In a recent article in The Atlantic, David A. Graham discusses strategies for gaining admission to elite universities like Harvard.
“We could fill our class twice over with valedictorians, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust told an audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival, sponsored by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, on Monday [June 30, 2014]. That means admissions officers rely on intangibles like interesting essays or particularly unusual recommendations to decide who comprises the 5.9 percent of applicants who get in.
Faust's top tip for raising a Harvard man or woman: “Make your children interesting! [emphasis ours]”
For parents and students alike, that’s both good news and bad news. The bad news is that of course it’s much easier to say that than to actually make it happen, though Faust recommended encouraging children to follow their passions as a way to develop an interesting personality. It’s much easier to complete a checklist, however daunting, than to actually be interesting.
But the good news is that when colleges use this set of criteria, kids can focus on shaping their teenage years in a way that isn’t just about trying to building up resume line after resume line, and instead focus on a more holistic sense of self [emphasis ours]. That seems like a far more sensible way to move through high school than spreading oneself too thin trying to get a slew of positions one can’t really ever concentrate on. That encourages a dilettantish approach to learning and society that is just the opposite of what the liberal arts have traditionally tried to encourage.
We would humbly suggest that one of the most effective ways to make yourself a bit more interesting is by doing extremely interesting things. And if you can do interesting things in interesting places, so much the better. As for developing a holistic sense of self, well that's what the ELS is all about. We've never thought of our program as a "university admission hack." We prefer to think of it more as a "life hack." But if the shoe fits...