July 19, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Stress to Impress? Or Just Say Yes to CVS?

Sarah Coe-Odess
Allison was frantic because she still hadn’t landed a summer internship.  Max had plans to be a counselor at a camp for disadvantaged children.  He wasn’t getting paid, of course. In fact, he was paying a few hundred dollars to the camp, where they justified that it was a small price for a community service experience that would look good on his college application. 
But he was spending a lot less money than Hailey, who was going to Argentina to work at a children’s cancer hospice.  Weren’t there kids with cancer in the States?  Oh, this would be more impressive, she insisted. 
Then there was Jacob, who for the fourth consecutive summer was paying over 6,000 dollars to participate in a program in which he traveled to a third world country to serve an impoverished community, whatever that means; last year, it meant feeding elephants in Thailand.
In each case, the students viewed their unique summer plan, acquired with family connections and parents’ deep pockets, as the golden ticket to some elite college. But, after talking to alumni interviewers for two Ivy League colleges, I learned that such plum positions can have the opposite effect on some admissions committees.
A woman who had interviewed for Harvard told me that rather than making the student look like a great humanitarian, it makes the kid look over-privileged. What once seemed like a sure way to impress comes off instead as a calculated “resumé polisher.â€
She suggested that a college admissions committee would be more impressed with something simpler that seems more genuine and consistent with the passions the student has previously demonstrated.
“Or,†she added, “get a paid job, even if it’s at your local CVS.â€
The idea that a job unloading boxes at CVS would be more impressive than a trip to Cambodia cleaning rice paddies gave me pause. But an alumnus interviewer from Brown confirmed this.
“The admissions process should not be something that you go through to make yourself into someone that you’re not. Rather, it should reinforce the strengths of who you are.â€
Be true to oneself? What a novel concept! And how inexpensive!

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