How Do You Leverage Extracurricular Activities for Selective College Admissions?

31st Aug 2016

getinvolved

What you do with your free time plays a significant role in the college admissions process. Actually, right after a student’s high school GPA and standardized test scores, extracurricular involvement is the best way for a college to gain a deeper understanding of the person you are, what matters to you, and how you can potentially contribute to college life. The key to this question though, lies in the type of activities you have done, duration of your participation, and demonstration of your growth as an individual over the course of your commitment to the activity. The best way to come across as authentic is by staying true to you. Pursue those interests and passions that are meaningful to you and your personality, talent, creativity, and leadership ability are sure to shine through.

Well, now we know that extracurricular activities can make a big difference in determining who gets accepted to a particular college and who does not. However, if you are puzzled by what counts as an extracurricular activity for college and what does not, I can help. Think of those pursuits that you do beyond the required curriculum of your school (or university, if you are a transfer student). Preferably, these pursuits should relate to your interests. Here is an example of some activities that would count as extracurricular endeavors and others that would not:

Count                                                                                    Does Not Count

student government                                                           doing homework

sports teams                                                                        watching television

community service                                                             playing video games

part-time or summer jobs                                                 spending time on Facebook

internships                                                                           taking required courses

involvement with a political group

hobbies – like trapeze, blogging, and archery

enrichment classes – like robotics or debate

volunteering for your religious organization  

Moreover, the benefits of extracurricular activities are deeper than just listing them on the activities section of your application. Many colleges require recommendation letters and a coach, drama teacher, faculty advisor, employer, or leader of a nonprofit organization could be a great source for praising your efforts and contributions to others. Participation in groups or clubs could also be an ideal platform to display leadership skills or ingenuity; character traits that are highly sought after by many universities. In addition to building a strong student resume, these activities offer substance upon which to draw topics for both college application essays and scholarship essays. 

Aside from enhancing your college application, extracurricular pursuits offer a number of other advantages that aid in a student’s personal development and intellectual growth. Here are 6 compelling reasons to engage in activities outside the classroom that you may not have known:

  1. It offers a chance to explore your interests and discover new pastimes.
  2. Instills the character traits of dedication, responsibility, loyalty, and commitment.
  3. It teaches time managements skills and how to prioritize.
  4. Students gain self-confidence.
  5. It helps to gain new skills.
  6. Students can expand their social circle and make friends with others that share a similar interest.

Check out our blogs next week for more tips on strengthening your extracurricular activities profile with more of Pamela’s advice!


About the author:

Pamela Ohriner has been a college counselor for 7 years and received her MS from Stony Brook University, along with her Graduate certificate in college admissions counseling from UCLA. Pam has extensive experience working with freshman, transfer, international, and graduate school applicants. She has a proven track record of success and her students have consistently placed in top tier schools such as MIT, Cornell University, the UC schools, and USC. Pam is also a member of UCEazy Union,  a network of college admissions experts. To learn more about Pam and to schedule time with her, visit her page here