I have previously written about how being a “focused” student is, if not preferable, at least equally desirable to colleges as being a well-rounded student. Not only is being focused easier, but it also shows that you have a greater depth of understanding in a particular field. This kind of mastery of a subject will go a long way in helping you to stand out from the competition when application season rolls around.
This may have left you wondering; how does one become “focused”?
There is no use in panicking and thinking that you do not, and will never, have a “focus”; I put “focus” in quotation marks for a reason. Students come off as “focused” if their applications and, by extension, the students themselves have a demonstrated interest and depth of understanding in one particular subject area. That’s all it is. This subject area could be anything; activism, business, politics, science, and writing, to name a few. The important thing to remember is that a focus is shown by the sum of your (application’s) parts. Just think: what am I interested in? and you will find your focus. Now comes the hard part.
How does a student fine tune their focus? What steps can you take right now to help your focus stand out? It’s good to know what your focus is, but how do you let colleges know? Part I and II of this post will detail two very different yet very effective steps towards fine tuning your focus.
The principle area of the application that reveals your focus will be the area where you describe your extra curricular activities (EC’s). Therefore, the best place to start is where and how you spend your time after school. The recommended course of action here may surprise you, but be assured that it is highly advantageous towards narrowing down your focus.
It is inadvisable to pick (or drop) your EC’s for the sole sake of college admissions, but “trimming the fat” here and there can work wonders. If you participate in a club that you are only half committed to, there is no reason to keep spending (wasting, really) your time on it. Colleges will not be impressed by a bland four year membership in the Spanish Club, especially so if you have no way to demonstrate your involvement or leadership in the club.
Just by cutting out clubs and activities that you are uninterested in will, inevitably, make your application more streamlined and focused. The EC’s that you have remaining will be the ones that you have a genuine interest in, and, more likely than not, will somehow be related to one another. Cutting out excess activities will not only free up your time, but helps to narrow down your focus.
Let’s look at an example. John Doe has a keen interest in politics, and the complete list of clubs/activities that he is in would look like: Model U.N., Math League, Volunteering for a campaign office, French Club, Student Government, and stage crew for the school’s play. John is pretty busy with his homework and clubs, but still wants to add on more activities and create a stronger focus. What should he do?
After taking a look around Admissions360, John decides to cut away some of his activities. Goodbye to French Club (they hardly do anything, anyway), stage crew (takes up far too much time), and Math League (he only joined to appear well-balanced). John’s activity list now reads: Model U.N., Campaign office intern, and Student Government representative. With all of his newly discovered free time, John decides to write politically minded articles for his school and town newspaper.
It is immediately obvious which “John” appears more focused, and this will shine through on a college application. It may seem counterintuitive, but dropping time-consuming or uninteresting EC’s is sometimes all you need to refine your focus.
Part II, which will be arriving next week, will deal with what activities you can add on (rather than take away) to make your focus stand out even more.
(Photo by footloosiety)