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What really matters at the end of senior year? A top student inventories his activities list

Student council. Check. 

Varsity soccer. Check. 

National Honors Society. Check.

Link crew. Honor guard. Church Finance Elder. Check. Check. Huh? 

It’s true. Eric, a hard-working, high-achieving, heavily committed senior, served as All Student Body Vice President, earned 2nd team all-metro as a soccer player, and helped his church strategize their budget as part of their finance committee.  

It goes without saying that Eric had a very busy high school career, and with multiple acceptances at impressive institutions like Santa Clara University, Pepperdine, University of San Diego, and Loyola Marymount, he offers some surprising advice to future graduates. 

“If I were to do it again I probably would have focused on one or two activities and spent more time just reading,” he says, “colleges want to see your passions. If you can effectively express these in the essay, that is equally if not more valuable than a top test score.” And if you were to read his common application essay, it appears Eric-the-rising senior anticipated Eric-the-graduating senior’s advice. 

With a lifetime fascination with money, business, and investment, Eric seized the admissions essay to revisit a childhood season where he devoted himself to his Penny Pinecone Corporation.

His essay opens, “When I was five years old, I knew how to make money grow on trees.” Eric’s business plan was simple: Convince the neighbors the acidic pine cones were killing their lawn, then offer to collect the evergreens’ unwanted offspring for one penny each.

Eric’s topic would simply be a cute story if it hadn’t taught him (and the neighbor kids) real lessons about finance and life. 

  1. Haters can become admirers: Everyone will laugh at you until they see you cruising down the street in your new red bike, purchased from your earnings. 
  2. Copy Cats come with the territory: Greta’s Gardening and Liam’s Lawncare wasted no time in competing for the landscaping jobs in the neighborhood. 
  3. Fads work both ways: Businesses end when five year olds gain years but lose time, when soccer and playdates compete for attention. 

*Pro tip: It hurts less if your parents have a garage to store your gloves and wagon.

When it came down to making his college selection, Eric put his recaptured wisdom to work. As he compared university annual scholarships ranging from 6,000 to 18,000 to 23,000, he not only totaled dollars but measured how each school addressed his passions. 

Next year, Eric plans to attend Santa Clara because, as Eric explains, the university features the Leavey School of Business, with a strong finance program, and has business relationships in the Silicon Valley, which will help him solve his next problem: land an internship. Eric also values that SCU is a Jesuit school, a place where Eric knows he’ll receive a holistic education.

Driven students like Eric often are misunderstood as overly fixated on achievement. But for Eric, he’s really been aiming for something quite different.

When he thinks back on writing his admission essay, he notes the process pushed him to find his inspiration, something Eric says is tough to capture in a classroom.

Not only that but his essay came with a bonus: an excuse to reconnect with a few old buddies. “I ended up talking to my neighborhood friends about the Penny Pinecone Corporation,” says Eric, “And we all had a good laugh.”

You can read Eric's essay, along with other storytelling standouts, in my 2019 edition of Heroic Tales from College Bound Seniors. 

Senior Photo by Anne Scearce


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