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The Truth About Extracurriculars

If you’re preparing for your junior or senior year in high school, you’ve kicked up your college planning a notch or two. Aside from earning good grades and achieving solid scores on your standardized tests, you’re interested in doing anything else that might help you get into the college of your choice. That’s that line of thinking that leads many students to pack their resumes with as many extracurricular activities as possible. But is that really necessary?

Many students and parents approach this issue in a very formulaic manner. They imagine that college admissions boards are combing your application, looking for one sport, one leadership position, one social club, one volunteer endeavor, and so on. While a well-rounded resume can certainly be a good thing, it might not be truly necessary. College admissions counselors often share the following truths about extracurriculars…

Some activities aren’t that impressive. Admissions boards can recognize these as “resume padding” a mile away. Activities that anyone can join, and that require minimal effort or participation, just aren’t that helpful from an admissions perspective. You should still do them, if you enjoy them, and go ahead and list them on your resume. But don’t count on these activities being the ticket into your favorite school.

The activities aren’t as important as what you do with them. For example, joining the French club is common and easy enough for anyone to do. Admissions board will be more impressed by the student who also works in a French restaurant, studies abroad, or starts a letter-writing project with Haitian school children (who speak French at school).

Focus on activities that require an explanation. Everyone knows what Student Council, Debate Team, or Chess Club are. But if you’ve worked with a local project to distribute art supplies to children in the hospital, that would require explanation on your resume. Therefore it is more interesting to college admissions board, and makes you appear more unique.

Quality trumps quantity. It’s fine to list everything on your resume. But make sure to emphasize those activities that are more unique, that carry more meaning, and especially those that you initiated or organized yourself.

Finally, if an activity doesn’t truly interest you, and your participation is only minimal anyway, it’s okay to drop it. Spend that time focusing on something that really ignites a passion. Colleges will notice that, and those activities are the ones that will help you gain admission.

 

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