“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” This proverb, best known from the seminal horror flick The Shining, is actually a sentiment that college admissions offices really take to heart. Sure, your transcript holds tremendous weight and your test scores will be carefully considered. However, schools aren’t interested in students who simply bury themselves in books or view the library as their second homes. They like applicants who are passionate and inspired by life beyond the classroom. Therefore, they want students who eagerly participate in extracurricular activities.
Extracurriculars are a way for applicants to distinguish themselves from other students and to highlight their personalities. Moreover, they help demonstrate an understanding of both time management and how to handle responsibility. Further, they show an appreciation for dedication to a club or craft. Of course, similar to other admissions factors, there are some dos and don’ts when it comes to extracurricular activities.
First off, you should understand that it’s quality over quantity. A college won’t be amazed by a laundry list of twenty clubs, especially if you just display periodic involvement. Schools are much more taken with candidates who have been truly committed to two or three activities and who reveal genuine interest in their chosen pursuits.
Additionally, leadership is a characteristic that universities value. While you don’t need to be captain of every sports team or president of every club, you should aim to take an important and active role in a few groups. Indeed, run for office or volunteer to chair a committee. In doing so, you illustrate that you have drive and ambition and that you’re willing to take initiative. Further, you show that you understand how to communicate and delegate, both of which are vital and often quite challenging.
Extracurricular activities don’t necessarily need to be sanctioned by your high school for you to include them on your application. Youth groups, after school jobs, a rock band you form – these all have merit. Just like the football team or your school’s chapter of Amnesty International, they require your time, your talent and your enthusiasm. Further, they help to demonstrate that you have the zest and the wherewithal to pursue an interest beyond the traditional avenues open to you.
Of course, it’s never a good idea to take on a sport or join a group simply because you think it’ll be your ticket into a school. Similarly, it won’t do you any good to tack on a few clubs at the end of your high school tenure in an attempt to seem active. Admissions officers will likely see through your façade of participation. Instead, use this time and opportunity to really explore. If you’ve always loved writing, join the newspaper or the lit mag. If you have always wanted to give acting a shot, now’s the time to audition for the school play. The more you do and experience, the more you’ll develop and grow. Your life will be all the richer for it. And this won’t go unnoticed by the admissions committee.