College Admission: The Need To Differentiate Yourself
“Our number 1 student didn’t get into Penn. She had great test scores as well.” said a guidance counselor from a Fairfield County public school. I asked a few more questions and then I understood.
Caitlin was a straight A student and did very well on her SATs (although her scores might have also been an issue as she was on the lower end of Penn’s admits). But she didn’t have a “story” based on either her activities or how she presented herself that would differentiate her from the masses. She played tennis. She was in the school band. She had done a standard amount of community service. She had not stood out, however, in any of the activities. She also did not create or initiate any project that would differentiate her.
In contrast, Paige was a client who attended East Lyme High School, a few years ago. She had similar grades and test scores as Caitlin. She also had seemingly not stood out in traditional activities. But she was passionate about the classics, as in the Latin and Greek classic works of literature. Her English teachers noted that she was an excellent writer but they extolled her passion for the classics. Paige had been published in several literary magazines with articles about the need for teens to be exposed to the classics. I should emphasize that there was every indication that this passion was not contrived for college admissions. Paige really was a classics enthusiast, had taken five years of Latin, and was learning Greek. Not too many college applicants had such a unique profile. Paige was admitted to Penn.