When I first met Tyler just before applying to college, I knew that her story of conflict would pave the way to her dream schools. A few months before, Tyler had made one of the hardest decisions of her life: she cut ties with a collaborating student group just before a big event, causing upset to those around her.
The founder of a grassroots organization introducing STEAM to elementary school students, Tyler was initially excited to combine forces with the new group and expand into a nearby town. She became concerned when she realized their visions clashed. She and her cohort wanted to continue building the organization from the ground up while the new teens wanted to focus on pitching to rich donors.
Things all came to a head when Tyler felt she couldn’t in good faith ask for thousands of dollars because she knew her organization could be just as effective with less money. She backed out of the promotional event, weathered the temporary fury, built an even better organization with the newly reduced group, and told this story in her Common Application essay. When she received her acceptance from Stanford University, she also received a personal note from her admissions reader: “I’m so inspired by your application.”
It is important to note that Tyler was not the typical 4.0-GPA, 1600-SAT high school applicant. She also did not attend fancy summer camps. Instead, she did stuff in the world, on her own, putting herself in a position to be challenged by what life served up. In meeting those challenges through brave, ethical decision-making, Tyler showed herself to be a true student of life.
When it comes to successful admissions, personal growth leads the way. In Tyler’s case, it’s as if the great results flowed naturally from the process of taking on these cool challenges. They were simply the cherry on top of this teen’s personal growth journey through high school.
My advice to parents who want to approach college admissions the calm way? Forget the typical formula. Typical is boring for all involved. Focus on your child’s personal growth. When life leads your child and your child learns from life, there’s no option other than success.
You can read Tyler’s testimonial about her work with Blue Stars here.
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