I know this is going to shock you all, but it turns out most members of the College Essay Advisors teams were not that cool in high school. We know, it’s hard for us to believe looking back, considering our giant brains and dashing good looks (post puberty). Still, we thought this study published this month in the Child Development journal and covered in various news outlets, including the New York Times, was fascinating in its finding that kids who live on the “fast-track” and are considered overwhelmingly popular in middle and high school, are likely to experience a fall in social status by age 23 due to the long term effects of what researchers call “pseudomature” behavior.
From the Times:
A constellation of three popularity-seeking behaviors characterized pseudomaturity, Dr. Allen and his colleagues found. These young teenagers sought out friends who were physically attractive; their romances were more numerous, emotionally intense and sexually exploring than those of their peers; and they dabbled in minor delinquency — skipping school, sneaking into movies, vandalism.
It turns out that, not only can this kind of behavior make it more difficult for students to establish proper boundaries and develop appropriate meaningful relationships long into the future, but it can also prevent them from exploring varied passions and analyzing world beyond the most superficial of concerns.
While we are not scientific researchers and can’t extrapolate too much from this study, there is a potential implication here for college essay writing. Playing to what is considered to be “cool” in the high school environment could be disastrous in a college essay. You would probably not be shocked to hear that none of our students, not even the super cool ones, have written successful essays about why skipping class makes them a fabulous candidate for future academic success. Conversely, students who write personally about the things that matter to them, without caring about whether those things are popular or what other people might think of them, are often the ones who have the most interesting things to say. And while a contrived and superficial topic can sometimes be treated with a creative flourish, it very rarely has the compelling honesty needed to win over an admissions board.
So be true to yourself, not to what you think is “cool.” Create your own brand of cool. Sincerity and pursuit of your true passions will be valuable and popular, now and forever into the future.