Mark this date in American history: June 26, 2015 was the day that SCOTUS endorsed the freedom to embrace your own identity. With the click of a cursor and a stroke of a pen, a fundamental right was confirmed—the right to be true to yourself. It is a powerful moment for all, but especially for our children. There is a beautiful parallel between the Supreme Court of the United States decision and the college admissions process that encourages this next generation to never bend or assimilate and to completely accept their true identities.
The college application process is a stepping off point for young adults to define themselves. Most kids applying to college want to tailor their application to fit a “perfect” model. They don’t want to seem too gay, too Asian, too Jewish, too first generation, too lop-sided, or too quirky. The reality is that the “perfect” college application allows your true self to shine through. The best applicants embrace their identity and fill out applications like they’re taking the ultimate selfie—boldly, unapologetically, and honestly.
"The best applicants embrace their identity and apply boldly, unapologetically, and honestly." TWEET THIS
There are several phases of the college application process where I encourage students to double down on self-identification.
It starts with their background: race, religion, parents’ education, and even gender identification. Some questions on college applications are optional. Choosing the optional path is so June 25, 2015. Put it all out there.
Some colleges may not always respond positively to a student’s background. But then the student knows that’s not the place for him or her. I firmly believe and always say, if a college doesn’t want you for who you are, they don’t deserve you.
Next, I tell students to apply to the colleges that are going to stretch them. It’s so easy for kids to apply to the same colleges all of their friends are applying to and where they think everyone expects them to go. There’s comfort in predictability. But going to college isn't about being predictable. It’s about opening yourself up to the possibilities and testing your limits. Taking risks intellectually will allow students to grow and become their greatest selves.
The college essay should be a glorious self-portrait capturing a moment in time that simultaneously defines who a student is, where he or she has been, and what his or her future holds. The best essays give the purest insight to a student’s true self. When you strip away the accolades a student receives or the test scores they get, it’s simply the person standing alone devoid of ego, privilege, expectations, and judgments. That is when the real story starts to unfold.
"The best essays give the purest insight to a student’s true self." TWEET THIS
The college process is more than just getting in. It’s about getting real. As we celebrate our independence and freedom this Fourth of July, I encourage our rising class of college applicants to embrace the great freedom of individuality.
"The college process is more than just getting in. It’s about getting real." TWEET THIS
Students, be true to yourselves and what you believe in. Be honest about where you are from and the things that define you. Your college application is the first opportunity to stake a claim as an adult. Let this moment in history inspire you to acknowledge, understand, and celebrate individuality in the college application process and in all facets of life. Nothing is more powerful than a young person who makes the connection between who they are and who they want to become.
Every college would be lucky to fill their freshmen class with students like that. The reward for those students will be far greater than a college acceptance, because in the end they have accepted themselves.