If you’re a college hopeful worried that your application still has a few holes in it, you should consider signing up for some extracurricular activities while there’s still time to shine.
They’ll provide you with a set of skills and interests that will enrich your high school experience and look attractive to any college admissions office.
Football, marching band, student government, model UN: there are tons of different exciting and engaging clubs and groups, and almost all of them can help give you a leg up on getting into your dream school. But you want to make sure you go about joining these activities in the right way.
It’s easy enough to jump into the world of extracurricular activities without giving a thought to your game plan beforehand. But there are plenty of other students trying many of the same things you are, so you’ll need to focus on standing out from the crowd.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Start Early
Don’t wait until your senior year if you’re trying to improve your transcript. You should ideally start participating in extracurricular activities when you’re a freshman or sophomore in high school.
It doesn’t matter which activity or activities you finally end up pursuing: getting an early start will help give you a solid grounding as you go forward. You’ll be able to gain important experience, form relationships and absorb knowledge that will make you an asset to the group as your high school career continues.
Boasting a years-long commitment to a club or sport is good, but what will really make you stand out on your college application is multiple years commitment to the same extracurricular activities. This shows college admissions boards that you’re a devoted person who can see something through to the end.
Colleges are constantly on the lookout for well-rounded individuals. What better way to display your worldliness than by having a range of different activities in your transcript’s extracurricular column?
If you’re playing baseball in the spring, why not try out for the fall drama? When you don’t have to fulfill your duties as class president, consider joining the color guard.
That being said, don’t join a club just for the sake of being able to list it as another extracurricular activity. Do things that genuinely interest you — after all, the point is to show the college who you are!
And don’t overload yourself with a ton of extracurricular activities. It may negatively affect your grades and other responsibilities and you don’t want to be a member only in name!
Most college admissions boards are more impressed when you can list a leading role in a few select groups, rather than simply membership in a lot of groups.
So instead of joining a host of groups, consider sticking just with those you are truly passionate about and assuming a more important role like editor of the school newspaper and co-captain of the track team. This shows colleges that you have leadership qualities and know how to efficiently manage your time.
3. Keep Your Story in Mind
As with everything else in your college application, your admissions essay needs to stand out from the crowd. The best way to do that is to craft an engaging personal narrative. Taking part in extracurricular activities in school can help form the background for that narrative.
Let’s say you perform in your school’s theater program. You could touch on the thrill of putting on a production, and talk about how much you’ve learned by working as part of a team to pull off a big show.
But don’t lose focus: you also want to let them know that you hope to get the opportunity to put that knowledge to use in your college career. You should let your extracurricular activity reflect the qualities that top schools want to see in you.
And if you already have an idea of what you want to study in college, selecting extracurricular activities that involve and showcase your skills in that area can be extremely helpful. For instance, if you want to study engineering, being president of the physics club and participating in the science fair will look impressive.
Staying True to Who You Are
More than anything, colleges want to get a sense that you’re staying engaged even when you’re not cracking the books. You want them to be able to see that at a glance, just by taking a look at the extracurricular activities that you pursue in high school.
And they want to get a sense of who you are as a student and as an individual. Just follow your interests and passions and you can’t go wrong.
Were you captain of the dance team or are you considering running for student government? Let us know about your extracurricular activities in the comment section below!