As human beings, we all have an innate need to be heard, to be understood. We want others to “get” us. This desire becomes particularly acute when other people are making decisions about us that will impact our entire life without the benefit of ever actually meeting us.
This is the crux of what makes college applications so stressful.
Students are given a few essays, a few short answer questions, a few slots to list activities and honors and it just doesn’t feel like enough, somehow. Thus, students strive to add music or athletic supplements, develop websites, or overload media opportunities like Slide Room with the Common Application or the student locker in the Coalition Application.
Let’s cut through the panic and look at this issue unemotionally.
Even though the opportunity to share more has recently been offered, Admissions Officers still have only 24 hours in a day, some of which they prefer to use sleeping and eating. The numbers of students applying will not decrease. Thus, we are still left with highly selective colleges having only 5-15 minutes to do a first review of your student’s entire folder which includes all the school documents, essays, activities, honors, interview results, and any additional material.
Most top-tier schools ask that you only submit art or music supplements if the student has exceptional skills and/or they are planning to major in that area. At these type of schools, exceptional means just that – unusual, not typical. While we all think our kids are amazing, the truth of the matter is that most kids are not in that range. A music supplement with a lackluster performance will do more harm than good at a highly selective school. Each school asks for certain types of pieces and certain time limits. Observe these guidelines carefully.
If your child is not doing a supplement, but just adding extra goodies for viewing, pick very, very carefully. Instead of having 3 videos of a student’s vocal prowess, pick the most impressive one and showcase it. Rather than having your artist share 10 of their finest pictures, pick one from each medium: charcoal, oil, and watercolor. Choose the best YouTube short video of your kid’s band and upload it only. Pick one of the best poems or the single best journalism piece.
Here’s why: As a reviewer, if I see three videos or five articles I can easily get overwhelmed, not know which one to choose, and decide not to look at anything. By not using discretion, the student suggests they have an overinflated sense of their own skills and that, too, can be a turn off. Remember that videos and writing samples take a lot more time than glancing at a work of art.
I would suggest that someone in the family other than the student sit down with the link containing the extra documents. Have them watch media to the end, read completely through any writing, look over everything the student plans to upload. If it takes longer than 5-8 minutes, there is too much there.
If you truly want an admissions officer to see the special things your student has produced, it is important to do the culling for them. By selecting only the very best, we increase the odds that it will actually be viewed and appreciated.
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