As a high school student, you probably don’t have too much experience with the online dating scene. I’m a stranger to it myself (at least as of now). But what I understand–from TV advertisements, sitcom specials, and the Internet–is that online dating works something like this: You write up a profile with your information (name, sex, age, etc.), your interests (figure skating, WWE, knitting, etc.), and a small blurb about who you are (“My interest in cats stems from when I…”). You then send your profile into the dating website for other hopeful singles to read. If all goes well, you’ll be on your honeymoon before you know it.
Why talk about online dating on the Yale Admissions Blog? Well, it just happens to be my favorite analogy for the college admissions process. Much like online dating, when applying to colleges, you make a “dating profile” of sorts, where you fill in your information, list your interests and activities, and write a couple 500-word “blurbs” about who you are. You send this profile to a number of interested parties, Yale for example, who read your “profile” in order to best determine who you are and whether you two are compatible.
As strange as it might seem, I like to use this analogy to convey the interpersonal nature of the college admissions process. Prospective students often ask questions like, “How do I get into a college like Yale?” or “Is there a minimum cutoff for SAT scores or GPA?” or “How will doing [activity XYZ] affect my likelihood of attending Yale?” These questions are difficult to answer. It’s akin to asking, “What can I do to date you?” or “How old/tall/fast/strong do I have to be to be your girlfriend/boyfriend?” or “Would your probability of dating me increase if I told you that I was a champion pole vaulter?” These questions don’t really make sense because that’s not how dating works. And that’s not how the college application process works either.
Much like we date people, rather than the sum total of their characteristics, colleges admit people, rather than mere “college applicants.” You are more than a test score. Your GPA, SAT score, activities, coursework, jobs are only as important to your college application as they are important to who you are. At the end of the day, it’s who you are that shines through, not what you’ve done.
So as you’re writing up your college application, you owe it to yourself to be honest and genuine. Ask yourself about what’s been important to you these past few years. Think about who you were, who you are, and who you want to be. And as cliché as it may sound, just be yourself. Don’t worry about who or what you think Yale wants. Let’s go back to the online dating analogy for a moment: Your odds of finding your “soulmate” are infinitely higher if you’re honest in your dating profile; if you misrepresent yourself in your profile, you’ll just end up attracting the wrong people. It’s the same with the college application process. Be your best self, but be yourself. After all, you’re so much more than a test score.