The Perfect Class: What Are Colleges Looking For?

Today I’m sharing a guest post written by Daesun Yim, a student at MIT, who earned a perfect 2400 on his SAT test. Yim has served as president of MIT’s Class of 2014 and has won a slew of math contests at Harvard, MIT and Princeton and elsewhere.
Yim somehow found time to co-found Uncommon App, a firm that helps students construct the best college applications possible. As someone who recently applied to college, here is Yim’s take on what colleges are looking for when they construct their freshmen class:

The Perfect Class:  What Are Colleges Looking For?

The admissions officer’s job is to create the perfect class. Your job – which is why you’re reading this article! – is to be a part of that class. A daunting prospect, to say the least, until you consider that:
The perfect class is not made of perfect applicants.
Colleges search for a wide range of interests and backgrounds in prospective students to create a diverse, vibrant campus community. Instead of defining some arbitrary set of criteria that locate the “best” applicants, colleges are holistically searching for individuals who will contribute to a well-rounded incoming freshman class.
The perfect class has a wide range of students. As long as your high school track record proves that you can handle the college’s workload, there is a niche for you – and your task is to prove to the admissions officers that your passions will bring something special to the college.
What does this mean for you?
Despite their importance, statistics (GPA, SAT I, SAT II, ACT, AP scores, class rank, etc.) are not everything; arguably, they should not be the central portion of your application.
Pay special attention to your extracurricular activities and the subjects of your essays – this is your chance to show what motivates you as a human being; this is the opportunity to demonstrate how your individuality can contribute to the perfect class.
Most importantly, ask yourself this question.
What are your primary interests, including but not limited to academics? You want to emphasize these in your college application, in your essays – you want to show colleges how you are much more than just a battery of statistics.
What constitutes a “valid” interest or essay topic can be surprising. Your essays can be unconventional, as long as they align with your target school’s interests. In applying to MIT, I wrote about playing video games, learning vocal harmonies by listening to the radio, and building crossbows out of K’Nex. Arguably nothing profound – but as long as you truly feel passionate about a subject, we can help bring that passion directly into your essays.
From the Uncommon App, we wish you the best of luck with the college application process. It’s a stressful time – don’t forget to take breaks and do something you truly enjoy. And then, you know, perhaps go back and write 500 words about it…

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