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EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES FOR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS


 

Check out another article from one of our amazing college admission mentors, Rosanna Kataja (book with her on our website!)


 

One of the trickiest parts about US college admissions is that your SAT test scores and GPA alone won’t be enough to get you the acceptance letter.


What you are going to learn in this post are reasons why extracurriculars are important both for your college application as well as your personal growth. There is no one magic extracurricular activity that you should be pursuing, and instead, you should do what you’re the most passionate about. I’m also going to talk about different life circumstances where you might not be able to pursue your passions because even responsibilities that may seem mundane are valuable too. 


School Play

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash


WHAT ARE EXTRACURRICULARS?


In short, extracurricular activities are what you do outside of class. It can include arts (e.g., dancing, painting), sports (e.g., swimming, football), clubs (e.g., debate or Model United Nations), jobs (e.g., working at a restaurant), service (e.g., volunteering at an animal shelter), personal commitments (e.g., caring for a younger sibling), and other endeavors.

In the US, schools place a stronger emphasis on extracurricular activities, whereas in some other countries it’s not considered to be part of the school’s function. For example, my school didn’t offer many extracurricular activities, and those that it did offer were not popular among the students. However, you can still be active outside of school! For example, I joined a theater program where I met people from different schools.


WHY ARE EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES IMPORTANT?


It can feel overwhelming having to include so many aspects in your college application and make each of them really strong. You’re already showing them that you’re a great and dedicated student, what more can they ask for?


Unfortunately, selective colleges are receiving more and more applications each year for roughly the same amount of spots, making the acceptance rate hit record-lows year after year. Therefore, showing all your great qualities is extremely important to make you stand out. 


Think about this scenario: there are two academically identical applicants. Both got straight As and have the same SAT scores. However, one of them is active in school musicals and runs the debate team, while the other one doesn’t do anything of the sort. Who seems more likely to handle busy college life and take advantage of all the great opportunities that college has to offer?


Extracurriculars are a great way to show many of your great qualities, such as dedication, leadership skills, creativity, and compassion. For example, student clubs help you learn how to work with others, and paid jobs teach you responsibility. The more you put into an activity, the more you get out of it.


It’s also not all about gaining skills that are useful in the future, but you should enjoy your extracurricular activity and it should make your life more exciting! Days off are important, but most of us would get bored if we had nothing going on in our lives most of the time.


WHAT ARE THE BEST EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES?


I will not give you “The Top 10 Extracurriculars That Will Get You Into College” for that they do not exist. There is no magic extracurricular activity that will get you in or one that definitely will get you rejected. 


Think about the scenario of the two academically identical students again. The first student does theatre and runs the debate team. Now, let’s say that the other student spends a lot of time playing video games.


You may now think that the first student is more compelling because theatre and debate seem like activities that are somehow more important. They sound more prestigious, and maybe teach more skills.


Now, let’s say that the student who plays video games is actually one of the top players in the world, travels for international tournaments and runs the school’s video gaming club, and maybe even mentors younger students who want to become competitive players.


Sounds pretty cool, right?


This is why there are no specific extracurriculars that you should be doing. Don’t do Model United Nations Club if you find zero interest in it, or stop doing theatre because you don’t think it’s important enough.


Instead, here are the key questions to see if your extracurricular activities give you a good edge on college admissions:


HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND DOING THE ACTIVITY?


This shows your dedication to it. If you just paint for 15 minutes every other week, maybe you’re not that passionate about it. You don’t have to spend hours and hours every day, but in general, you should have a couple of activities that you spend a considerable amount of time with. It also shows good time management skills if you can juggle excelling at school and other time-consuming activities. 


Very important note: in college admissions, even taking care of your family counts as an extracurricular activity. If you have a family situation that doesn’t allow you to spend a lot of time doing hobbies like arts and sports, don’t worry! Taking care of your family still teaches you many skills, and you should not be at any disadvantage with that. Taking care of my family was actually at the very top of my own extracurricular list on my college application. Just do your best in the circumstances you are in. 


DO YOU HAVE A LEADERSHIP ROLE IN IT?


Many successful applicants have had leadership roles in their extracurricular activities. If you have a chance, run for student body president, lead your favorite club, or start your own! Based on your interest, you should try to show initiative. Try to create your own opportunities. 


WHAT DOES YOUR EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITY TEACH YOU?


You don’t need fancy and expensive hobbies to learn new skills. Use every opportunity you get to learn something. For example, taking care of your family or having a paid job teaches you responsibility and integrity. Waking up early to go run outside no matter the weather teaches you determination and perseverance. Tutoring your peers teaches you leadership and communication. The list goes on and on. Try to turn your experiences, no matter how big or small, into learning moments. 


WHY DO YOU DO IT?


This is super important! When you are writing about your hobbies and extracurricular activities, you need to have a clear reason why you are doing it. The reason should be that you love doing it! The worst reasons are that you do it just for college admissions, your parents forced you, or you just felt like you have to do it because everyone else does it too.

Passionate people are more interesting. Again, some people may have family or other responsibilities that keep them from doing something they love, but you should still write about what your passions are! Maybe every night after you put your siblings to bed, you turned your flashlight on to read the books you love or dance in the backyard. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you love it! There’s nothing more boring for admissions officers to read than someone describing their generic hobbies that they do just to show off. At the same time, there’s nothing more exciting than reading about unique passions and how people go above and beyond to pursue excellence in them. For example, I don’t wake up at 7 am every Saturday to go to dance class because I have to, but because I genuinely want to go. 


DO YOU WANT TO KEEP DOING IT IN COLLEGE?


This is by no means necessary. You are allowed and encouraged to try out new things in college and maybe quit some of your old hobbies. It’s still good to think about what you might want to do in college because it’s often asked in the application.


CONCLUSION


In conclusion, extracurricular activities are an important part of the college application because it helps understand each applicant better, and they also teach incredibly useful life skills. There is no specific list of activities you should be doing to impress college admissions officers because the best activities are those that you truly enjoy doing and always pursue excellence in them.


 

Article originally posted here.

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