Largely because he could kick a ball far distances, a high schooler from small-town Pennsylvania was able to catch the eye of Purdue University. He got in, earned a scholarship as a kicker on the football team, and eventually graduated with a bachelor’s and a master’s in engineering education.
I was that high schooler, and I can’t imagine how different my life would be had creating a highlight reel not been the norm for student athletes.
What’s sad is that after all these years, not much has changed. It’s still mostly just student athletes who are encouraged to market themselves by sharing their strengths. Much like when I was in school, today’s brilliant future scientists, writers, and math wizards go without a tool to help them stand out to recruiters.
This has got to change, with students – whether they are gifted athletically, artistically, mathematically, or scientifically – having an equal opportunity to get their skills, interests, and ambitions in front of people who can help them affordably pursue and achieve their dreams.
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For some students, those people might be college recruiters and admissions officers, who are interested in seeing if a student is a good fit for a university, and the university a good fit for them. Beyond a student’s SAT or ACT score, these individuals are interested in the qualitative life details that students often have a hard time showing, like their interests, part-time job, involvement in various clubs, and early progress toward their long-term goals (completion of college courses or certifications in line with their intended field, for example). These things speak volumes about a student’s drive, interests, and worth ethic, and they need to be able to share them.
Rather than do a complete rewrite of the standard college application, all colleges have to do is meet today’s young people where they already are: online. Existing digital platforms allow students to create a LinkedIn-like profile, but instead of listing job experience alone, list their high school activities. From extracurriculars to test scores to volunteering, these platforms are where students who may not be athletically inclined can create their own highlight reel.
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Irvin Espinoza did just that. Like me, Irvin grew up in a small town, in a rural part of South Carolina. He took advantage of all the opportunities his high school offered, honing his math abilities through advanced coursework and leading the marching band, but he knew he needed a little something more.
So, he got online, made his own highlight reel, and in so doing found out about South Carolina STEM Signing Day. Irvin attended the selective event alongside other kids interested in pursuing post-secondary STEM education, and while there learned about the Boeing scholars program – a program that provides scholarships to students who want to study aviation science. Irvin applied, was accepted, and is currently studying at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the first person in his family to go to college.
Such sites also help students who might not want to go to college. Maybe they participated in a vocational program in school and are interested in continuing that work, but aren’t sure about the next steps or what opportunities are out there. When employers have their recruiters on these very same sites, they can provide direction and have early interaction with skilled individuals their organization might one day want to hire.
Thanks to technology, Irvin was able to do exactly what student-athletes do: get connected with individuals who see and appreciate their talent. It’s time we empower more students to follow in Irvin’s footsteps, making it the norm for all high schoolers to put their various strengths – be those in the classroom, on the field or even in the workplace – on display.
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