Summer standouts: Students utilize break to build college resumes

Graphic by Victoria Gardey 20 and Eva McCord 21.

Graphic by Victoria Gardey ’20 and Eva McCord ’21.

Navya Chamiraju '20, Section Manager

As the college application season begins, many rising seniors are writing their essays and doing other activities to enhance their applications, and they feel the pressure to make their application as good as they can before hitting the submit button according to Katharine Alltop ’20. 

Some students crack under the pressure while others accept it according to Alltop. 

“There definitely is pressure to make the application better,” Alltop said. “But I also got myself to a point where I’ve been trying my best to do things both school wise and extracurricular, and I decided that at some point it would have to be enough so that I didn’t get too overwhelmed.”

Mount Holyoke regional Alumna Admission Representative Mona Gubow said many students feel the pressure to “check every box” on the applications and make themselves look perfect. 

 “Small, academically rigorous colleges, such as Mount Holyoke, seek candidates who demonstrate engagement and commitment; individuals who have demonstrated curiosity and intensity in their high school years,” Gubow said. “This translates into selecting course work that pushes one to aim higher and take risks.  The same holds true outside of the classroom. Candidates don’t need a laundry list of activities but rather participation that is meaningful.”

Gubow said dabbling in different areas and interests is good but warns against spreading too thin. 

“One should be pursuing these different programs because they are interesting, not to build a resume,” Gubow said. “If students do this, the pressure is often eliminated and the resume will build itself.”

Tony McKenzie ’20 agrees there is a lot of pressure and stress surrounding the application and the months that build up to it. 

“The pressure of having a good application had not hit me until just recently,”  McKenzie said. “I wish I had more people pushing me to join clubs and get involved in community service programs and activities earlier. This was the advice I was given briefly freshman year, but as a freshman, I really did not care/see the importance of joining clubs and programs if I did not want to.”

McKenzie emphasizes the importance of listening to advice given by counselors and upperclassmen to reduce the pressure, such as getting involved. 

“Now, in my senior year, I’m trying to join and get involved in things at the last minute in order to just have a decent resume,” McKenzie said.  “Seeing that some of my family members are concerned about my lack of involvement in the community is starting to pressure me. I know I have the grades to get into a good college, but now I’m worried that might not be enough, so join clubs.” 

Many students, including Alltop and McKenzie, have not put too much pressure on themselves as they want to concentrate on what is important to them and know they can’t change much now.

“There is pressure to do a lot but also I don’t usually worry that much because at some point your application should show who you are rather than just be a checkbox of ‘look I do so many things’,” Alltop said. 

According to McKenzie, colleges like to see commitment, so concentrating on personal interests will make high school more fun and the application process less stressful. 

Colleges want to see that you have been active in a particular club or activity for over a course of years and not just for the one and show that we have interests and are productive members in the community,” McKenzie said. “But I also think they would like to see that you tried to do something rather than nothing at all.”

To reduce the pressure students feel before senior year, Gubow recommends starting the research process early. 

If students are guided through research, taught to ask good questions of themselves and others, oftentimes much of the pressure is eliminated,” Gubow said. 

As college admissions become increasingly competitive, Gubow said to self-reflect and show a very true and honest application.

“Admission officers are looking at the total person,” Gubow said. “Not just the scores or laundry list of activities.”