The parents of today’s college applicants applied to college in the 1980s and early 1990s. Those were the days when being a well-rounded student was the ticket to a highly selective college. Two varsity sports, a summer job and participation in a few clubs were the activities of a successful applicant. Having a passion was not necessary.
Today’s well-rounded applicants are welcome at many colleges but the most selective schools prefer a different shape. They are prioritizing “pointy” students, those who have participated in several activities centered around a theme rather than a variety of disconnected activities. Elite colleges want students whose activities demonstrate commitment to a core interest, belief or pursuit. Students who have determined their passions and delve deeply into them are more likely to be admitted.
In their college applications, students applying to highly selective colleges should highlight groups of activities that align with and relate to their genuine, deep interests. Activities which are merely exploratory or things the student has dabbled in should be downplayed. For example, a student who is passionate about animals might create an application that highlights their volunteer work at an animal shelter, their commitment to fostering cats and dogs at their home and that the subject of their photography (another interest) is usually animals.
Use your high school years to explore, but if you do have a deep interest, pursue it wholeheartedly. A focus on one theme will not harm your chances of a successful college application. In fact, it is just the opposite.