Authenticity is Essential

99/100 people believe that getting into college means having a 4.0 and above a 32 on the ACT. Computer Science Professor, Cal Newport, challenges this belief and reveals the truth on the college admissions process and what colleges value most of all.


lexi vick

showing that college are looking for the odd ones out not the overachieving person.

Everyone is familiar with the anxiety that comes along with finding the right college for them. Unfortunately, most high school students have a warped sense of what they “need” on their resume to get into their dream school. Having a cram-packed schedule of extracurriculars will not automatically guarantee you a spot, but neither will just grades. Even though a GPA is important in some ways, at the end of the day, it is just a number. This does not represent nor define who someone truly is on the inside and what their work ethic consists of. 

People think colleges only look at the number, and what someone has learned overall over the course of their high school career. This is one of the biggest misunderstandings of the college admissions process. Even though every university will vary, colleges want someone who can use what they know and be something, not just someone who knows everything. If someone does not exceed knowledge and cannot accomplish anything, they most likely will not flourish post-college if they are not able to use that education for greater purposes beyond making decent grades.

Cal Newport, a professor at Georgetown University located in Washington D.C., is an author of numerous self-improvement books. One of his most famous books titled How to Be a High School Superstar, gives real life examples of individuals who were accepted into their dream schools not by doing everything possible, but by being interesting. He believes that only demonstrating “passion” does not catapult one far, but setting yourself apart by being unique is a whole different ball game. 

One girl in particular, Kara, had one set goal in her mind. That goal was Stanford and Stanford only. To set some background, she made A’s and B’s. However, her best friend Elizabeth, made straight A’s and immersed herself in numerous extracurricular activities. Now, while implementing oneself is honorable, she was often stressed and upset. Overall, Elizabeth would say that she did not truly enjoy her high school career, and had no social life whatsoever. On the other hand, Kara is the complete opposite. She loved high school, and would say it was one of the best times of her life. She did not make straight A’s, she did not create a demanding schedule for herself, she actually had a social life. She was involved in the track and field team. 

When Kara first met with her college counselor, she already had her mind set on Stanford. Despite this dream that her college counselor knew that she had, the counselor basically said this dream was completely unrealistic for a student like Kara. She told Kara that students with B’s do not get accepted into schools like Stanford. Kara’s confidence quickly flew out the window, and she began to doubt herself. This college counselor gave Kara thoroughly false information. Kara ended up being accepted into Stanford, despite being told she was not good enough. Moral of the story, colleges want prospective students to be involved in activities at their high school- however, they do not want kids who pack in extracurriculars that they don’t even have any interest in. Instead, they admire those who pursue happiness in some free time, while pursuing few extracurriculars that the student truly has pure interest in. Colleges do not want fluff, they want sincerity and realness. 

Do not always listen to someone you think knows what they’re talking about. We are all flawed in some way, and there could be errors in our beliefs. Kara learned how to ignore this falsity that she was average, and to use it to her benefit to be more interesting. As was said before, grades and GPA are incredibly important, but being interesting is essential. What colleges truly want as part of their community is not a robot who can generate grades, but a real human being who can use their knowledge to make the world a better place.

What makes you different? What makes you stand out? Do not tell a college admissions office what you think they want to hear in your essay, take a minute, or 30, and think. Just think. Write from your heart- as cheesy as that sounds, it works. You have to tell colleges why you truly desire to be there, not just use all of these ginormous, intelligent words. Missing a comma? No big deal, but being pure makes all of the difference. Do this by writing what you truly believe and feel, do not just simply generate words on a paper. Make the paper come to life. Be authentic.