Admission to your dream college is not only contingent on academic success, but also your extracurricular work. College admission officers want to know you as more than just a number. They want to know what makes you tick. They will ask deep questions about what you are passionate about, and what drives you. So, it’s in your interests to have experienced meaningful extracurricular activities in order to answer these questions.
The difference between quantity vs quality
Many students are convinced that they need to build up a huge resume, with pages and pages of activities that they are involved in. However, admissions officers do not want to see a resume with hundreds of activities, each of which you only spent a small amount of time on. They know that as a student, you only have a limited amount of time beyond your academic obligations; and they want to see that you use that time to truly pursue your interests and passions. Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue diverse activities or interests; but whatever you do choose to pursue, you should make meaningful.
Another common question that comes up:
Is there a specific type of activity that looks better on your application than others?
For example, some people think they need to play a sport to get into college; while others think that unconventional activities like getting a pilot license are better than more traditional activities such as joining the student council. However, none of these assumptions are correct.
More than the type of activity that you choose to pursue, admissions officers are trying to understand certain intangible aspects of your personality that your grades cannot show. Anything can be a good extracurricular activity if it shows who you are as a person. Think of how you want to focus your work, such as your humanitarian side, leadership skills, and top interests.
You should pursue three or four activities that you are truly passionate about, and that you are willing to invest time in over the course of your high school career. The activities should reflect diverse aspects of yourself and your personality- your maturity, service, dedication, leadership skills, and of course, your passions.
Here is our recommendation for college admissions:
- academic-oriented activity (an activity geared towards the field of study that you want to pursue in college),
- leadership activity,
- personality activity, and
- community service activity.
The academic-oriented activity really helps to show admissions officers that you are truly passionate about the field you are choosing to pursue. The leadership activity helps to show admissions officers that you are hard-working, have people skills, and can be an innovator in your field. The community service activity shows responsibility and empathy. The personality activity helps interesting aspects of your personality to show through, and it shows balance. Here is a specific example that illustrates what we mean:
An aspiring journalist could join the school newspaper as his academic-oriented activity. For leadership, he could work up in ranks to become the editor in chief of the paper. On the service effort, the student could tutor others after school in English, writing, and journalism. Maybe even start a tutoring club to help students in under-resourced schools. For a personality activity, the student could pursue his interests beyond journalism; for example, in art and painting.
These activities help to really round out the student in terms of all aspects of his personality. Taking time to cultivate meaningful extracurricular activities really helps to paint a picture for the admissions officers to get to know him as a person, a volunteer, and a leader.
Want to learn how to build / focus your resume and extracurriculars for college admissions? Speak to an experienced college counselor today: