Flickr user Steven Pisano

Are you running yourself ragged joining every activity you can so you can fit the definition of a well-rounded student and boost your chances of getting accepted into a good college?

The Well-Rounded Student Myth

It may be time to take a step back. The term ‘well-rounded’ has been over-used and sometimes even taken out of context in terms of college admissions.

What colleges are in fact looking for are well-rounded classes. They want classrooms that consist of students with diverse skills and interests. Why are colleges so interested in well-rounded classrooms? This way, when they list their alumni, it sounds like an impressive cohort of experts from across diverse fields.

Focus Doesn’t Hurt

When it comes to individuals, colleges like seeing students who have pursued one or more activities long enough to master them rather than students who have spent a few weeks each in various activities just so they can create a longer list.

If you have been trying to round yourself out to boost your college application, it’s not too late to stop and re-think your strategy. Focusing instead on those activities and subjects that you excel in can help.

But Roundness Isn’t All Bad

So we’ve established that a focus isn’t a bad thing, does that mean you should drop all your other classes to put all your effort into one? No, of course not. If you’re planning to study mathematics in college, you shouldn’t tank or neglect your English classes. It just means that you should take additional math classes when you have the room, or take AP math, or take part in mathletes and other math-based extracurriculars.

You can have a focus in something without letting your other subjects or activities suffer—in fact, that’s ideal. A college interested in accepting an English-focused student might think twice even if that student has an A+ in all their English classes, but Cs in Math and History.

A Healthy Balance

All in all, it’s ok to have a preferred subject, but don’t let it come at the cost of others. For example, I was interested in being an English major, so I took as many additional literature and writing classes as I could, attended writing summer programs, and started a book club at school. But at the same time, I worked hard to get good grades in subjects that didn’t interest me quite as much. A focus, with roundness.

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