It may be rare for a student productivity blogger to draw inspiration from a film about card counting, but I have managed to do just that. I saw the film 21 a while back and absolutely loved it. If you want a little more background information on the film, (re)read “Do you dazzle? Do you jump off the page?” which I wrote last week. The part of the film I drew my inspiration from was when Ben faced a tough question in a prestigious scholarship application:
“Unfortunately – Desire doesn’t figure into this much. The ‘Robinson’ is going to go to someone who dazzles. Someone who just jumps off the page. It’s all about the essay – you need to explain to us, what makes you special, what life experience separates you from all the rest… What can you tell me Ben, that’s going to dazzle me?”
Since the post proved fairly popular, plus I had already promised a follow up post, here it is! Before you read on however; if you haven’t already, read the post linked above
A lot of you mentioned that the question “How do you dazzle?” and said that it was an interesting one to think about, which is why I am writing this post. My ideas in this post are also just that, something interesting (I hope) for you to think about, that is that I am not blindly saying this is the right thing for everyone, people may disagree with me, but I hope you will give the ideas some thought.
So how did Ben dazzle, how did he jump off the page?
(Slight spoiler warning if you planned on watching the film)
I let down my good friends, but as it turns out, they weren’t too bad at simple math either. I got beaten down by an old school Vegas thug who was having trouble accepting his retirement. But, I worked out a deal with him that got him a nice pension. And I lied to my mother, but I confessed the lie and she still loved me. For my senior year of college, I joined this team, and I learned this new skill. I went to Vegas 17 times to use it. I made hundreds and thousands of dollars. Then I got it all stolen from me… twice. How’s that for life experience professor? Did I dazzle you? Did I jump off the page?
Now do not get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you take up card counting or gambling whilst at university! This did promote a few thoughts though.
Extra Curricular Activities
Oh, you are president of the ‘Watching Paint Dry Society’? Great!
Extra-curricular activities you find dull and boring, yet think look insanely impressive, are actually just dull and boring. When you aren’t engaged with the activity you are a part of, you tend to get very little out of it, which defeats the object of participating in such ideas. Try steer clear of getting involved in extra-curriculars’ you find boring or do because you think they look good, and instead do something you are really passionate about. This has one major bonus that it seems a lot less like work. Secondly, when you are passionate and engaged with what you are doing, you tend to be more successful at it. This means that you can take what you are doing a lot further, be a lot more successful and still have a great time.
Dare to be different
Activities such as being on the school band are things a lot of students have on their application form (but as I said above, if you enjoy them that isn’t a bad thing), but if there is something you really enjoy that is a bit different, there’s a better chance you will be remembered and sound more interesting at interview. This is saying that your life experiences do matter as well, and if you do the same extra-curricular activities as every other applicant, you have no unique life experiences and very little to distinguish yourself with. Even if you try something difficult and fail miserably at it, you have at least got a good story to tell out of it!
Examples include things such as starting a business or writing your own book. These are the sort of things most people could not imagine doing, and as such, give you life experiences that make you a stand out applicant.
When you reach the interview table, at university, you are over the first hurdle. At this point, your list of extra-curriculars’ is not going to help you. You have to demonstrate firstly, that you are somebody that the interviewer wants to teach, as lecturers are often the ones doing the interviewing. Furthermore, you have to show the inquisitiveness and thinking skills to be a competent learner. If your extra-curriculars’ add to this, giving you a great life experience, then that is great, but that alone will not cut it either.
As well as your school work and activities, you have to develop the other characteristics that make you the type of student that is interesting, having a good time, and has the key attributes that admissions tutors are looking for, things like ability to analyse information and good communication skills. The key here is balance, as you have to be able to develop all of these areas. Again, bonus points go to those people who have a great time doing it as well. It certainly makes them more interesting to talk to, and there’s the added bonus that you don’t feel burnt out by doing the things you enjoy!
There are no re-runs in life. So many people see school as preparation for university, university as preparation for a job, all just one part of a big process. The truth is, this is all part of your life! It may be in aid of getting to an end goal, but you have to enjoy today otherwise you will end up burnt out and frustrated. Education offers you the chance to explore your interests and yourself, and it really is something to make the most of, not wish away. I know people who don’t want to be studying; they just want to be out working. This is the wrong attitude to be taking; you have to enjoy the things that you are doing now, not hoping to do. Anything less and there’s a good chance burnout is going to catch up with you sooner or later.
A quote for you to reflect on with this thought…
The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it
Thanks for reading, if you liked this post please Digg it, share it with friends and/or post your reflections in the comments section below. I am happy to answer any questions you have or elaborate on anything I have written.