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How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  770 ratings  ·  106 reviews
Do Less, Live More, Get Accepted
What if getting into your reach schools didn’t require four years of excessive A.P.-taking, overwhelming activity schedules, and constant stress?
In How to Be a High School Superstar, Cal Newport explores the world of relaxed superstars—students who scored spots at the nation’s top colleges by leading uncluttered, low stress, and authen/>
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 27th 2010 by Three Rivers Press (first published 2010)
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Jul 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
I agree with the central thesis of the book: High school students are over-involved in uninteresting activities at which they are merely good, and thus they need to choose one or two genuine, innovative pursuits to bolster their college admissions chances. However, the road to the kind of achievement Newport promotes isn't available to most students for various reasons (socioeconomic status, personality preferences, etc.). Essentially, by following the map he lays out, talented, intelligent, and ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The purpose of Newport’s How to Be a High School Superstar is to change the student’s perspective on high school life and college admissions. Newport gives you useful advice concerning what college admissions are impressed by and enlightens the reader regarding certain myths about college requirements. He tells the readers steps to enjoying your high school years while getting accepted into your preferred college. For example, Newport says, “(1) Pack your schedule with free time. (2) Use this ti ...more
Jan 07, 2011 rated it liked it
This is one of those books where you might roll your eyes at the title and walk away. I wouldn't have been interested- I mean, we get enough of this stuff with day-to-day life around here- but someone recommended it to my husband, who recommended it to me. It was actually a refreshing take on college admissions. The author's point is that straight-A, athletically successful, volunteering, high SAT-scoring, student body presidents- or that type of student- are now a dime a dozen- and rather borin ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
This book presents an interesting, innovative, and highly attractive approach to the college admissions process. Newport suggests that the trick to beating the system is to invest one's time in one main special pursuit, mastering it and thereby distinguishing oneself from other applicants. Not only does this book suggest undertaking an ambitious project that will appeal to colleges, but it also emphasizes the importance of this project over school. Students made successful through the "superstar ...more
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I was skeptical that someone could fill more than 200 pages explaining a concept that seemed fairly simple, but Newport packs in a lot of specific advice and examples with very little redundancy. I believe his plan is healthy and smart, but will not always lead to the amazing results in his examples. The good news (and this is something he doesn't play up very much because the book is marketed specifically to kids who have their hearts set on elite colleges) is that even if you "fail," you have ...more
Kalvin Lam
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
How to be a High School Superstar is one of Newport’s best books, hands down. I feel like I say this about every one of his books, but this is actually one of the best. I had read through all of his books already except for this one, and now, with this one finished, I am officially done with them. This book is phenomenal – it’s about more than succeeding in high school and college. In typical Newport-fashion, this book is more than what it seems to be – it’s about life, it’s about about living i ...more
Megan B
Mar 16, 2011 marked it as to-read
I hear this flies in the face of conventional attitudes. I like unconventional. I loathe the rat race of overscheduling our children for practical and philosophical reasons anyway. I am very interested in giving this a read.

What on reviewer had to say: "The author's point is that straight-A, athletically successful, volunteering, high SAT-scoring, student body presidents- or that type of student- are now a dime a dozen- and rather boring to college admissions officers. However, students who esc
Casey McCann
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. A must-read for high school students and their parents.

For years, I have been aware that, in my capacity as advisor to many college-bound kids, my advice has run counter to the prevailing wisdom of many a high school guidance counselor. Eschewing the the goal of well-roundedness in favor of actual accomplishment, I have recommended that students quit high-investment, low-yield activities in favor of concentrating on developing their strengths.

This well-researched little b
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Yeah of course, first of all the book title deserves the award of "Lamest title ever" BUT STOP!
stop right there. A revolutionary plan? That's no joke. Really, just give it a try.

Having been stuck in china for so long, I could have never even envisioned high-schoolers accomplishing such amazing things, and this book sort of unraveled everything that seemed scary at first.
University still seems pretty scary, but I guess not as much as before.

Well researched, wel
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is not just for high school students. It provides a framework for anyone that wants to cultivate "intresting-ness". I've previously read Cal's So Good They Can't Ignore You and that forever changed my perspective on "passion". This book is almost a precursor to SGTCIY.
Jul 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: middle and high school students
When I first saw this book, I was skeptical. After glancing through Countdown to College 21 To-Do Lists for High School Step-By-Step Strategies for 9th 10th 11th and 12th Graders by Valerie Pierce and seeing that I'd already missed most of the steps that I needed to take, I decided that the hyper-planning approach to getting into college was not going to work for me, and this book sat on my desk for a long time. On a whim, I picked it up a couple of days ago and was pleasantly surprised to find that th ...more
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm giving this to my high school cousin to help cure her "87 clubs syndrome" and generally protect against a certain masochistic and narcissistic study culture that develops among high achieving kids. Also I feel "So Good They Can't Ignore You", while written for working adults, is very good for the same high school demographic.

The author Cal Newport has an amazing blog where all of this advice and more is available for free. It is good to give people nice, compact books though. The
Vinita Singh
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very nice
Feb 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I can honestly say that I would never pick up, or in this case download, a book that strictly discusses the milestone of success in a student's life towards college, as relevant as it is. I am simply incapable of taking things that are entitled to an extent of terminology that includes "Superstar" and "impressiveness" However, I didn't hear about Cal through his series of books, well, in fact it wasn't even through his own blog. I am a frequent visitor to Scott Young's blog, which in some sense ...more
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Horrible book for parents and students. (sarcasm) On the other hand, reflecting on college admissions, it is the BOOK YOU MUST READ TO BE SEE THE EYES OF THE ADMISSIONS OFFICER.

Sadly, though, the book gives plenty of pointers of what one should do, the traditional strategy does work for 90% of universities, and the effortless passion approach really depresses me - that the entrance of Harvard and Ivy League requires you to thrive. Basically the approach is - if you're trying too hard
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Personally, I think the "superstar" ideal isn't that realistic. It does not present itself in a way you can reach it through goal-setting and it is mostly based on chance. Sure, high school students who started a business and got a C in a class in freshman year got into great and famous colleges. That's because they started a business! A college is going to accept a student with a successful business with a C over a good student with straight A's. Not all students have the chance to start a busi ...more
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If there is one non-fiction book that you must read as a student, it's this book.

I have gained so many tips and 'life hacks' from this book that I just hope I don't forget them all.

And for all the lazy people out there who is all into fiction, here is the summary:

-don't make your schedule filling
-school should be anything but stressful
-you should not be afraid to ask questions, make connections with people
-do not find your passion, instead, t
Nov 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A must read for parents. Actually you can apply the principles in anything you are applying for! The idea is that the old model of what makes an applicant a success has changed. Colleges are less impressed with resume items that anyone can accomplish and more interested in candidates that over a long period of time achieved something unique. So the author is a big advocate of more unscheduled time to allow students to pursue opportunities from other opportunities. Maintain the high grades but cl ...more
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Super quick impression: I'm glad I persisted to finish this book. At first I thought it didn't have a lot to say to me or my family, because it seems geared towards those who want to go exclusively to an Ivy League school. But it's really about having a balanced and interesting life. In some ways it reminded me of "All the Money in the World" or a Laura Vanderkam book in that the overarching message is to live/spend/manage your time in a way that is meaningful to you, and you will not just be ha ...more
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book (although I'm almost in my 30s) has changed the way I look at things, and the way I am going to do things in the future. I am or was a strong believer in "efforting" way into everything. And although I knew there was a better way, this book shows that working hard and not really working smart is really to your detriment. I think it's great practical advice and inspiration for anyone with an ambition. It was wonderful. Everyone should read it.
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
The information was good, and the ideas seemed to be original. However, the presentation was really bad and the organization left much to be desired. I took notes while reading this book and was able to summarize it into a guide for future reference in less than 10 pages.
Jan 15, 2012 rated it liked it
very impractical. what a catch-22! This book's premise is backtracking from successful high school superstars, but its only conclusion is that you can't TRY to be a high school superstar, it has to come to you.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Good Advice, but how to apply it now? Gotta go figure that out!
Aug 29, 2017 rated it liked it
This was an awesome book! I think it's encouraging to high school students and it is engaging enough for a high school student such as myself to read without losing interest. Below are the main points of the novel, summarized to the best of my abilities:

Part 1: The Law of Underscheduling
- Relaxed superstars basically do less, but seem to do more.
- Instead of pursuing many activities that you are not actually interested in (resumé padding; breadth without depth; call it what you will), and taking the/>Part
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
4 Stars.

Cal's writing style is easy-going, and reading through the 400ish pages was a breeze. He describes strategies, provides proof that it works in the form of case studies, then offers a playbook to help you implement them in your own life. In essence, he's a strong proponent of the following:

- Under schedule your day and leave large stretches of structured time to explore new interests that could have drastic effects. Once you find that interest, focus and dedicate y
Annie Kate
High school students can have a life. Even if they want to get into top colleges or universities. In fact, based on his research of high school students admitted to top US universities, Cal Newport suggests that having a relaxed, interesting life (along with excellent marks) makes one more likely to get into a top university. Of course there are some caveats to that, and in his book How to Be a High School Superstar, he explains exactly what he means.

Even though most homeschooled tee
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
The target audience for this book are students who want to go from being high achievers to over-achievers without burning themselves out. It's not for every high school student, and the target audience certainly already need to be in a place of relative privilege. My rating is given from the perspective of someone who was exactly in the target audience Cal describes (although the tips wouldn't have been that useful to me personally - even the best Australian universities accepted the majority of ...more
Rather than being one of millions of boring overachievers (you know the type, the ones who join every single extracurricular activity and Student Council and take every AP class) in a vain attempt to "stand out" among the applicant pool to elite universities, Newport suggests going all in on a unique and deep interest. I don't know how successful this plan actually is, but he certainly found a number of people for whom this worked. In a lot of cases the people seem to have been doing their activ ...more
Juan Chavez
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2019
Great book and great advice. General premise: Dont follow the pack and over schedule activities and be busy to be busy. I made this mistake when applying to high schools with Manuel. I tried to make his schedule impressive by over scheduling actives. Rule number one: Make sure you have the grades and the test scores. This strategy does not replace great grades and test scores. However, once you are set with that..Unpack your schedule. Leave room for exploration and curiosity. This will lead to a ...more
Clint Lum
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
The entire project is undermined by the stated goal: to get the high school student into the college they want.

Newport spends a good deal of space in the book (rightly) appealing to intrinsic motivations and calling for the reader to eschew the resume arms race in which grades and extracurriculars are merely seen as stickers on a resume. So far so good.

He then provides helpful advice to students in how to reorient their lives in such a way that they have free time to explore things that are of
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Cal Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, and the author most recently of Deep Work, a book which argues that focus is the new I.Q. in the modern workplace, and So Good They Can’t Ignore You, a book which debunks the long-held belief that “follow your passion” is good advice. He has also written three popular books of unconventional advice for students. Hi ...more