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Gone are the days when colleges and universities were looking for “well-rounded” students to fill their incoming class of extraordinarily well-rounded freshmen. Rather, today selective colleges and universities are looking to admit a well-rounded student body of individuals who each individually are “pointy,” rather than “well-rounded.” 

“Pointy” Students?

What are “pointy” students and how can you become one? “Pointy” students focus their energy, activities, and contributions around their own genuine, deep passions. Instead of being “a mile wide and an inch deep” or a “jack-of-all-trades”, pointy students are a mile deep and perhaps a couple of inches wide. In other words, students should look in the mirror, know themselves, and follow their passions (but still continue to do well in school), rather than try to join every club and activity and sport available to them. This means that the admissions officers can describe the individual in a few words that truly distinguishes this student from all the others: “the National Merit all-state rock climber” or “the super-smart math kid who created an app to help others master math skills” or “the All-state bassoonist who is an expert on operas” or “the tri-lingual student who volunteers with recent immigrant groups.”


This is great news for students and their families! Students no longer have to feel pressured to do everything under the sun to show how well-rounded they are. No need to join every club, do every activity, try out for every sport, and volunteer for every important cause in a mad dash to demonstrate that you are unequivocally well-rounded. Rather, students should be encouraged to follow and develop their own personal passions. Sometimes students don’t realize where their passions lie; but with a little space and encouragement, their passion is often right in front of them.


Perhaps the most meaningful volunteer opportunities closely align with a student’s interests. For example, if a student’s talent is playing trombone in the band, perhaps they could volunteer to demonstrate band instruments to an inner-city youth center, or give lessons for free to a younger student who is interested in music but lacks the funds for private lessons. Or perhaps that same student could organize a “play it forward” event, where unused musical instruments are donated, cleaned, and tuned up, and then given to low-income students along with how-to-get-started lessons. The idea that a student’s activities – volunteered or paid – align with his or her passions is part of what makes a student stand out as pointy.


Leadership roles aligned with your passions help too. Leadership has a very broad meaning, ranging from the traditional “president” of your favorite club, to founder of the school’s environmental club, to first chair in a section of orchestra. Students can also demonstrate leadership by rising through the ranks at an after-school job to become the shift manager responsible for overseeing the other employees. Key Clubs, academic teams, and the school newspaper offer other opportunities to shine as a leader.

Leadership can also be demonstrated by seeing a problem in your community, taking the initiative to figure out how to solve the problem, and then actually implementing your plan and making your community a better place. And to be super pointy, your leadership engagement should coincide with your passions. 

Classes and Grades

Of course, all this involvement, passion, and leadership are impressive only if the student also has good grades in challenging classes too. Choosing classes that will both challenge you as well as be interesting to you is not as simple as it sounds. Many high schools offer college-level classes in many different subjects, or perhaps they only offer some of the advanced sciences, but a neighboring high school offers another one. Selecting a challenging course load should be a joint effort including input from the student, their school counselor, their parents, and their previous teachers. Ultimately, it is up to the student to decide which courses they want to take and believe they can handle successfully. 

Test Prep

Where does test prep fit into this equation? A perfect SAT or ACT score alone will not gain a student admission to highly selective schools–but it can certainly help! For many high achieving students involved in their activity passions, finding time to add in test prep is a tall order, but Mindfish is here to help! Mindfish tutors can streamline a student’s test prep–making the student’s time efficient and effective. Look for a future blog with specific suggestions for how to juggle preparing for standardized tests along with rigorous HS classes and extracurricular activities.

You Do You!

The bottom line on how to become that desirable “pointy” student that selective colleges clamor over is simple: you do you! That means follow your passions, but also keep your grades up and prepare for those standardized tests, so you can achieve the high scores you are capable of.

And if you do not get accepted to your dream college, it may simply be that your pointy traits are simply not what that particular college is looking for next year. Don’t think for one second that you are not good enough, but rather what you offer is just not what they need for next year. For example, you may be a flute player extraordinaire, but they needed a tuba player. You will find your best fit–at another school where they needed a flute player! You will find your new home and path to success!