It’s hard to believe that summer is over! As you settle into the new school year, you may find yourself wondering whether any of your sports, clubs, or summer commitments will make a difference in the college admission process. These activities do matter to admissions officers, but not because they are the “right” ones. They matter because you are highlighting what you value and how you have grown, as a result of specific interests and activities.
With that in mind, here are our tips for identifying key extra-curricular interests this year.
- Be authentic. Seek out and take full advantage of opportunities you truly enjoy. Think about what you enjoy doing, dedicate time to that endeavor, and share your excitement for it with others. If you enjoy service, for example, combine it with another interest. 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.
- 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 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!
- 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 extra-curriculars! 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 apply to college, the depth of your involvement will be noted with appreciation.
As your extra-curricular 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 time rolls around, you’ll have plenty of authentic, important experiences and insights to share.