During our first Zooms, many students apologize before they confess to not having a singular passion.
I ask, “Why are you sorry? That just means you’re open to exploring new opportunities at college.”
I then ask them if they’re curious and they almost always say yes.
How can a student demonstrate academic, extracurricular or social curiosity and take risks? Here are a few examples:
Eagerness to Take New Classes
One of my high school students registered for an Advanced Placement class that was out of her comfort zone; she’s STEM-oriented, but she’d heard friends discuss APUSH (Advanced Placement US History) and was game to stretch her abilities. “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she told me. She received a 4 on the AP exam and a B+ in the class. Would she do it again? “Yes,” she said. “It was my lowest AP and grade, but I learned that I enjoyed humanities more than I thought.”
Eagerness to Develop New Interests
Many students begin shaping their extracurricular “playlist” as early as preschool. After being on soccer teams or the piano bench for years, some are eager to “try something new” in high school. Parents are often trepidatious about encouraging their high schoolers to dip toes into new waters because of college applications; the fear of losing the student’s “story” as an ace goalie or soloist overshadows the “story” of a student game to explore. My advice? Let them wade into those waters because they often swim effortlessly and excitedly – and acquire new activities to add to their application.
Eagerness to Meet New People
I had a student this year who dramatically switched up his peer group. An actor, he maintained camaraderie with his fellow thespians, but he began “hanging out with jocks” (his phrasing). He discovered that he liked the physicality of playing pick-up basketball or catch and then going for pizza afterwards. His new friends talked about politics, colleges, schoolwork. It wasn’t that his theatre friends didn’t discuss those same topics. It was that the lens through which the athletes saw the world felt fresh to this student. Takeaway: Be open to new points of view.