There are two kinds of students in the college admission world: well-rounded and pointy. To be “well-rounded” is to be like a jack of all trades but master of none. Well-rounded students participate in a variety of activities and clubs, sometimes without having a specific thread that connects them all. To be “pointy” is to be truly invested in your passion, whether it’s a sport, activity, or idea. Pointy students go deep into their “spike,” arrange all their other extracurriculars around this, and are able to articulate their narrative around it in their college application. I advise you to strive for pointedness as opposed to well-roundedness, because pointy students have a direction. They showcase their passion through actions, not words. A bonus of that is having a more focused narrative, ultimately making them more competitive applicants. It’s all about finding and exercising your passion.
How can you be pointy?
The first thing to do is identify your point. Create and look for opportunities. Sharpen your edges. Define your niche. Your point is what you want to focus on. It’s the thread that connects all your activities. Maybe it’s a sport (team or individual) or an art form (visual or performing). For instance, if you’re a swimmer, you probably compete on the team. To make yourself stand out as a pointy student by being a leader, become the team captain, teach children how to swim, or volunteer at your swim academy.
Personally, I’m a ballerina. I’ve been dancing since I was six and have performed in many full-length ballets. In my junior year, I decided to do outreach as well by becoming the Youth Ambassador of a nonprofit dance company. I would lead ballet classes and teach choreography to young girls from underserved families aside from performing myself. Maybe your thing isn’t sports or arts; Maybe it’s getting involved in activism or helping kids grow. Dedicating your time to rallies, protests, and/or good causes could be an example of focusing your passions. Volunteering at different charities that support the emotional and physical growth of children could be another. Your passion tells your story. Your activities or extracurriculars display how you vigorously exercise your passion.
What about being well-rounded?
There’s nothing wrong with being well-rounded. However, students who are well-rounded run the risk of demonstrating confusion instead of interest on their college applications. If your list of extracurriculars spreads across various activities—like maybe you did water polo for two years and basketball for another two—it’s important to highlight any underlying themes for those activities. Using the water polo/basketball example, you could explain how water polo heightened your coordination and prepared you for the fast-moving game of basketball. The bottom line is you need to find ways to highlight your well-roundedness the right way.
There are 10 slots for extracurriculars on the Common Application. Well-rounded students fill their activities into these spots easily, while pointy students place a few stunning activities on their applications. Choose your spike so you can clearly show your passion in this section and explore what it is you love about that activity, whatever it may be.
For more advice on how to make your college applications stand out, check out our College Admission section.