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How to Develop your Academic Interests

December 2, 2018

College Scoops is always connecting with and collaborating with experts in the college space who have thoughtful and insightful college advice for students and their parents. Our Guest Post this week is from the team at Solomon Admissions Consulting.

As a college applicant, you will likely be asked to respond to an essay question that asks “How will you take advantage of the academic opportunities at our university?” These questions fall under the category of intellectual interest essays and the intent is not just to focus on the major you have selected or your favorite high school course. They are designed to get a sense of your academic interests and how they have developed. In reading your response, admissions committees are trying to get a sense of your fit with their institution and potential to take full advantage of the academic opportunities available.
By the time you are a high school senior the culmination of your college planning is depicted in your college application. Your academic interests are shaped by the courses you have taken, extracurricular engagement, research experience, travel, organizational leadership, blog writing, etc. Colleges expect that your academic interests are interconnected, multi-faceted and solidified with experiences.

When writing this essay, be mindful of the institution in which you are applying, a research university or a liberal arts and sciences college and their academic strengths. Making a connection within your essay to the institution in which you are applying is essential. Visiting colleges and conducting internet research will provide you with information to identify a solid connection within your essay. When reviewing college websites look beyond the admissions and prospective student web pages, review academic department, faculty, and center/institute pages. Often when reading these additional pages, you will find a link to your academic interests and content that demonstrates fit that you can use in your essay. For example, a student who is interested in studying Public Health and has engaged in research at a local university and founded an organization that links student mentors with hearing-impaired youth would benefit from identifying the institution’s commitment to Disability Studies based on a recent grant awarded to faculty. Finding this piece of information allows you to connect your academic interests to the institution.

It is essential to pursue advanced coursework and experiences to deeply engage within your areas of interest. The best responses to the intellectual interest prompt go beyond simple answers such as I have always loved math. Instead, they paint a picture of how your interests have developed and why they matter to you. Focus on providing specific examples rather than talking in broad generalities and always include supporting evidence. Stating you find economics exciting is one thing; saying that you are fascinated by Behavioral Economics and the role culture plays on consumer decision making based on a research project you have been working on is quite another. One suggests a passing interest in a subject; the other notes a student who is genuinely passionate and knowledgeable about the field. Within the highly selective admissions environment, you need to demonstrate a depth of intellectual inquiry and passion for your academic interests, which entails identifying and engaging in relevant experiences throughout high school.

Solomon Admissions Consulting is an international college admissions consulting company based in New York, which helps applicants apply to and be accepted by colleges, MBA and MD programs, and private schools.

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Vitaly Borishan, Author

Solomon Admissions Consulting is an international college admissions consulting company based in New York, which helps applicants apply to and be accepted by colleges, MBA and MD programs, and private schools.

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