Issue 4: Denison University (2/2), The Overachievers
Exclusive Insider Interview: Former Senior Admissions Interviewer, Denison University Pt. 2
- They “dominated” the conversation. I say they “geeked out” about their passion. One interviewee gushed about an astronomy project he worked on. He got more and more excited and because my astronomy knowledge was certainly nowhere near his, I listened enthusiastically. I tried to learn from this enthusiastic individual many years my junior. He didn’t try to temper his love for the subject and tone himself down, which earned my strong recommendation.
- They discussed “unprofessional” topics. I say they were real. At some point during these conversations, we start talking about personal experiences, moving away from just extracurricular involvement and school subjects. Personal challenges, family and friends, and teachers. The few memorable candidates shed away the pretense of being a perfect person. They shared stories of struggle and sometimes stress. Sometimes it got emotional. They were real. Remember, this is not a job interview. This is an interview for me to understand the human side — not just the student side — of you.
- They “knew too much.” I say they were resourceful and curious. Some of them would tell me they did some research on me after being assigned to be my interviewee. Some students asked specifically about my work or university experiences. They did their research, prepared engaging questions, and showed their desire to learn and make the best of the interview. Information on most people is readily available online. Those who access it are just the most curious and proactive.
After a couple years of interviewing NU applicants, I realized that most students had the wrong impression of the admissions interview. Radhika Joshi, a former senior admissions interviewer at one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, tells us this week what most applicants misunderstand about the college admissions process. If you missed the first part of the interview, read it here.
I think the biggest mistake that a student can make without doing their research is just wasting time — more importantly, wasting their own time. Obviously Denison is in quite a rural area, just college tours and in-person interviews and visiting all these schools is really time consuming. What I sometimes see is a student who instead of doing their research well and going to see maybe 4 or 5 schools, instead just does no research and visits 15, 16, 17. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the process might be just a lot easier if they knew a little bit more about what they wanted before stepping into the visiting process.”
Dear Socrates Q&A
“Dear Socrates, I’m stumped on how to write my college supplemental essays. Every college I’m applying to wants me to explain why I want to attend that particular institution. I know I want to go to college, but how do I show the admissions committee that I’m interested specifically in them?” — Twelfth grader from Oregon applying to ten colleges
Admissions directors and officers oftentimes tell me about their frustrations reading generic “Why College X?” essays. This essay should demonstrate your thorough understanding of and excitement for that particular college. It should articulate how and why an individual like you would best take advantage of and contribute to that college’s environment. Unfortunately, most applicants just describe why they want to study their chosen major and why they want to go to college in general. That won’t get you in.
Bryan Enochs, the Director of Admissions at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, told SocratesPost how terrible some application essays are. When you can change out “University of Michigan” for the name of any other school in your essay, you won’t convince anyone you’re a good fit for that college.
So, how do we convince the admissions committee we know why we want to go to our chosen school? We need to know the campus, its culture, its quirks, and even its history — like an insider. The more unique details you learn, understand, and express in your essay about your desired college, the more likely the reader will think you are unique too. Let’s investigate a college the way an investigative reporter would.
- An awkward, high-achieving student striving for nothing less than perfection
- A high-achieving student cracking under the pressure of parents who insist he takes 17 AP classes, go to a name-brand university, and get a lucrative job
- A cool, popular athlete with top grades worrying about her high-achieving status getting in the way of her popularity
- A stealthily high-achieving student who is quiet about his achievements and goes completely unnoticed by the competitive kids at school
- A teacher’s pet who belongs to a ton of friend groups but has no best friend
- A competitive high schooler with peers who all covet admissions into the most elite, rigorous, and selective colleges
Are you killing yourself, your self-esteem, and your relationships just to get into college?
SocratesPost has compiled our 5 major takeaways from The Overachievers: The Secret Life of Driven Kids.
If you answer “yes” to any of the questions in our 5 lessons, you might be a part of the “American high school overachievers” epidemic.