Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blogging your way into college

A question from a reader: should I start a blog?

P- writes: Your "Summer Vacation" post talks about pursuing the things you're passionate about in unique ways.  I have been thinking about starting a blog where I can report about current events in India and analyze their signifcance. I feel that blogging about India's progress towards accepting many of the things that were once prohibited will be a great way for me to showcase my general interest in social studies and writing. However, I'm not sure that blogging is "unique." My parents think that is a good a idea, but what do you think about it?

Here's a general rule to follow.  The more popular the activity, the more successful you need to be to stand out. 

Blogging is attractive because if it is done well, it can have tremendous exposure.  That said, there are lots of people out there trying to do it well.  You may very well have written the most insightful blog in the world, but if only your parents read it, it won't really matter.

I know what you're thinking - if I write insightful, interesting posts, won't an admissions officer (or interviewer) read it and be impressed by my thoughtfulness and quality of writing?  It's possible, but not likely.  However, if your blog makes it onto a top ten list somewhere, gets you quoted somewhere, leads to a guest post on the Huffington Post... you get the drift.  Way more for you to leverage here.

Here's an example: Lena Chen earned noteriety blogging about her sex life at Harvard - hardly an academic topic.  Today she works as a freelance journalist, speaking on panels, moderating discussions, appearing at colleges.  The risk she took with her blog earned her the credability to write about the politics of gender and sexuality.

The moral is that it's not what you do, but how you do it.  Just as you can turn a job at a bakery into an incredible experience, you can squander an internship with NATO and get nothing out of it.

So, here is the most important criterion: pick something that genuinely engages you.  And here's the corollary: do it in a way that engages you.  If you like interacting with people and need lots of feedback to feel excited about a project, blogging may not work for you unless you make sure you structure in lots of time to network with other bloggers and talk about your blog to people in real life.  Blogging, especially when you are starting out, can be a very solitary activity, at least until you get traction.  That's why there are a lot of blogs sitting out there in the internet with only a handful of posts before the author got bored.

There's one other thing - the subject.  Is this really what you want to write about?  Do some real thinking about what subject is so exciting for you that it gets you out of bed in the morning.  What is so interesting that you fall asleep thinking about it?  

If you love what you're doing, and think about it every day over the summer, the rest should follow. 
Aim and high, and really want it.  It's better to blog about Bollywood movies and be passionate about it than to write about Indian current events if you're only somewhat engaged.

It's easier to find a way to make your passion sound impressive on a college application than to fake passion for something that you think sounds impressive.