Is It Good To Be

Good At Everything?

By Anthony F. Capraro, COO, College Outreach USA


here is a myth prevalent among college-bound students throughout the country that the best way to gain entrance to selective colleges is to be well- rounded. This term usually refers to students who have earned good grades in high school (B+ or better) and participated in a wide range of extracurricular activities.

However, most admission officers at the selective colleges prefer applications from candidates they term “angular” – students who have demonstrated solid academic achievement in and out of school and who have developed one or two particularly strong extracurricular or personal skills, interests, or activities. These angular students are very different in character from the well-rounded students who are very good at everything, yet excel at little, if anything.

William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admission at Harvard, says that Harvard is looking for a well-rounded class, which means Harvard is most interested in admitting angular students – students who have excelled at something. He cautions, though, that “…it is a mistake to denigrate or underestimate the persuasive power of high grades, rank, 2400 on the SAT I, 36 on the ACT, and equally impressive SAT II scores. The selective colleges take many of these academically high profile applicants. But the numbers game alone often won’t get you in! It would be fairly simple for Harvard to enroll an entire freshman class with a superior academic profile and little depth of quality in areas that make up the personality of the class. We just would not do that!”

Dean Fitzsimmons is saying that the majority of the successful applicants to selective colleges must have some major commitment(s) combined with excellent academic qualities. A strong impact results from quality involvements rather than a proliferation of joinings and transient interests. Essentially, the angular applicant is a committed individual, while the well-rounded applicant is merely involved.