College admissions councilors have always been on the look-out for the best and the brightest. The student who not only keeps pace with a full workload, an extra-curricular activity, a sport, but who also dances outside the chorus. And most importantly, dances to their own music.
A few years ago parents of means seeing the strain their students were under to fulfill academic, athletic, and community service requirements, rushed into the fray with exotic vacations for their children that promoted adventure and also community service completion certificates.
However, today’s college admissions personnel are no longer impressed with building a hut in Thailand while exploring the wilderness and deep-sea diving. Today’s college admissions committee wants to know who your child really is; who your child can be.
There was an interesting article in last weeks LA Times (July 30, 2011)
When It Comes to College Admissions, Practicality Is In; Glamorous Overseas Gigs Are Out.
“…simply volunteering is no longer enough — now they have to show colleges that they surveyed a community, assessed its needs, and created an organization to help serve those needs.
“We are finding that the private high schools and colleges want the kids to be able to show they are learning entrepreneurial skills,” he said. “So, a lot of our teens will say, we really need to develop our own projects.”
Your child, in order to be a fully realized applicant, more importantly, a fully realized person, must look into him or herself and decide: What do I do? What do I like to do that can give back?
Daunting? Perhaps. Impossible? Not at all.
Every child has something they are interested in, no matter how trite or unusual it may seem to the parent. Every child has something else that they would “rather be doing”.
Voila! You child is interested in something. With a bit of guidance they can extrapolate it into something they not only like to do, but can use this skill, interest, product, energy or passion to give back to the community. Giving back in a way that is uniquely their own.
What a win/win! What a sense of personal accomplishment.
Melanie Langer, a young girl from Windward in Los Angeles, was fascinated by the toys of the 50’s and started a “Sily Putty” business.
She had a great time and said she learned a lot about business. She donated the profits to pediatric cancer research .
It probably wasn’t happenstance that she was accepted to Yale.
John Dillon a young guy from Los Angeles simply set up shop to distribute clothing to the homeless. He just did what he wanted to do. 20 years later it’s a $3 million dollar a year non-profit.
Berni Barta, a Harvard-Westlake student, decided to share her DVD collection with Children’s Hospital. With the help of her sisters, “Kid Flicks” has now donated over 53,900 movies to over 539 hospitals in all 50 states and five hospitals in Africa. Berni had the honor of being introduced to the President.
There is a new TV reality series currently casting called “Young Icons”.
Check it out: http://www.es.tv/category/shows/the-young-icons
These students are not particularly gifted. They are just particularly focused on something they like to do. And that something is steered toward making a difference for someone else.
I’m sure you’re probably thinking, “But my child wouldn’t know where to begin.” And you’re probably right.
Your son or daughter will need someone to brain-storm with, someone to help plan and organize the process, someone to guide and mentor them along the way, to see them through the twists and turns of any such endeavor.
If you have experience and know-how in this process, that person could be you. Or if it is out of your expertise and you have no idea where to start let alone where to finish, you may want to ask someone else to help guide your budding community service entrepreneur to make something happen that they can truly be proud of.
Either way, encouragement will be the most important element you can add.
However, a word of warning: A project of significance that will grab the interest of your child and ultimately perhaps an admissions officer cannot be forged together in the senior year, or even the junior year. You must start now.
The rewards will be great in oh so many ways.
Janis Adams is the owner of Academic Achievers whose staff also includes an expert in helping students develop their own personal service organizations. http://www.academic-achievers.com