Katie Burchfield tries to eschew the term “well-rounded.”
The West Hall High School senior said weaving a narrative about yourself that highlights your specialties is the best way to show off for universities, rather than simply signing up for any and every extracurricular activity.
Her acceptance at Yale University under a full-ride scholarship shows she was on to something.
When asked to give advice to incoming high school freshman about what they need to do to achieve their educational goals, Burchfield cautions against stretching yourself too thin.
“It’s actually not what I think most people think it is,” she said. “There are a lot of high-achieving, well-rounded students.”
Specializing in a particular area of study or interest can be an effective way to stand out among a host of students participating in sports, drama, the yearbook staff, study clubs or other extracurricular activities, Burchfield said.
Sure, there was a lot involved in applying and gaining acceptance to an Ivy League school. Burchfield said that included supplemental essays and standardized testing, grades and test scores, a visit and interview.
But Burchfield said she had no built-in advantages, like family ties to Yale or infinite financial resources.
The biggest upside she had was her work ethic and real-world experience, which showed while working at Centro Medico San Lucas, a clinic on Atlanta Highway serving Latino immigrants.
Burchfield said she plans to enroll as a pre-med student, but plans to choose her field of expertise in the coming years.
Burchfield has a love of language, and translation is one of those specialty areas that attracts her attention. She has been learning how to provide translation services.
“I can definitely hold a conversation,” she said.
Burchfield said her parents are educators and that has certainly instilled in her a love of learning and curiosity about the world.
She enjoys focusing on “application and interaction and research” when it comes to academics.
Yale is a big deal. And though Burchfield doesn’t necessarily downplay the opportunity in her hands, she said it’s the support of family and friends that make it rewarding.
“I think my whole family was pretty excited,” Burchfield said, adding that a few tears might have been shed when they learned she’d been accepted.
And her fellow international baccalaureate students threw a party for Burchfield.
“I think they were pretty excited, too,” she said.
Burchfield said she knows there will be some adjusting to university life in the Northeast.
So how does she hold a confident smile in this next challenge?
“You do things you enjoy,” Burchfield said.