Have you ever thought about the lessons we can take from musical theatre? It’s not just there for entertainment. Here’s what we think you can learn about college admission from everyone’s favorite Broadway rap musical, Hamilton.
The Room Where It Happens
No one gets to be in the room where it happens – the college admission committee room. No one really knows how the game is played, the art of the trade, how the sausage is made.
But we do know that every college admission team reviews thousands – tens of thousands – sometimes over a hundred thousand applications each cycle. Individual admission counselors sometimes read fifty or sixty files a day! For months! And they don’t necessarily pluck students with the TOP grades and scores – because a computer could do that, and this is a personal process. They choose students they like and who they can see contributing to their community.
So what does this mean to YOU, as you apply? Here’s our advice:
It sucks, that you can’t be in the room where it happens! But control what you can. Which leads us to……
Who Tells Your Story?
YOU! Unlike Alexander Hamilton, YOU get to tell your story. You can’t control who else applies, what grades they earned, what their scores were (if they have them), if they exaggerated about their extra-curricular activities :>O or what THEY say about themselves. But you ARE in control of YOUR story. Don’t waste the opportunity to let those college admission committees know about your life, your dreams and how you’ll make a contribution to their campus community.
Parents and students frequently ask us what Eliza asked herself at the end of the show: Have I done enough? You have. You don’t have to establish an orphanage or built water filtration plants in third world countries. Don’t do things “just because it’ll look good for college admission.” Do what you love, and then tell that story in the most compelling way possible.
Young, Scrappy and Hungry
Are you? SHOW THEM! What are you hungry for? What do you see as wrong with the world, needing change, and how will you be a part of that change? Have you scrappily fought your way through an obstacle? These are the stories you should write about in your essays. However…..
Don’t write like you’re running out of time.
You’re only running out of time if you wait until the week before the deadline to write your college essays! We know you won’t do your best work, and you won’t have time to review and revise, if you wait until the last minute. Start early – that was one of four major tips in our recent webinar, which is posted here.
It must be nice, it must be nice…..to have teachers and your counselor on your side! Their letters of recommendation play a major role in helping colleges see the person you are, both in and out of the classroom. Remember, it’s not just about grades and test scores – colleges are looking for clues as to how you will contribute to their campus community, what kind of roommate, teammate, and classmate you’ll be. What they learn from your teachers and counselor is an important part of your college admission process…..so you want them on your side.
Sometimes our friends get something we want. Really badly. There are two ways to handle it when your friend is admitted to a college and you aren’t. You can be bitter, and that friend will feel bad and your relationship will probably never be the same. Or you can be happy for them, and know you’ll find your place wherever you go. Angelica would probably want you to celebrate their good fortune.
That’s why we encourage you to build a balanced list, with a few “reach,” a handful of “target” and at least a few “likely” colleges where you’d truly be happy. It takes time and research to build a balanced college list, and to be satisfied with it.
The final message we take from Hamilton is to be open to colleges you’ve never heard of. Have you ever heard of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut – or had you before you knew Lin-Manuel Miranda went there? Just because YOU’VE never heard of it doesn’t mean no one else has heard of it – and it certainly doesn’t mean you won’t be successful in your professional life. Give lesser-known colleges a chance. You’ll never know who you might meet there – and start your life’s revolution.
Need more help and advice? We’ve been blogging about college admission for years, so our blog is full of great stuff. Here are some highlights that might be useful to you now:
- Should I Apply Early Decision?
- College Rankings (and why you shouldn’t use them to build your college list!)
- College Financial Aid
- What Grade Inflation Means in Your College Search
- Highlighting Community Service in Your College Application (read this if you have a 9th, 10th or 11th grader!)
- We spent three months interviewing college admission experts throughout the COVID-19 spring and summer, and the videos from all of those interviews are here, on this page. Tons of great information in those interviews!
We also have some informative videos on our YouTube channel:
- How to Research a College Website
- Here’s our playlist taking you through all of the sections of the Common Application
If you need some hands-on guidance with your child’s college admission – that’s what we do! We have both individual and group options available for rising seniors, and more long-term options for younger students. Just get in touch and we’re happy to chat.