Well-roundedness has become nearly a fetish among college admissions officers, and thus for parents trying to help their kids get into top schools. Think of the ideal applicant to an Ivy League college, her resume a landscape of achievement: athletics, public service, A’s in subjects from English to math.
Harvard’s Helen Vendler is troubled by this. Vendler, who has taught English at Harvard for 30 years and is known as one of the country’s leading poetry critics, thinks today’s admissions system discriminates against promising young people with monotonic interests—and especially against young artists. “We need to be deeply attracted to the one-sided as well as the many-sided,” she writes in an essay in the most recent issue of Harvard Magazine.