Depth Over Breadth?

“Well-lopsided” is the new catchphrase in college admissions. In CMC’s recent conversation with an Ivy League admissions officer, she mentioned that the trend for applicants are either well-rounded, with depth in each activity or well-lopsided—which means if applicants are going to focus on one activity, like a sport, Olympic training should be in view for such a candidate.

In Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of The American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life, former Yale Professor, William Deresiewicz, echoes the Ivy League admissions officer’s sentiment when recounting his service on a Yale admissions committee:

With so many accomplished applicants to choose from, we were looking for kids with something special, “PQs”—personal qualities—that were often revealed by the letters [of recommendation] or essays.

I’d been told in the orientation that morning that successful applicants could either be “well-rounded” or “pointy”—outstanding in one particular way—but if they were pointy, they had to be really pointy: a musician whose audition tape had impressed the music department, a scientist who had won a national award.

So, for generations of youth who may be groomed from kindergarten to position for the most selective universities in the United States, (for example, Harvard’s effective admit rate is 5% for Fall 2016) the strategy to be competitive for admissions, is once again being turned on its head.  Where today’s parents (i.e. Generation X) may have been admitted to college with a smattering of extracurricular activities demonstrating the breadth of one’s interests, their children may be encouraged to commit at a young age to a single activity to create the well-lopsided, pointy resume seemingly prized by today’s admissions officers.