Today college admissions is an overwhelming race. You are expected to achieve the highest grades, participate in various extracurricular activities, and maintain a busy schedule that can often leave you feeling burned out. Cal Newport’s book “How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)” hits the nail on the head regarding how to approach the college admissions process holistically.
The examples presented in the book are from the mid-2000s, the competition for college admissions has only increased since then. However, the advice presented in the book is still highly relevant today. One of the key aspects of the book is the importance of under-scheduling. Newport emphasizes the beauty of having free time and using it to focus on your one or more deep interests, rather than constantly overcommitting and being overwhelmed by a hectic schedule.
The book encourages you to be “interesting” rather than well-rounded but run-of-the-mill. Colleges want to admit students who have unique and fascinating interests and experiences, rather than those who participate in a long list of generic extracurricular activities. The key is to pursue a few interests deeply, rather than trying to do everything and becoming a jack of all trades but a master of none.
High school and the life beyond is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s important for you to stay sane while running the marathon. You should take care of yourself mentally and physically, rather than sacrificing your health and well-being for the sake of productivity. Burnout is a real risk when you try to do too much, and it’s crucial to maintain a healthy balance between school, extracurricular activities, personal time, and pursuing deep interests.
Newport advocates for you to be a “relaxed superstar” who has free time to focus on your interests and doesn’t sacrifice sleep to maintain a busy schedule. Sleep is essential for both academic success and mental health, and sacrificing it for the sake of productivity is not worth it in the long run.
In addition to pursuing deep interests, Newport also encourages you to pursue “wow” accomplishments. These are achievements that truly innovate, even in a small way. Innovation should take the world forward, even in the slightest way, and these accomplishments are the ones that will truly make you stand out in the college admissions process.
Overall, the book emphasizes the importance of having an enjoyable high school experience, rather than exhausting years that drain the life and spark out of you. One of the key takeaways from the book is the idea that being “interesting” is more important than being well-rounded. It’s crucial for you to find a balance between school, extracurricular activities, personal time, and pursuing deep interests. The college admissions process is about much more than just grades and extracurricular activities – it’s about finding unique perspectives and meaningful experiences that showcase who you are as a person. Pursuing deep interests is the best way to cultivate these qualities. This doesn’t mean that you should neglect your academics or extracurricular activities – it simply means that you should prioritize your passions and pursue them in a meaningful way.
Ultimately, there is no better advice in the world than to be the best version of yourself, rather than trying to fit into a mold of what you think colleges want. Pursuing deep interests, having free time, and cultivating unique experiences are the keys to standing out in the college admissions process, and in life. You do you!