Part One looked at how your extracurricular profile can work as an effective tool to help your application stand out. It requires a little strategic planning to successfully shape how you communicate your passions, personality, skills, interests, and capabilities to college admissions. The question arises, how do you choose your extracurricular activities effectively? Here are a few helpful tips!

  1. Determine what interests you and what you care about, and look for activities that align with your values and long term goals. Do you love animals? Then you might look for a weekly volunteer opportunity at a local shelter. Curious about architecture and design? Consider joining the set design team for your school play. Many students try to find activities that fit in with what they hope to study in college or pursue as a career. Do not be discouraged if, in the process, you find that your chosen subject isn’t the right fit for you! Colleges know that interests evolve over time and that self-discovery is an important part of this process.
  2. Once you have gotten involved in a few activities, take the time to assess your experiences. Consider if the activity is enjoyable now and ask yourself if it will continue to be so in a year. Is it challenging you? How have you developed and changed through the experience? Can you see potential for a leadership role? Is there scope for more personal development? Has this given you insight into possible academic paths and career options? Reflecting on the activities will give you a better understanding of what you are enjoying, how you are benefiting, and what will serve you best in the long run.
  3. Once you have committed to extracurricular activities, position yourself as a leader within these organizations. This means not just earning a title, but using that title to tangibly drive the organization’s objectives. A role of responsibility can demonstrate your skills as a communicator, motivator, organizer, and decision-maker, all highly regarded by US admissions committees, especially if you can show how you have used this position to contribute to your community. 
  4. Focus on quality over quantity. It’s important to remember that admissions officers aren’t just looking for a long list of extracurricular activities on your resume. They’re interested in seeing what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown, and what kind of impact you’ve made through your involvement. Specifically, look for “high threshold” activities, which are challenging to get involved with or execute, like highly selective programs, competitions, or self-driven projects with measurable community impact. While serving as your school’s debate club captain shows leadership and initiative, placing in the top three at a nationwide debate competition will almost certainly make you stand out even more. 
  5. Once you have identified your area of academic focus, show colleges your commitment to your chosen field. Are you interested in engineering but unsure if you want to focus on mechanical, computer, or biomedical engineering? Or are you keen on business management, but do not have any relevant experiences to share with colleges? Participating in summer programs, competitions, online courses, internships, and mentored research can help you narrow your focus, identify areas of specialization, and “build a spike” in a particular area.
  6. Consider both academic and non-academic activities.  Non-academic activities can be just as fulfilling and can demonstrate a level of creativity, resourcefulness, and ambition that might not be achieved otherwise.  For instance, converting a hobby (like photography or jewelry-making) into a small business venture or using it to support a charity of your choice would add dimension to your profile. Similarly participating in a team sport or coaching younger players would demonstrate skills that are not normally showcased in a classroom setting. 
  7. Pick one or two activities that you can develop into your self-driven passion project(s). For example, if you have been part of a women’s empowerment/gender justice club at school, could you start a mentoring program for younger girls at your school or a local under-resourced school? Or perhaps you could launch a feminist podcast and feature different guest speakers each episode? Or, even still, you could start a tutoring/buddy program with girls in another part of the world? While it should be ambitious and challenging, your project should also reflect the skills and abilities you have gained through your high school career. Here is where you can really shape your narrative to reflect your strengths and interests!

Finding the right activities for your college applications requires careful consideration. The goal is to set yourself apart from other applicants but also to have fun, to grow as a person, and to explore your interests, whether academic or not.

If you would like to discuss this further or need help planning your extracurricular profile, please get in touch!

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