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Photoshop and the College Application

As a photojournalist who loved to find the beauty in the raw reality of life, I would dread being asked to do weddings.  At my core, I believed my mission was to find the story that generated and showcased the very best of what was already there.  Oftentimes, weddings were about Photoshop.  About making something look different than it actually was.  It was not acknowledging the value in the existing raw material as much as attempting an affirmation of some storybook quality of perfection.

As students begin their essays and activities and honors sections of their college applications, they oftentimes feel the pressure to treat it like the wedding. They wonder, "What if my raw material isn't good enough?  Maybe I should have volunteered at the animal shelter more, rather than hang out with my friends.  Maybe I should have attended that science camp last summer rather than read books and go on that family vacation.” 


Or maybe not.

This year, for the first time, the IECA's poll "What Colleges Look for in High School Students" lists "Character and Values" among the top factors:

Character and values are part of your raw material, no matter what.  Your challenge now is how to bring out the best of that raw material; your own uniqueness, your own way of contributing to the world around you, your own strengths.  That can show through during your hang-out time with friends, just as easily as when you stood on the podium with a trophy or presented the $500 check to charity.  Believe me, it can.  I know, because I specialize in helping others see it for themselves.

Don't get me wrong.  "Exceptional raw material will translate into exceptional activities list" as one of my colleagues points out. If you love to do exceptional things, and have the natural ability, support, resources and drive to develop those, by all means, go for it.  And if you have lost opportunities in the past that you now feel inspired to grab hold of, by all means seek them out.  Showing your qualities in any way you can is wonderful preparation for college.  But if you are worried about showcasing your good character qualities with only "average" raw material, you can stop.  Taking advantage of the essays and additional information sections, as well as crafting a creative activities list, leaves you plenty of room to bring your very best forward. Without Photoshop. 

For more information about character in the college admissions process, visit IECA blog by Mark Skarlow "Making Character Count in Admissions" 

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