When being well rounded doesn’t pay December 15, 2015

Ian Welham  being well rounded doesn’t pay.


Have you ever visited a college for an official visit? At most universities, the process goes like this:

Step 1: the Director of Admission or Assist. Director of Admission gives a speech.
Step 2: some students and/or professors are brought in and they give a speech.
Step 3: question & answer session.
Step 4: one or more student guides are brought in and the visitors are assigned guides and off you go on the tour.

I’ve certainly seen my share of colleges, and during the Q & A session there’s one question that always seems to be asked. Usually it’s a Mom (with her son or daughter cringing beside her) who raises her hand and inquires, “Is it better to get a ‘B’ in an Honors Course or an ‘A’ in a regular course?

Usually the Director of Admission will start in with the answer and often the audience will finish the sentence… “It’s better to get an ‘A’ in the Honors course.”

One question that’s less frequently asked — and usually stumps the audience when it is — is this: Is it better to be a well-rounded student or to have a single special skill?

It’s a common myth that colleges and universities seek well-rounded applicants. While true to some extent, the fact is, you have a better chance of getting accepted if you have a unique or special skill that distinguishes you from other applicants. That’s because there are hundreds of thousands of well-rounded kids out there. But there are very few kids who play the vibraphone in a jazz band at the Village Vanguard, for example.

Think about it: Every incoming freshmen class is a mini community. What does that community need? It needs dancers and debaters, newspaper editors, long jumpers, tuba players, glee club members, etc., etc. — not a whole bunch of generalists.

If you have a special skill or talent, what’s the best way to communicate that to a prospective college? For starters, include it on your application; and also talk about it in your essay, personal statement, and if possible, during an interview. In addition, you can ask your coach/teacher/mentor to write one of your letters of recommendation.

Sometimes parents ask: Should we include newspaper articles or citations that highlight the talent? I suggest caution here. For one thing, admissions officers don’t have lots of time to read extra information beyond what’s requested. And even though Grandma Jones may think it’s a big deal to be mentioned in the local town paper, the college admissions officer probably won’t.


Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor

This post was written by admin on December 15, 2015
Posted Under: College Funding

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