For the last fifteen years or so, my family has made an intentional decision to try and have birthday events and gifts be focused on an activity. We have planned scavenger hunts, rafter down several Tennessee rivers, hit the ski slopes in West Virginia, and gone cave spelunking in Kentucky. I vividly remember a trip early on where we went tubing down the Chattahoochee in Helen, GA. For those who don’t know what tubing is, it is the outdoor version of a lazy river, and Helen is a wonderful location for this adventure. You park at the tubing center, catch a quick bus ride (with your inner tube and life vest) up river, then have a relaxing float downstream.
Unfortunately, during this middle of the summer tubing adventure, a problem arose: a drought that year meant the water level in the river was precariously low. In reality, nothing revolving around tubing is precarious. The worst that can possibly happen is generally a mild sunburn or floating a little too far away from your family. But a low level of water means less effortless floating and more standing, walking, pushing, and annoyance. It also means more complaining by family members, which becomes a downward spiral. Water depth (along with bug spray and sunscreen) is key to a good tubing adventure. Good water depth provides a smooth, consistent trip down the river.
In the same vein, depth is key in reading admissions files. When we are reading applications, we are looking at a number of factors, and one item we look for is depth. I love to see a student find a handful of co-curricular activities and, over the course of three to four years, develop both skills and leadership roles in these areas. Too many times we see files where a student suddenly adds 12th grade only clubs, sports, volunteer work and academic rigor in an attempt to boost their resume. To put it bluntly, applications that “are a mile wide and an inch deep” are not viewed as strongly as ones which show consistency. In the same way, we look for depth in a student’s curriculum. When we are looking at a student’s academic rigor, we are looking at what is available and what is then taken, and we focus on all four years of core courses, not just on the number of AP classes taken (a myth that I always have to correct).
In saying this, we still enjoy seeing students who try some activity that is outside their comfort zone. I have seen “jocks” try out for the senior play, a group of students start a diving team from scratch, or a person finding a need in their community that they try to help. We love seeing people step up and stretch out. But overall, we value depth in the application, from curriculum to grades to activities.
I hope this helps in understanding a little more about our review process. Go Dawgs!