Activities Can Help Students Discover Their Interests and Stand Out When Applying to College
If you think grades and standardized test scores are the only factors that matter to college admissions officers, it is time to think again. While these types of quantitative measures are certainly important, there are a variety of other components that will carry considerable weight on your college applications, including how you spend your time on the weekends and after school.
Extracurricular activities are one of the most important “soft factors”, or non-numerical application elements, that admissions officers review. In fact, 1/3 of colleges rate extracurricular involvement as being of “considerable importance” to the admissions process. Keep reading to learn more about why universities prioritize after-school activities and what you can do to make sure your extracurricular involvement helps set you apart from the pack.
Expertise is an Admissions Priority
Many students may be surprised to learn that universities aren’t looking for the most well-rounded applicants. Instead, admissions officers seek out students with discernible interests and passions in one or two areas. Selecting applicants with a diverse array of specialties ensures that the university’s student body will be well rounded and comprised of passionate young adults who are willing to go the extra mile for the subject they care about most. Instead of signing up for as many clubs as possible, pinpoint what activities truly interest you and deepen your commitment and understanding of these passions.
Demonstrate Your Role on Campus
Another reason why extracurricular involvement is so important is because it allows admissions offices to clearly gauge how you will fit in on campus. Every college has its own set of institutional needs; schools are looking for athletes to play on their football teams, musicians to join campus bands, and writers who will contribute to local newspapers. The activities you choose in high school will help demonstrate how you will contribute to the university once you set foot on campus. Applicants who are eager to go the extra mile and show their demonstrated interest in a specific college should do their research and specifically reference certain clubs they wish to join and classes they are interested in taking.
Learn More About Yourself
The best college essays are those that reveal who the applicant is and the experiences that have defined him or her. Trying out a handful of activities, particularly during the first half of high school, provides students with the opportunity to pinpoint what kind of extracurricular involvement is most meaningful to them. These students can then use this information about both their likes and dislikes to help them compose an informed essay that showcases their personality and the causes that matter most to them.
Don’t Forget About Volunteering
Being captain of the soccer team or editor of the school newspaper are certainly noteworthy accomplishments, but they aren’t the only types of extracurricular activities that can wow an admissions office. In fact, a recent study by x2VOL found that 58 percent of admissions officers believe volunteering has a positive impact on an applicant’s admissions outcomes. To make the most of your community service hours, choose an activity that directly relates to a clearly defined interest. For example, an applicant who is part of his or her school band may choose to volunteer at a community orchestra or local music school.
Given how critical extracurricular involvement is throughout the college application process, it is important to pinpoint what activities matter most and create a plan of action. If you are unsure about what hobbies you wish to pursue, it may be beneficial to reach out to a teacher or independent counselor for guidance. Our team of admissions counselors can help you determine which extracurricular activities you may wish to pursue and how to articulate these passions throughout your college applications.