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How to Focus on Extracurriculars that Colleges Want to See in the New Year

It’s hard to believe that the new year is already here! As you settle into second  semester, you may find yourself wondering whether any of your sports, clubs, or summer commitments will make a difference in the admission process when you sit down to complete your college application. And the answer is yes! These activities do matter to admissions officers, but not because they are the “right” ones. They matter because you’re highlighting what you value and how you’ve grown, as a result of specific interests and activities.

With that in mind, here are our tips for identifying key extracurricular interests this school year.

1. Be authentic. Seek out and take full advantage of opportunities you truly enjoy and share them with others. 

Think about what you enjoy doing, dedicate time to that endeavor, and share your excitement for it with others. Colleges love to see passion and dedicated interest. If you enjoy service, for example, combine it with another interest like animals, the environment, or piano. If you’re an athlete, try coaching a youth sports team. If you are in an a cappella group, encourage your peers to visit a nursing home to sing for the elderly. If you love robotics, mentor a middle school FIRST LEGO league team. There are many meaningful ways to connect with and serve the community right in your own neighborhood.

2. Learn something new. Stretch yourself.

In school-based clubs, find an opportunity that helps you develop new skills. If you’ve always been apprehensive about public speaking and your school offers Model UN, try it out! You may not be in the spotlight on the first try, but you can always work your way up to being a delegate. If you love baking, serve on a fundraising committee and combine your bake sale know-how with leading your peers. As you increase your involvement, challenge yourself by taking on a leadership position. You never know what you might learn!

3. Don’t overschedule yourself. Build in time to reflect. 

Have you heard the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none?” This idea applies to extracurriculars! Students today have overflowing plates, with classes, homework, and standardized tests.  It’s also important to have time to wind down and get to bed on time.  So pick a few key activities that you enjoy, that give you opportunities to grow, and stick with them. When you go to write your college application, the depth of your involvement will be noted with appreciation.

As your extracurricular profile develops, advisors, teachers, supervisors, and counselors will take note. If you feel you’ve made an important connection with someone and done an exceptional job with an activity, that advisor or supervisor may be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you. Take him or her up on the offer! Carefully chosen recommendations help admission officers to appreciate not just your work, but also your values.

As important as it is to look ahead and plan for the admissions process, it’s vital to stay in the moment and take advantage of every opportunity to learn about yourself, and others, through each commitment. If you invest time and energy in your activities, you’ll reap real benefits – and by the time application season rolls around, you’ll have plenty of authentic, important experiences and insights to share.

Conclusion

Still unsure about how to best represent yourself in regards to your extracurricular activities? Speak to a Marks Education Counselor to better understand how to use your experiences to write a winning essay!

Learn more about Marks Education Counselor Shivani Sutton who provides some of the most phenomenal college counseling NW Washington, DC has to offer.

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