Saturday, February 2, 2013

Can Activities Help Your College Application?

You don't approve of my choice in extracurricu...
You don't approve of my choice in extracurricular activity? (Photo credit: The Rocketeer)
by Sia Knight

Families all over the country seek to gain the competitive edge that will lead to certain college admittance.

Not only are grades, test scores and course selection key factors, but extra-curricular activities can play an important role in the college admissions process.

While there is no secret formula that will lead to automatic admission to your school of choice, there are tips to keep in mind when considering extra-curricular activities:

  • Don't pick activities just because they will look good on your college applications. It is a good idea to be strategic about how to spend your time and energy, but it is a mistake to choose an activity solely because of its perceived value to colleges. If you don't like government, politics or international affairs, don't join the Model UN because you think that it will give you the upper hand when applying to school. Chances are that you will not be a valuable contributor to that group and your membership will be more of a burden than an asset to everyone involved.
  • Don't load up on activities during your last two years of high school. Colleges can easily see through that sham. It's better to pick a couple of activities that you are deeply interested in and play a leadership role in those organizations.
  • Different schools assign a varying level of value to extra-curricular activities. What is consistent, however, is that your membership in clubs and activities cannot make up for mediocre to poor grades. So, if you have to make the choice, study instead of joining another organization.
  • If you are applying to competitive schools, typical community service will not easily impress them. For instance, volunteering at the local homeless shelter is a noble and worthwhile gesture. However, the students who have made an impression on selective schools have built a homeless shelter in their backyard and are feeding the residents with homegrown vegetables that they have raised organically using all recyclable materials (see the difference?).

While it is okay to consider college admission when choosing high school extra-curriculars, don't get so caught up in the college prep frenzy that you miss out on participating in what could turn out to be your life-long passion.

There is great value in many different types of clubs and organizations. Don't forget to balance what may look good on a college application with what is a good fit on a day-to-day basis. Being true to yourself is always the best strategy.

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