Follow your passions

Every year highly selective colleges receive applications from academically gifted students far in excess of their required class size. These students have high GPA or high school rank along with SAT scores in the top 25 percentile. Not all make it to the final cut. So if you think you are a mathematics wizard who solves tough calculus problems while your mother feeds you dinner, rethink your priorities.  Free up time and get involved in activities that inspire you and project you’re candidature holistically. If you have to free up time to follow your passion, do so early in Grade 9 or Grade 10 and build  on your strengths over the years.

Describing the monotony of his weekly schedule, says Karmanaya  Agarwal (First year student at University of Illinois, “Once my family decided that the US will be our preferred destination, I quit IIT Entrance preparatory classes and started focusing on working for the school’s computer science club and participating in regional and national quiz competitions. However I am grateful that the high level of science and math preparation in those classes helped me improve my grades in school.”

Community service and volunteering are common activities that most high school students participate in. However, Arjun Chhabra (freshmen in Cornell University took his interest to another level. He moved to Washington D.C in grade 10 when his father joined the diplomatic mission. He continued working with Chintan when he came back to India for the summer. Chintan is a non-profit organization that empowers the marginalized community of rag pickers who live in despicable conditions in and around the various landfills in Delhi. On his return to America he helped raise funds for Chintan by organizing samosa drives in his high school.

Internship and volunteering activities often help students identify their strengths and interests. Divya Balaji (first year student at Yale University worked with the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust over summer. Says Balaji “Assisting a team of herpetologist, observing behavior of Siamese crocodile families, cleaning tortoise pens and assisting in the day to day running of the organization, I discovered my passion for environmental science. My common application essay captured this and I think was instrumental in my admissions.”

Sometimes life-changing experiences can urge you to follow a new path, says Rhea Kohli (a student of Sarah Lawrence College “A dear friend lost his life in a car accident. He was a victim of rash driving of another student who was driving under the influence of alcohol. I knew I couldn't get my friend back but by setting up Student Against Drunken Driving I have dedicated the majority of my free time to raise awareness about this issue.”

If you are talented in a Performance or Visual Arts, go ahead and send your art supplement along with your college application. Yashaswini Singh a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College listed her piano grades and showcased her participation at the Grade 8 Toppers concert held at India Habitat Center that was attended by the Chief Minister of Delhi.

Likewise athletes like Shantanu Garg from Doon school sent his athletic supplement along with his tennis coach’s evaluation. Winning prestigious national tournaments and being involved in leadership, distinguished him from others. He was admitted to Claremont McKenna College, Carleton College and Vassar College. Says Garg, “I was the PT instructor for Jaipur House and this additional leadership role at Doon School defined my personal brand. Our efforts were rewarded when Jaipur House won awards for all drills during our Annual Sports Day after a gap of fifteen years.”

College admissions officers read your resume, recommendations and essays to form an opinion on how you will contribute to the academic and residential life on campus. Be passionate and express yourself. Remember, deeper your interest in activities, the more impressive your profile will be.

To read the full article in HT go to the epaper