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What to know

Colleges care about the kind of people they admit.

Because what you do every day, weekend, month, summer and year says a lot about what kind of person you are, extracurricular activities are of great interest to admissions people.

Admissions officers want applicants who will take full advantage of their school's academic and other opportunities, as well as give back. Therefore, they tend to admit students who will make a difference during and after college. One of the best ways of predicting what students will do in college and thereafter is to see what they have done in high school.


How Colleges Look at extracurricular activities

•  Extracurricular activities are defined as any involvements outside a student’s regular coursework.

•  It is a myth that colleges want well-rounded students. What they are looking for is students who are focused on one, two or three activities in which they are totally involved, if not passionate. In the end, they want a well-rounded freshman class.

•  Sometimes colleges are more impressed with out-of-school activities than they are with in-school activities.

•  To get accepted to the Ivy/Elite colleges, students need to have exceptional activities and/or talents.

• There is no way to predict what activities will impress college admissions folks. What counts is how you are able express what your chosen activities mean to you.


What to know

Choosing activities

•  The Golden Rule for choosing extracurricular activities:  do what you love (or at least what you’re interested in). Develop interests and follow your passions, whatever they are.

•  Psychological research says that people who do what they enjoy are happier, healthier, usually more successful people.

•  Your enthusiasm for an activity--or lack of it--often comes through in college applications.

•  No one activity will get you accepted into college; rather, what interests admissions officers is the weaving together of a pattern of activities and interests (sometimes going back to when you were very young) that demonstrate who you are.

•  In choosing extracurricular activities, go for quality, not quantity: 2,3, 4 activities or sports over a number of years.

•  Develop a couple or a few interests and act on them every which way you can.

Extracurricular activities are a major way you can show how unique and qualified you are.

•  When you complete applications, it’s important to explain what you do, why it’s important to you, what you have learned from it and how you will continue it after high school.

•  Community service involvement is useful because it demonstrates how you are interested in getting beyond just yourself.

  It’s never too late to begin looking for something special to do. For ideas about possible pursuits, go to Ideas for Extracurricular Activities list in the Examples/List tab on the top navigation bar.


What to know

Freshman Year
Freshman year is a perfect time to taste and explore different activities to see what is fun, interesting and/or meaningful to you. In the spring, begin exploring special experiences for the summer before your sophomore year.

sophomore Year
10th grade is the time to focus your activities on three or four areas you really enjoy. See what’s available at school and if you don’t find what you like, check out opportunities outside of school or even create what you want. In the spring, don’t forget to plan something for the summer before your junior year.

junior Year
By the time you hit junior year, you should have settled into a few favorite activities. Go beyond just being a member of a club or team; take a leadership role. 11th grade is also a perfect time to put together a first draft of your Activities Resume. Make sure that you do something special for the summer before your senior year (a number of applications ask what you did during the two summers before your senior year).

senior Year
Senior year is when your involvements should peak. Go for the presidency or another officer position of a club/organization; push yourself to be the leader or captain of a team; apply for selected programs in an area of your interest; or go outside your school to develop a skill/talent. Since the college admissions process is time consuming, limit your activities to those that are most enjoyable and meaningful. Drop any that are not.


When to do it

Please don’t push your kids to do things that "everyone says" will get them into college. That doesn’t work, and might even backfire on you. Rather, support them in doing what fits their interests, talents and personal bents. Encourage your child to find and do what he or she loves. If your student doesn’t know, have them take a look at this website’s Ideas for Extracurricular Activities in the Examples/Lists section.

Also, don’t forget to help your son/daughter achieve a balance between schoolwork and living a full, happy, active life.


by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz
Excerpted from adMISSION POSSIBLE® (Sourcebooks, Inc, April 2012)

If you want to know more about this and other admissions topics, read
Getting into the Best Colleges for you
. Order it here!



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