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Colleges focus on ‘angular’ students

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Article at Charlotte Observer

One of the buzzwords of today’s college-admissions process is “angular.”


What does that mean?

Until the ’90s, the most successful college candidates were well-rounded high achievers, while today’s most sought-after students are referred to as “angular” or “focused.” One of the biggest mistakes students make today is not taking this new emphasis seriously.

When most parents applied to college decades ago, high school students were encouraged to dabble in a variety of clubs — be a candy striper, join the French Club, sell ads for the yearbook and be a member of the debate team, etc. Today, those “well-rounded” students would be considered “serial joiners” and would not be evaluated as enthusiastically.

‘Passion’: A hot property

Colleges are looking to build a well-rounded class with dedicated hospital interns, students who tutored younger students in French, yearbook editors and national debate winners. Colleges are less interested in jack-of-all-trades students. It’s the passion, the continued interest, and the leadership growth that intrigue and engage admissions committees. “Passion” — it’s undoubtedly the most overused word on the college admissions circuit, but that is what colleges say they are looking for. Helping students find their “passion” means guiding them to identify one, two or three interests or talents that they enjoy and will continue to pursue throughout their high school career and hopefully into their college years.

Nurture the passion, not because you think it will make the difference in being accepted to the college of their choice, but because it will help develop them into a more interesting and fulfilled person.

The reason for the change in priorities from well-rounded to angular is a growing belief among college admissions officials that commitment to an activity and the ability to do it well serve as strong predictors of success in all college endeavors. The serial joiner typically makes less of a contribution and has less of an effect than the one who is captivated and consumed by a few choice activities.

Beyond athletics

Many parents falsely believe that the only talents that interest colleges are athletics. In your effort to identify the right college “fit” for your student, explore college Web sites to see whether they offer courses, sponsor a club or compete in the “passion of choice.” All tiers of colleges are looking for achievers who can make a contribution to the college community. When considering extracurricular activities, after you’ve determined a real and sustained interest, ask yourselves if and how your student’s participation can possibly benefit a future college.

`Spike talents’ get attention

Applications from students with “spike talents” — top-tier ability or a highly original talent — tend to jump off the page. Spike talents can range from winning the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search to playing first oboe in the state orchestra. It is important to note, however, that spike talents will never make up for less-than-stellar grades for admission to the most selective colleges.

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