Sunday, March 18, 2018
Extracurricular activities should reflect passions
Dear Mr. Bradshaw
I am applying to several colleges this fall that will require an interview by an alumna or an alumnus. Can you share with me what kind of information they will be looking for in an applicant?
Having served as an alumni interviewer and I can give you some pointers that should help. Let me share the alumni report I wrote. I have changed her name to protect her identity.
As the admissions committee can see from her "Extracurricular" sheet, Jane is an unusually talented young woman. She is prodigiously bright and accomplished. Her awards and academic honors alone speak to that. I found her to be a pleasure to talk with in every respect. Jane and I met in her high school counselor's office and before I knew it almost an hour had passed. We moved from stories about one part of her life to another; scholarship, test scores, parents, work, sports, piano and music, acting. Each of these areas held a special place in her development and she clearly enjoyed her accomplishments. I could have listened to her for hours. She sailed through these subjects with an enthusiasm for life that I found unusual for a person her age. She had insights that made me appreciate my own good fortune. She was not the least bit inhibited in linking her interest in physics to the other joys of life she experienced while playing the piano. "I enjoy playing the piano for the same reason I love eating blueberries," she said. This was not a silly statement coming from her. I believed in her because I left the interview feeling better myself for having talked with her. Jane is number one in her high school class and said she has not taken any "really difficult" courses. Interested in science and especially physics, she is taking online advanced math classes from Stanford because her high school does not offer them. She gives only passing marks about the ability of the Internet to deliver quality teaching. "When you have a question it is more difficult to communicate with the instructor when the relationship is electronic." She does feel that the Internet has helped her in other ways. "I would not have had the chance to study at Stanford as a high school student without it, so I guess that makes up for any of the difficulties I experienced." At this point Jane is thinking of a major in physics or history. I probed this broad difference in her academic interests and she said, "I know your college is strong in both areas. I would use my four years there to see which area of study would inspire me to spend a career studying it."
I tend to let applicants take the lead at the end of the interview and I asked her if she would like to give me a tour of the high school. She was delighted to do so and became my tour guide as we walked from science labs to the soccer field. In each place, Jane expressed special enjoyment of her high school years. I asked her to rate in order of importance what she liked most about her high school experiences. "I enjoy scholarship, music, and track, all equally," she replied. "I do a lot of thinking while I run and playing the piano gives me pleasure that is hard to explain." She went on, "I've played the piano for years, I've run track for years, and I have always done well academically, so it's hard for me to separate the experiences. It would be like eating blueberries without the summer's sun." I enjoyed interviewing Jane. Her academic goals and personality point to first-class scholarship and leadership in whatever field she chooses. She has my highest recommendation. Hopefully this gives you an idea of what the interviewer is looking for and how important your enthusiasm is in the interviewing process.
Gerald Bradshaw an Ivy League college consulting professional counsels students around the world.
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Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
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