by Abby Tozer


The pandemic shifted the academic landscape on the whole, and especially students’ investment level. While pandemic regulations have relaxed and hybrid/ in-person models have returned, I continue to notice a consistent uptick in a trend amongst many of my students: a lack of commitment. Many students are still stuck in their “old pandemic ways”: i.e., struggling to catch up to the academic pace and pre-college balancing act that was once expected of them. For example, I have some students who focus intensely on one or two extracurricular activities but let their grades fall by the wayside. On the other hand,  some students can maintain perfect GPAs but struggle to get involved (genuinely) in other activities. So the question is, how do you strike a middle ground? What’s the throughline?


It’s commitment, and then some… I like to use the term: conscious commitment. 


Let’s talk about the importance of conscious commitment. More specifically, commitment in your high school years before applying to colleges that will translate on your application. What does this commitment extend to? The kind of commitment I’m talking about doesn’t exist in isolation but rather permeates into your passions, your studies, your extracurriculars, and even your relationships with family and friends. 


Why is it important to be consciously committed?


Commitment is what colleges are looking for. Commitment to something (whether it be a passion project, hobby, academic subject, volunteer opportunity, internship or whatever else you may find interesting), demonstrates your ability to endure despite challenges over a long period of time. I would argue that dedicating yourself to a few activities, through which you can show a long history of progress, always trumps listing out numerous activities with  little longevity. Commitment shows your ability to follow through, and it speaks to your character as a reliable individual that colleges would be thrilled to welcome onto their  campuses. Furthermore, conscious commitment means that you are not just blindly taking on as many activities and AP classes as possible. While that enthusiasm is great, it is vital that you strategize to incorporate diversity into the activities you choose to invest your time in. And remember, some of the most unique endeavors can stem from your own (true) passions, so be creative!


Let’s take a look at an example (from a real student):


Student 1


Student 1 is very academically talented with an almost textbook portfolio. 


ACT: 36

GPA: 3.9

National Merit scholar 

AP Scholar with Distinction


But, they seem to lack diversity in their extracurricular activities:


Science National Honor Society: 11th-12th, no positions held 

Sports: Baseball, 9th-10th

Mathletes: 11th-12th, no positions held 


Student 1 applied to 14 schools:

UC Berkeley

UC San Diego 





UT Austin 

Carnegie Mellon 

Notre Dame 



Boston College 




And was only accepted into 1…

UT Austin


Let’s look at another student (who applied just one year later), before we discuss.


Student 2


ACT: 32

GPA: 3.9

AP Scholar with Distinction


Extracurricular activities: 

French National Honor Society: 10th-12th, President for 11th grade, fluent in French

Sports: Varsity Track and field, 9th-12th

Community theater: from age 9, over 22 shows 

Singing lessons: since age 9

Piano lessons: competed in French Symposium 10th-12th, placed with various awards 


Student 2 applied to 15 schools:

UT Austin 


UC Berkeley 


Boston College 



Carnegie Mellon 

Boston University 


Let’s look at how Student 2 fared in comparison…


UT Austin - accepted with full ride

Georgetown - waitlisted, then accepted

UC Berkeley - accepted, and enrolled

Stanford - waitlisted, not accepted

UCLA - accepted

Boston College - accepted

Columbia - not accepted

Princeton - not accepted

Carnegie Mellon - not accepted

Boston University - accepted with partial scholarship


As you can tell, both students have very similar academic portfolios and very similar college lists. So why is it that Student 1 had so much less luck with their ultimate acceptances than Student 2?


Conscious commitment.


If you look at Student 1, they are academically very strong and clearly intelligent. But, what else have they shown? Student 1 hasn’t been involved in any activity for more than two years at a time, highlighting their transience and inability to remain truly devoted to something. Listing an activity that lasts less than a year during high school may come off as “performative” – meaning it seems that the student solely listed the activity to show admissions counselors they’re doing something. 


Let’s look at Student 2:


Student 2 is also very academically strong—though not quite as strong as Student 1—so why did Student 2 have so much more success with their applications? Student 2 clearly has a wide range of interests, but they are unique in that they demonstrated both breadth and depth in these chosen activities. Their commitment is clear,  no matter what task they undertook. 


To top it all off: these two students were from the same town and went to the same high school. And, they shared even further similarities. These two students were my older brother and me. 


Commitment to something speaks for itself. If you have a passion, it should shine through on your application by your sheer dedication to it. Period. 


So, from someone who has been through the application process and learned the value of longevity, I urge you to stay in that sport for another season, keep up with those piano lessons and continue volunteering with that non-profit. Find your passion project, and dive in! Stay conscious and committed, and it’ll pay off. I promise.