When looking through college advice blogs or asking high school seniors/college friends for tips on the college application process, one of the most commonly discussed topics is extracurriculars. But, when joining clubs or volunteering in your community, you have to remember that it’s not about being “well-rounded” anymore. Your experience with extracurriculars should clearly show the admission staff three things: commitment, passion, and leadership.
First Thing’s First
You must participate in extracurriculars, to some degree, for a good chance of admission into your first choice colleges. For some individuals, this is very difficult because they have to work two jobs and support their family, while pursuing a challenging education in a school system that does not expect them to go far. In this case, the admission staff will give the applicant quite a bit of leeway. But, in all other cases, you must show that you are willing to venture outside of the classroom and be passionate about something other than a class about Algebra or that really cool book you’re reading in English.
Here are some things you need to remember when dealing with extracurriculars:
In your freshman year, ask for a catalog of all the clubs at your high school and try to attend at least one meeting of the ones you find interesting. You don’t have to commit to anything just yet, so explore the options available to you.
They Are Not Just School Clubs
Admission officers will tell you that extracurriculars encompass a range of activities. They can be: participating in a religious organization or service, volunteering at the homeless shelter or the local orphanage every month, helping out the neighbors or your siblings with their homework every week, etc.
The only things that don’t qualify as extracurriculars are your classes at school and any jobs in which you get paid. So, anything that does not qualify as those two are fair game! Make sure to include any activities on your application that you've participated in for years, such as playing an instrument from a young age.
Not Too Thin!
Don’t participate in everything, but don’t participate in just one thing. You only have so much time and energy that you can dedicate to each activity and you won’t be able to dedicate yourself enough to each one if you do a billion of them. You also don’t want to do just one thing when you have other options available to you; that will send all the wrong signals to college admission officers, no matter how passionate you are about that one activity. Find a happy medium.
Commitment, Commitment, Commitment
As you reach your junior and senior years, you should be able to show a growth in the amount of commitment to each of your activities since you first began. You don’t have to be president of your school’s National Honor Society, but you also don’t want to just be a member for two years. If the activities don’t provide you with the opportunity to grow in the ranks, then make sure you apply yourself in a way that allows colleges to see your dedication. Try to coordinate an activity or two; take the initiative to become more and more involved with this club or organization's executive decisions.
If there’s one thing you should remember when it comes to extracurriculars, it’s this:colleges are looking to admit students who will take advantage of the opportunities they will come across on/off campus; whether it’s in the form of clubs or research or internships, university campuses are teeming with ways to contribute to the community and to your future career. The best indicator that a student will actively pursue these opportunities and grow in them is their past participation in extracurricular activities. So, take advantage of everything!