I've heard conflicting advice from people about being a particularly good at one area vs being well rounded. Do colleges actually look for a well rounded class (meaning that students generally have an area of expertise that that are especially good at/passionate about, as evident in their ecs/essays) or a well rounded student (a student who has a wide variety/range of interests and are moderately good at every one of them)?
Some people also emphasize having your ecs revolve around a common theme. What would be an example of a theme in extracurriculars?
This depends on what college you want to go to. If you want to go to a state school with a higher acceptance rate, then no. Spikes aren't important. Having good grades and being "well-rounded" is important. But a spike can certainly help. But if you are hoping to attend any of the top 20 schools, then a spike is SUPER important.
Here is the difference in what you are confused about.
Colleges want a well rounded CLASS.
Colleges do not want well rounded students.
To have a well rounded class, they have to admit individual students who are great at 1-2 things (and also have super grades/stats). For example, one class full of Harvard students could include: The Writer with a New York Times bestseller, The Musician who is in a prestigious student orchestra (or something like that), The Science whiz who has published a research paper, The Techy/CS genius who has developed popular apps, The Social Activist who has their own organization... You see where I'm going. But they are NOT looking for individual students who can do all of these things, because most likely they will be mediocre or just "good".
Aim to have a spike. If you have a passion, continue to develop and look for awards you can apply for and things like that.
Here would be an example of a spike for a student who's passion is writing and their ECs:
Published/self published novel
Club president/founder of creative writing club
Have won awards for their writing
Taken summer classes/camps for writing...
These are just a few examples. You do not need a spike to get into college. But it is basically a requirement to get into the most prestigious ones. I hoped this helped. There is a lot of info on Collegevine about this, and there is a new livestream too.
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