You walk into your boss’ office unannounced – it’s his 50th birthday! Shocked, you find him sucking on the same pacifier that your baby nieces like. His response to your stunned expression is to ask, “What? Is there something morally wrong with this?” You say, “No, it’s just that people generally outgrow this habit by the time they are… oh, five years old.” Smiling as best you can as you turn away, you begin to compartmentalize your respect for him as a boss versus as an adult who can make serious decisions under pressure. This scenario is extreme and funny, but serves to highlight that people judge us by our views of what is important or out of place; whether we know what is worth mourning or cheering for, and when. What we know and care about affects our behavior; it also indicates to others that we’ve grown into a mature person. Following the news helps this maturation process.

The following are five ways that watching and reading the news will mature you in preparation for college applications.

1. Expanding Your Concerns Beyond Teenage Life

Major differences between teenagers and adults include control over emotions such as anger, joy, and boredom; wisdom that comes from experience regarding good and bad decisions; realizing that the world does not revolve around you; and being aware of other people’s needs. Following the news opens your mind to things that are important to the world and to your local community. In history class, you learn that history repeats itself, meaning that nations, cultures, communities and people seem to make the same mistake over and over again. Being aware of human behavior allows you to reflect upon your own decisions, thoughts and emotions. This helps you mature as a person, while you transition from adolescence to young adulthood. A mature mindset will help you practice discipline to hone your talents, while also teaching you to balance ambition and selflessness.

2. Depth to Your Writing and Class Discussion

Being aware of what’s important to people’s lives, even things that don’t really affect yours, allows you to formulate substantial opinions when you write and speak. The depth of your writing will increase, because the modern and classic books that you are required to read in school were picked, because they each say something that is important about life. Being more aware of what goes on in the world and how it relates to the past and present also helps you make meaningful contributions during class discussions. For example: “Studying the civil rights movement in America made me appreciate the difficulties of adjusting as an immigrant. I realized that if I’m not aware of my own prejudices, I can easily become the type of bully that made it hard for me to fit in. It’s amazing that I’m living the same thing that was written about nearly half a century ago.”

3. Ideas for Signature Projects

Signature projects are one of nine categories of extracurricular activities that high school students do to make themselves competitive for college. A signature project is a student-initiated venture that tries to solve a social problem. Being aware of what’s happening in the world beyond the walls of your school helps you know what things you stand against and what things you stand for. This will help you pick a social problem about which to do a signature project.

4. College Admissions Essays

In addition to having depth in the things that you care about, following the news helps you write great college admissions essays. Some essay prompts ask you about your favorite book, newspaper, website, or channel. What you like and dislike says a lot about you as a person, which is why colleges and universities ask this type of question on their application form. Are you very upset that video game graphics have not improved but are unaware about how video games can perpetuate degrading stereotypes of women or that games can be an addiction that ruins the lives of students? Anger at which of these three topics would suggest that a person can be trusted to lead a project that affects the well-being of others?

5. College Interview Answers

Private colleges and universities often have optional or required interviews during the application process. The interviewer is tasked with getting to know you and assessing your potential as a successful college student. Just like being aware of what’s important to the nation and to the local community adds depth to your writing and class discussions, this trait helps the interviewer know that you are mentally transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood. Success in college requires more than book smarts and good standardized test scores. Successful college students are ones who can learn to be responsible, serious and disciplined, and who are aware of issues that affect many people.

(This article first appeared on ThinkTank Learning and is reprinted here with permission from the author.)

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