Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is It True? Generalists Are Dead, Long Live the Specialist Applicant!

I'm pondering specialization. Whether sports, intense and demonstrable interest in a specific subject or creative talent, it appears that teens who can demonstrate a specific skill present a pretty attractive package to colleges.

One friend says she knows of a teen who has been involved in intense softball training since middle school. Another tells about her two daughters who each found a sport that meant a lot to them -- and schools showed special interest because of their skills. But the focus could just as easily be music or fine arts.

We're talking personal branding here, aren't we? And sure enough, the issue has been raised regarding college admissions. Dan Schwabl, who seems to have made branding his calling, spoke with Jaye Fenderson last year. She has read applications for Columbia University and wrote Seventeen's Guide to Getting into College.

In the interview, Fenderson said colleges aren't looking for a well-rounded student but a well-rounded student body, "comprised of students with very distinct talents and ideas to contribute to the community. So, it’s important for students to develop their unique interests and abilities and then clearly communicate those in the application."

Whether differentiation comes through grooming, serendipitous and focused committment or the blossoming of a childhood passion, teens' ability to express who they are and what they care about seems to be an important attribute in the admissions process.

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