Last weekend I was fortunate to be one of the presenters at a college access workshop presented by Wonderworks, an enrichment program sponsored by Rice and the University of Houston. The pre-written text of my talk, called “Temporary Insanity: College Admission, American Style” is below. I welcome your comments and questions!
Bear with me a moment while I talk about literary theory. I promise it's relevant to you.
In his 1921 essay "Hamlet and His Problems," T.S. Eliot uses the phrase "objective correlative." Eliot isn't the first to use the phrase, and certainly not the first to use the concept, but the term really stuck when Eliot used it and it's usually attributed to him. Eliot calls the play Hamlet an "artistic failure." (I don't advise you call Hamlet a failure, especially if your English teacher is within five miles.)
What does this have to do with you? This has everything to do with your college applications.
I normally hate mission statements. Ideally, a mission statement is honest, written well, to the point, helpful, and something that directs the group on a daily basis. As far as I can tell, no mission statement actually meets all those criteria. Personal, as opposed to organization, mission statements are even worse. They're usually so grandiose and vague that there's no way they can actually direct a person's energy and actions toward a better future. To my thinking, a feasible and actionable to-do list for tomorrow is almost always going to be better than a big fuzzy mission statement that covers the next three years.
But the thing is, college admissions season is actually a pretty good time to write a mission statement.
The best way to prepare for college is to be a good high school student, and there may be no more important semester of high school--as far as college planning is concerned--than this semester. When admissions counselors look at you transcript next fall, this semester is the most recent and full picture they have. While they'll look at all your grades and activities, the junior year is more important. It lets them see how you perform in more rigorous classes and more leadership roles than you're likely to have in the 9th and 10th grade.
If you're an ambitious high school student who plans to pursue a double (or even triple) major, that's fine. Double majors are on the rise. However, you could help yourself out by not telling people about it. To understand why, let's think about the reasons why you might declare yourself a double major.