Are you getting ready to finish off those college applications? Maybe you're not quite there yet, but you're thinking ahead? Before you hit "submit," you should know just how important presenting your extracurriculars is in the admissions process!
Nearly every college application has questions regarding the applicant’s extracurricular activities. It can be difficult to determine which activities and organizations impress universities since admissions officers are human beings with their own biases and interests. However, a universally accepted notion is that someone who uses their downtime in an area that they are passionate about is a constructive and motivated individual.
Are you worried you don’t have any extracurricular activities because you weren’t involved in sports or clubs at school? Don’t be! Extracurricular activities are often things you regularly partake in outside of the classroom, such as ballet, community service, writing comics or attending youth group.
It isn’t so much about the activity itself, but the commitment and the passion. Here are some ways that you can make your listed extracurricular activities count.
- Elaboration is key. It isn’t enough to list that you were involved in something (or even 10 things!) What’s important is that you show the passion behind what you did. What did you learn while reporting for the paper? How did mentoring a younger classmate change your life? Why did you continue to stick it out when the going got tough in your debate club?
- Point out any leadership roles. Were you the editor of your school yearbook? Were you the team captain of your basketball team? Did you lead the church choir? Even if you only were involved in one extracurricular activity throughout your academic career, possessing a leadership role shows that you retain qualities of a teacher, a team player and someone who isn’t afraid to put in a little extra work.
- Connect the dots when possible. If one of your extracurricular activities is something you want to keep participating in during college, say so! Better yet, if you engaged in academic organizations in high school affiliated with the area of study you plan on getting your degree in, show off your experience. Extra points for sharing any awards or recognitions you received.
- Timelines are crucial. Take the time to detail not only the amount of months or years you devoted to these activities, but how many hours or days a week you spent on them. Nothing says commitment like cold, hard facts.
- Don't leave out one-time events. Just because you only did it once, doesn’t mean it doesn’t count! If you devoted time to organizing a city festival or putting on a gaming tournament for a charity, that is still an extracurricular activity.
- Unconventional interests can make you stand out. Have you spent years teaching yourself to play the bagpipes? Do you go birding every month? Do you log countless weekend hours learning the art of coding? Are you learning how to brew beer? Is people watching something you enjoy, and if so, have you ever observed passerby and invented backstories for them? Admissions wants to hear about it!
- Jobs and chores also count. If you are helping your family out by caring for your siblings or bringing in a little extra cash, that is certainly not something you want to forget to mention. This shows that you are a person of character that can handle the juggling of school/work balance. While some struggle with this as college students, you will be a step ahead of the game.