By Amy Herzog and Debbie Kanter
North Shore College Consulting

Years ago, high school students were encouraged to dabble in a little bit of everything so they could appear “well-rounded” on their college applications. As a result, students were going crazy trying to run track, perform in a play, join the chess club, play the oboe, and volunteer at a soup kitchen. There were not enough hours in the day to fit in all of the different activities and keep grades up.

Guess what? The rules have changed and colleges have now altered their approach. Colleges value quality over quantity. Instead of looking for “well-rounded” students, they want a “well-rounded student body.” Having a student body that had done a little of this and a little of that was creating an environment that did not allow for much diversity and innovation. Schools now recognize that having a student that is an exceptional swimmer for their swim team, along with a student that is passionate about community service, allows those two areas on campus to be stronger and more productive. They want to round out their classes with passionate, focused individuals who have delved deeply into one or two areas of genuine interest and have shown leadership in those areas. A student who can demonstrate commitment to an activity is now more attractive to an admissions officer than a student that has an activity resume that spans multiple pages.

Help your child use this change to his benefit. By exploring his interests, he can turn one or two interests into passions. If your teen loves piano for example, encourage him to give some depth to this passion. Perhaps he can play piano on his own, take additional piano classes, play for a senior citizens’ center or teach elementary students for pay. Or, if your daughter loves animals, use that interest to explore potential careers by interning with a veterinarian or volunteering at an animal shelter or zoo. Some may call it “trying on a career” or an “extracurricular activity,” but colleges will call it “interesting.”

Most importantly, help your teen find activities that she loves. Colleges can tell the difference between activities that are used to “pad” an application and activities that a student is truly passionate about. When a student genuinely enjoys her activities, dedication and leadership will follow naturally.