For as long as I can remember, everyone has been idolizing the well-rounded student. You know, that student who participates in and excels at everything. When you think of the perfect student, you think of a teenager with a perfect GPA and perfect SAT scores who is president of their class, captain of a sports team, editor of the school newspaper, leader of the debate team, and a weekly volunteer at the local hospital.
But this isn’t a reality. And it’s not what colleges are looking for.
Gone are the days where your child has to be and do everything. We should be thankful for that.
Instead, colleges and universities are looking for students who are dedicated to one or two unique passions and interests. Students who spend much of their time to discovering and learning and leading in an area of interest that truly brings their spirit to life.
Here are 5 reasons why your student NOT become well-rounded:
1. They’ll be spread too thin
In the digitally connected world which we live in today, we have access to more possibilities at all times. More information. More education. More opportunities. But we don’t have more time in the day. These days, high school students are told that they need to do more and be more all the time. They need to be a part of every club. And every activity. All while excelling in school. But when they try to do too much, they don’t have time to truly develop or master any unique skillsets. They become a jack of all trades, but master of none. Which brings me to point #2…
2. They won’t actually become an expert in anything
College admissions officers (those people who are reviewing applications and deciding whether or not your child gets accepted to their school) love to see students who are experts in something. And the fun thing is, that something can be anything! Photography? Sure. Coding? Sure. Baseball? Sure. Writing novels? Painting? Investing in stocks? Researching the evolution of frogs? Why not? The point is, it doesn’t matter what your child spends their time on. The point is, they should dedicate time to becoming an expert in something that they enjoy. Are you familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour theory? In short, he states that the key to becoming an expert in any field is simply a matter of practicing a specific task for 10,000 hours. What will your child become an expert in?
3. They won’t develop a true passion
Aside from becoming an expert, colleges also love students who have true passion in any area of interest. If your child is trying to be perfectly well rounded and fit into a mold that they think college admissions are looking for, they’ll lose themselves along the way. Your child may love being the class president, but despise sports. In this case, don’t force them to play a sport just to look good on college applications. Instead, maybe they want to learn more about democracy. Maybe they learn that they really love volunteering with a local government official, fighting for a cause that they deeply care about. Let your child develop true passions. What are they curious about? What could they talk about for hours? What brings them to life? Go down these rabbit holes instead of staying at the surface.
4. They won’t come alive
Building on item #3 above…have you ever been around someone who is truly passionate about a subject? He or she might have a fascination with the healing power of crystals or the current state of cryptocurrencies or statistics about their favorite NFL team. But regardless of the topic, that person has a certain vigor that is noticeable and palpable. This vigor makes for strong college applications – it’s clear for college admissions to see when a student has followed a passion and has come alive. Help your child come alive by allowing them to follow and pursue true passion and curiosity.
5. They’ll feel too much pressure
Lastly, when a child tries to do too much, it takes a toll on their spirit. Don’t forget, your teen is just a teen. They should enjoy the freedom of high school and the last years that they’re living a carefree life in the shelter of their home with a loving parent or two. When high school kids try to become that perfectly pristine well-rounded student, the pressure builds. And it leads to breakdowns down the road. Help your child stay mentally and physically healthy by not putting too much pressure on them (or letting them put too much pressure on themselves).
The moral of the story is: don’t force your child to live the “perfect” life. Your child can, and should, still work hard and do well in school. But outside of the classroom, allow your child to be a kid. Ask them what they are curious about. Understand what they are naturally passion about. And help them to follow these passions in order to come alive. Not only will your child feel better, but college admissions will notice and appreciate their realness as well. As Bruce Sterling said: “Don’t become a well rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person.”
Questions or thoughts? Leave a comment below!