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Andy Collins (College)

Andy was a popular junior at a suburban high school. Grades came relatively easily to him, especially when he was interested in the subject matter. He particularly liked science and math, two subjects he felt would be useful in preparing him for a career in engineering or medicine. He was also a good athlete who played on the school's varsity soccer and lacrosse teams. With his positive profile, Andy was a legitimate candidate for many top-tier colleges. The list of places he had mentioned were, indeed, very competitive.

Our concern, which was shared by his parents, was that Andy did not stand out among the candidates who typically applied to such colleges. He was a strong student who was articulate, social and athletic, but he was comfortable with his success and never felt any need to push himself further. His school year was filled with academics and sports. During the summer, he attended sports camps and went to the beach, as did most of his friends. He admitted that he was capable of taking on more activities but had never really considered it. He mentioned that his parents had pushed him to get more involved at school and in his community, but he had brushed aside their suggestions, considering, as many adolescents do, that they were “nagging.”

Andy was easy to talk to and open to hearing suggestions. During the winter of his junior year, we sat down to discuss the colleges he was interested in. He was shown profiles of students who had applied to these places in the past. Andy was taken aback at the quality of the candidates. They all seemed to be strong in many areas. Some clearly had higher grades and had won more awards than he had, but others were more like him. We explained to him that, although he was certainly qualified to apply, his profile, as it stood, couldn't guarantee his acceptance. Andy needed to set himself apart from the other candidates.

We talked about some of his interests. Andy was popular. He enjoyed talking to people. He had flare and confidence. He always spoke his mind when an issue was important to him. He was respected by his peers and faculty and possessed obvious leadership qualities. I suggested running for student counsel. Andy was an obvious shoo in. But his response was refreshingly frank. The student counsel, he said, was a popularity contest that he had no desire in entering.

It then emerged that Andy enjoyed making people laugh and being the center of attention. I asked if he had ever done any theater. It turned that he had in elementary school and that he had enjoyed the experience. He had actually considered auditioning for plays in high school but was put off by the drama students' reputation as outcasts who were always rehearsing and kept to themselves. But he agreed to give it a shot. Drama soon became his new passion. Andy ended up winning roles in his school's spring and fall productions. He was accepted at one of his first-choice schools where he became a physics major. He pursued theatre throughout college. His sophomore year, he played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.