What do colleges actually want? Students, parents, advisors, and teachers alike ask themselves this question every year as they wade into the college admission process.
The truth is: colleges want students who are passionate about learning. They don’t want students obsessed with being perfect. They don’t want straight A’s for the sake of straight A’s. Colleges want students who truly love to learn. Students who will go out of their way
to find the answer to a question, just because they’re interested. Students who volunteer to stay after class to help with an experiment because they wonder how it will turn out. Students who happily wander through a bookstore or the library, hoping to find something new and interesting to learn.
When a college chooses to interview a student, one of the first questions they ask a student is “What are you reading?”. Sure, a student can spout titles from the summer reading list, but any admission professional knows these lists like the back of their hand. Scarlett Letter? Fahrenheit 911? Unbroken? Catcher and the Rye? The Things They Carried? Colleges know all of these. What else? You’d be amazed by the confused looks students get on their faces when they realize their summer reading list books simply aren’t enough for top-tier schools.
Love of learning is not something a student can fake. And it’s not something that develops overnight. How can you foster a child’s love of learning and therefore improve his/her chances in the college admission process?
In sum, curiosity is key. Students must foster a sense of curiosity early in their high school career so that this quality can serve them in college and even beyond. Reading and research—this is the magic potion that creates a competitive college application.