Empowerly believes that extracurricular activities, along with your essays, can be worth as much as 50% of your college application. In other words, your activities can be the winning distinction among candidates that otherwise look the same in terms of test scores and GPA.
Picking the Right Mix
Today, competitive college candidates always have extracurriculars. What admissions officers will be evaluating is the quality and depth of those activities as they relate to the whole student.
If there were “shoo-in” extracurriculars for college applicants, then everyone would do them. The truth is that the best extracurriculars are unique to each student. Unlike academic statistics, extracurriculars convey to admissions that you are a real person with unique talents and great potential.
If you have already chosen your extracurriculars, check out your candidate competitiveness score from Empowerly. This data-driven tool will give you a specific score for your extracurriculars as part of your overall Empowerly Score and will help you gain a better understanding of where you have the strongest foothold and areas you may need to focus more on.
If you are searching for extracurriculars, you should aim for two to three well-cultivated activities that you can stick with over time. Empowerly has made it easy to determine what your ideal extracurricular mix is with Empowerly’s Activity Matrix. This tool provides a mental framework that will help you consider how each activity contributes to your overall student profile.
Rise to the Top
The #1 quality that college admissions officers look for in extracurriculars is leadership. You want to rise to some position of leadership with a title – team captain, editor-in-chief, club president, or other equivalent roles. (If your extracurricular does not have a title for you, propose one!)
Rising to a leadership role demonstrates a long-term commitment. It shows admissions officers that you are responsible; that you can work in a team setting, and have a good work ethic.
Competitions are great, too. While they don’t necessarily show leadership, they provide evidence of your hard work to attain winner status, and they typically confer a title.
Avoid listing fluffy extras like one-off beach cleanups, token awards, and activities that require minimal effort. These “fillers” will cheapen the impact of your legitimate activities and can hurt your application if they are too frivolous or trivial.
School clubs are great – but in the eyes of college admissions officers, they are easy to join, not particularly demanding (in most cases), and not unique for those who don’t hold a top leadership position. In those cases, off-campus extracurriculars tend to be more compelling and carry more weight. These activities can include:
- Summer Programs
- Part-time Jobs
- Church Groups
- Community Organizations
Any activity that requires you to sacrifice your time away from school and regularly interact in a “real world” setting (typically with working adults) provides you with valuable experiences you won’t otherwise access and therefore enhances your college application.
If you want to knock it out of the park, consider Empowerly’s Startup Internship Program. The SIP team will help you get a foot in the door to educational internship opportunities.
Tell A Story
Your extracurriculars communicate your unique skills as well as personality. You want the record of your time in high school to fit a broader narrative about you — to help college admissions persons see how all of your accomplishments and interests fit together, and why you are such an impressive candidate.
Empowerly calls this your activity thread — the way that you tie your extracurriculars to your overall candidacy to tell a story.
The ideal application will reference your extracurricular experience in your essays and interviews as one consistent, powerful impression. In other words, aim for the best version of yourself. Empowerly can show you exactly how to get the most out of those extracurriculars on your college applications! You can learn more by scheduling a free consultation.
After admissions departments review thousands of applications, there are certain stand-out students. These are candidates with well-established extracurriculars that leave the admissions officers with a memorable, person-like impression of the student. Here are some rockstar student profiles that can catch the eye of admissions:
The Renaissance Student
Some students show that they have diverse talents—e.g, simultaneously participating in theater productions, student council, and science competitions.
Other students may show a well-developed and specific competency, such as a musician who plays in recitals, writes sheet music, and performs with the marching band.
Find your niche. For instance, future rocket scientists who simultaneously participate in the Science, Math, and Chess clubs and compete in robotics competitions.
Multi-letter athletes who are slated for greatness at the collegiate level.
Students who selflessly commit themselves to their community.
Passionate students willing to fight for a good cause.
Students who speak six languages, are competitive dogsledders, or can recite Othello from memory. Well, not these things exactly, but you get the idea. College admissions officers know that the most unexpected perspectives add value of diversity to an academic environment, so let your weirdness show!
If you’re still looking for an extracurricular and none of these suggestions resonate, consider creating your own. Make the most of the resources available to you as a student and recruit members from your school or clubs!
Starting a club or publication, bringing a sport or event to your school, organizing in your community – this is dreamy stuff for admissions officers. In one fell swoop, you can demonstrate leadership, creativity, vision, drive, and character. This is also pure gold for your essays and interviews.
However, be careful of the amount of time this will take. Focus on the impact you create through the activity you set up, in a realistic timeline. Most of all, don’t kickstart a club or found a chapter just for the sake of putting it on your app. Likely, this path will take the most effort to get started, and results are not guaranteed.