How I Spent My Summer: Being Edgy

CJ Westerberg, August 7, 2011 10:31 AM

edgy summer.jpg

"Colleges have moved people from thinking they should be
exceptionally well rounded to using the vocabulary
that 'well rounded' means 'no edge,' "
 - Bruce Poch, the former dean of admissions at Pomona College

How I Spent My Summer

Excerpts from "For a Stand-Out College Essay, Applicants Fill Out Their Summers," in today's The New York Times.  Oh, the advantages of money:

Josh Isackson, an 18-year-old graduate of Tenafly High School in New Jersey, spent the summer after his sophomore year studying Mandarin in Nanjing, China. The next year he was an intern at a market research firm in Shanghai. When it came time to write a personal statement for his college applications, those summers offered a lot of inspiration.

 . . . So Mr. Isackson wrote about exploring the ancient tombs of the Ming dynasty in the Purple Mountain region of Nanjing, "trading jokes with long-dead Ming Emperors, stringing my string hammock between two plum trees and calmly sipping fresh green tea while watching the sun set on the horizon."

Yes, indeed.

"  . . .  his experience was the best possible outcome: he loved China, and the trips offered priceless fodder for the cutthroat college application process. (Mr. Isackson will attend Yale University this fall.)

"Students are planning their summer experiences to augment who they are and discover who they are, and that absolutely helps the college process,"  . . . .

And, "sometimes costly activities"?

Students preparing to apply to college are increasingly tailoring their summer plans with the goal of creating a standout personal statement  250 words or more -  for the Common Application in which to describe "a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you."  Specialized, exotic and sometimes costly activities, they hope, will polish a skill, cultivate an interest and put them in the spotlight in a crowded field of straight-A students with strong test scores, community service hours and plenty of extracurricular activities.

But there is hope for the masses:

For those who lack the means to pay for an essay-inspiring trip, at least one scholarship program exists to help. . . . (snip)

And more hope?  Of course, your own consultant!

Students do not have to spend a summer abroad for an essay-worthy experience. When Mary Lang Gill was a rising senior at the Atlanta Girls School, a private school, she hired Pam Proctor, an independent college counselor and the author of "The College Hook," . . . (snip).

And now for the "hilarious" observation:

Mr. Poch said members of his office staff sometimes joked that they were witnessing
the "complete disappearance of summer jobs," especially among upper-income applicants who opted for "decorative" internships at places like investment banks,
where they could work with friends of their parents. (snip)

The article continues here with some final questions about whether kids are being robbed of their childhoods and other thoughts about interests and mastery.  

The overall message is everything should be done to get into a good college.  One would
then be guaranteed a good job for life, right?  Guess so, especially if a parent's friend runs
the bank.

Or, will many/most of these students have a "rude awakening" since things have changed dramatically with this new generation (ie. Americans/Europeans are no longer the only ones who are educated)?  Or, have things really not changed all that much?    What do you think?  

Check out The New Yorker cartoon below.  Sub "edgy summers" for grad school:

New-Yorker.debt-ceiling.gifRelated The Daily Riff:  Bill & Melinda's Field Trips
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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Leonardo da Vinci
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