It is one of the most famous Shakespearean quotes: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” It seems to me that students applying to college would do well to heed these words.
Being yourself, in my opinion, is one of the most important facets of the college application process. I often remark to students that in all of history, among 7 billion people, there is no one exactly like them. This makes them unique. And students need to embrace their God-given identity.
There’s been a recent trend among high school seniors to somehow “stand out” from among their peers. Students are encouraged to be unique as they apply to colleges. I hear this question all the time: “How can I make myself stand out to college admission counselors?” I would be the first to encourage students to be unique, to stand out. However, this trend has taken some disturbing turns. For instance, just the title of this article from The Boston Globe makes you pause: To Get Into Elite Colleges, Some Advised to ‘Appear Less Asian’
To get into elite colleges,
some advised to
‘appear less Asian’
In the article, one student was given the following advice: She played the piano, but he (the college consultant) encouraged her to participate in musical theater. Badminton was a no-no on her college app: Too many Asian students play racquet sports. Ditto for Asian Club. And she was to avoid saying that she was interested in biology or wanted to be a doctor.
What if this student actually liked playing the piano, badminton and WANTED to study biology? What then? Was rejection from an elite college all but certain? Should she REALLY create a different persona just to get into a “good” college? Of course not.
What can students do to be true to themselves? Let colleges see the real you, not the you that you think they want you to be. Not your best friend. Not your cousin. Not the student sitting next to you in AP Biology. Set a high bar, but let it be your own bar. But definitely reach. Don’t settle for anything less than the best you.
This would be my advice: The best way to really stand out among your peers is to simply have the courage to be true to yourself.
Know that you already stand out from your peers because there’s simply no one else exactly like you. Present this person to colleges and then let the colleges decide if you are a good fit for them.
Some may say that this is oversimplifying the process, that this is a bad strategy to get into college. Others will assert that you need to present yourself a certain way. However, you do yourself a disservice if you’re always trying to be someone you’re not. This only leads to a life of trying to live up to someone else’s expectations, not yours.
This above all: to thine own self be true