissposs