HK, you have described things well. I think that some with the younger set, especially those who have not been through US college admissions themselves, have a tough time grasping what admissions officers are looking for. Heck, most of those who attended college in the US have a tough time understanding how admissions have changed in the last 30 years or so.

My eldest knows some kids of HK's "a" and "b". Now the "b" kid who won national math contests and had published work prior to HS graduation wasn't into much else, but that kid was a rare type - truly very, very few kids (or even adults) at this level. She knew more of the "a" type, including one with near perfect SAT scores, in student government, played a varsity sport, won a national writing award, did scientific research with a local professor, won a regional foreign language award...and is a really nice, social kid.

While the "b" type who is doing high level research while still in HS is great, there are very few "b" types at this high level in their chosen field. And my eldest really preferred hanging around with the "a" type...because the "b" type didn't even care about hanging around with other kids. Sorry, "a" type is more appealing in most cases.