Letter to the Editor: The Path of Our Passions
College applications can often be daunting. Students are pressured to make themselves the most appealing, near-perfect version of themselves with the hope of standing out among a sea of applicants.
College applications can often be daunting. Students are pressured to make themselves the most appealing, near-perfect version of themselves with the hope of standing out among a sea of applicants. At the same time, students are often told that they need to have a clear path or passion when applying to college, a clear set of interests that their profile can align with. However, the aim of finding a passion and crafting oneself as a stellar applicant can often contradict each other. The meandering path in one’s II Form year, hopping from one interest to the next, can be construed as a scattered resume, a less-than-stellar set of extracurriculars. What could have been four years of devotion to a club suddenly becomes three because of hesitation. Instead, some Lawrentians make the mistake of plotting out their Lawrenceville path, deciding on an unwavering set of “extracurriculars” long before their interests emerged naturally. And while it may seem cynical, many of us are guilty, to some extent, of attempting to plot our own paths.
By asking students to choose a path too early, the college process limits students’ ability to branch out and diversify their interests. The irony comes in that we have become so eager to package ourselves that we don’t get to truly be ourselves, fully explore and experience our passions. Good grades and extracurriculars are incredibly important, of course, but students should also leave themselves enough room to diversify and identify their interests. Ultimately, a student’s path or goal shouldn’t come from a set plan, rather, it should be a compilation of what a student is interested in. Yet even more ironically, colleges may actually prefer authentic, “unpackaged” students. With so many perfect, packaged applicants, perhaps it’s the unpackaged, authentic ones that stand out. As the college admissions process has grown more competitive, authenticity has become more elusive. In our minds, perfect grades plus perfect extracurriculars equals admission. Recently, top colleges have actually moved away from that mindset. As a result, not only are many students not exploring what they enjoy, but they’re also hurting their own chances for admission.
Ultimately, the argument to diverge from a set “path” for our interests shouldn’t rely on our chances of admissions. Regardless of whether or not an admissions committee values our “authenticity,” or at least how authentic our lives may seem, authenticity is a virtue we pursue for ourselves.
Setting aside time to look for genuine passions allows students to build more compelling interests. Students don’t have to limit themselves in order to create the perfect image for colleges. As someone who is primarily interested in science, I was surprised to learn that history and writing were also areas of interest for me. Although I’m only a IV Former, as I look back at everything I’ve done (extracurriculars, classes, etc.), I can see the same guiding interest interwoven throughout. In pursuing my passions and creating multiple paths, I found my own authentic profile, one “packaged” by genuine intent. By giving myself the space to explore and experiment, I now have a clearer idea of the types of careers I want to pursue after college.
The pressure is often on students to have all their interests figured out, often at unrealistic times. As II Formers, we don’t know exactly what we want to do with our lives—perhaps we have a direction, but rarely a set path. Yet when faced with the task of creating the perfect student “package,” students are forced to create a single path to follow, with no room for error. Ultimately, students should be presenting themselves to colleges. Not only does it provide for a healthier and more enjoyable college experience, but it also tends to be more appealing to colleges. Grades, extracurriculars, and classes are key to a college application, but so is the overarching theme or idea that ties them all together. That theme doesn’t come from a master plan or a predetermined path—it comes from following one’s interests and passions.