Day 4: The role of extracurriculars in admissions
Free Email Video Series – Day 4
Here’s a quick run-down of what you’ll learn in this video.
High school is an exciting time for teens.
It’s not only a step up academically for most students. It also is the first time in which they begin to spread their social wings: they begin to learn how to forge lasting friendships—and how hard that can be at times.
They also begin to involve themselves in various activities. Sure, many have been busy before. But in high school, young people gain independence and a sense of responsibility as they commit to more and different organizations and pastimes.
It’s no secret that extracurricular activities are important in the admissions process. But how important are they, really? Sometimes it’s hard to convince students that academics should come first. College is another form of “school,” and colleges want to know whether you can excel in that fundamental set of academic pursuits.
Extracurricular activities present an opportunity, however, for young people to gain other valuable skills.
For example, they may help to build a student’s sense of commitment, especially when faced with challenges or obstacles to overcome. Sometimes sports practices can be physically grueling, and few musicians love every moment of their practice sessions.
Rehearsals for the school play can become tedious, and sometimes your plans for laying out the newspaper can run into snags when peers fail to meet their deadlines.
Extracurricular achievements demonstrate not only talent, but also perseverance, cooperation, and determination.
Extracurriculars also offer students the opportunity to develop their leadership skills, as they may take on more and more responsibility over the four years of their involvements.
Some students learn how to encourage and coach their peers—skills that future employers will covet.
They learn to set goals and create processes for meeting them and find ways to inspire others to achieve their vision.
Mostly, however, extracurricular activities offer young people an opportunity to explore the world around them, to test their interests, and to discover their talents.
In the college admissions office, however, the extracurricular accomplishments that an applicant presents can make it or break it for some students. The most selective institutions, especially, place a high premium on these achievements.
What are colleges looking for?
Curiosity: is the student interested in the world around them and becoming an active participant in it?
Motivation: is the student driven by internal factors that drive the student to strive for excellence?
Energy: is the student dedicating all their talents and abilities to achieving something that matters to him or her?
Leadership ability: has the student demonstrated the ability to motivate others to apply their energies to accomplish a goal?
Special talents: does the student have unusual gifts in one or more areas that he or she is exploring and dedicating to reaching the highest heights?
So which extracurricular activities should a student pursue?
The answer is simple: anything at all. There is no formula, no template, no list of “approved” or “desired” activities.
There is no precise mix of athletics, arts, community service, research, internships, and employment. All can be helpful, but none is required.
The goals is clear, however: excellence.
However, it is also true that many colleges and universities do not pay a whole lot of attention to a student’s extracurricular record as they consider an application.
Unless the student is a recruited athlete or has the artistic talent to enter a specialized degree program that showcases that talent, then all colleges really want to know is whether you have basic interests that indicate you will be a solid citizen contributing positively to the life of the school.
Many state universities, in particular, do not emphasize extracurricular achievements in the admissions process: your grades and test scores will be the basic metrics of your admissibility.
In this video you will learn more about how admissions offices factor in extracurricular achievements in the admissions process.
You’ll also learn more about how selective colleges and universities focus not so much the substance of a student’s involvement but on the underlying reasons for those involvements.
– Why is the student so heavily invested in this activity?
– Why does the student care enough about this activity that they are willing to spend an inordinate amount of time in the pursuit of excellence?
At the end of the lesson, you will be invited to catalog and categorize all your extracurricular involvements.
No matter where you are in the process of preparing for college, this inventory will allow you to reflect on your activities and perhaps make some decisions about which are the most important to you.
For as we have been saying repeatedly during this course, it is the decisions that matter most throughout the process of preparing for college.
And sometimes these decisions are difficult. For example:
• When is it okay to quit an activity (even if “no one likes a quitter”)?
• When is it okay to pursue an activity that is purely social in nature?
• How do you get your head wrapped around this word “passion” that everyone keeps yammering on about?
• How many activities should I be pursuing?
• When should you just stop over-analyzing everything and just enjoy what you’re doing?
This video lesson should help you keep some perspective as a family. You really don’t need to be running around like crazy people supporting all your child’s activities. You need to find balance, and you need to maintain a focus on happiness.
So once you have completed your inventory of your student’s extracurricular activities, you’ll be ready for tomorrow’s installment of our video course, in which we’ll delve into the science—and art—of estimating your chances of admission.
As a special offer to you for going through my email video masterclass, I’m offering you our Roadmap Planning session, normally $450, for only $375—a $75 discount.
As always, don’t forget to join our Facebook group, College Admissions Experts. We look forward to answering your burning questions and hearing about your thoughts on the process.