The New York Times had a fascinating story on college admissions last week. The top universities are rejecting students in record numbers. Perfect scores on the SAT, a 4.0 and graduating tops in your class is not always enough these days. Now one can debate the value of these tops schools all one wants but the fact remains that if a student wants to get into the school of their choice they have to set themselves apart.
This statement by a spokesperson from Caltech ( a pretty good school indeed) rings a solid note with me:
“The successful students have to have shown some passion for science and technology in high school or their personal life,” Ms. Perry said. “That means creating a computer system for your high school, or taking a tractor apart and putting it back together.”
A lot of students say they are interested in a field like computer science, engineering or technology but what are they doing that says it to someone looking at a college application?
A student says they want to study computer science but didn't take any computer science in high school? Say what!
OK there was not computer science course so what did they do on their own? Did they create a website? Perhaps a DotNetNuke portal. Did they got to the Beginner Developer Learning Center and teach themselves? Or did the create a game for the Xbox 360 using XNA Game Studio Express? How about creating a robot using Microsoft Robotics Studio? Did they get some projects from Coding 4 Fun and build on them?
If they did take a class what did they do outside of class with what they learned? Basically how do you document that you have the interests that you say you have. Actions speak louder than words - even the words on a transcript.
A lot of this applies to college students looking for their first jobs as well. How did you spend your summer? Stocking shelves at the local hardware store or taking an internship or an apprentice level job in an IT office or company? Did you enter competitions like CSIDC or the Imagine Cup to test yourself against other students? What did you do besides take courses, get good grades and drink beer during your four years in college?