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Extracurricular Activities: Are They Important on a College Application?

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Extracurricular Activities: Are They Important on a College Application?

by Laura Pearson

Whether your child is just starting elementary school or is already in high school, you’ve probably thought about college at one point or another. You know academics and school involvement are important, but did you know colleges look at your child’s extracurricular activities as well?

What Colleges Look For

College applications require a lot of information, including academic achievement, test scores, academic honors, and sports, but most colleges also want to know about student’s extracurricular activities. What exactly do they look at? According to college admissions counseling company Veritas Prep, college admissions counselors look for an interest in a variety of activities, which shows that the student has a wide range of interests and is willing to try to new things. For example, community-minded activities such as litter clean-up or volunteering at a homeless shelter demonstrate that the student is willing to participate in activities that help others and benefit their community, showing responsibility and concern for others. Activities that showcase leadership skills, such as being a member of a young entrepreneurs club, shows that the student is able to take charge when necessary, and possibly step out of his or her comfort zone.

Although it is good to have a wide variety of interests and extracurricular activities, students shouldn’t join activities just to be able to list them on a college application. College admissions receive thousands of applications, so they have a knack for spotting an application that is padded with a list of extracurricular activities. Strive for quality rather than quantity. USA Today says college admissions want to see passion, dedication, and involvement, so it is “much more desirable to have two or three extracurriculars to which you are truly devoted, than to load up on superficial activities that you don’t care much about.”

When choosing extracurricular activities, your child should consider their talents, interests, and skills rather than what they think will stick out on a college application. The college application is their time to show who they are, not who they think the college wants them to be. According to Princeton Dean of Admissions Janet Rapelye, students should follow their individual interests in the talents they seek to hone or develop. Rapelye says, “Use the criterion of interest when selecting extracurricular activities, rather than how a list of activities might appear to a college admission office.”

Types of Activities

An extracurricular activity is anything that is not a school course or paid employment, so the options may seem endless. ThoughtCo suggests the following ideas for extracurricular activities that are not only educational and fun, but look good on a college application as well:

· Arts – theater, singing, musical instruments, dance, painting, photography, journalism

· Clubs – math, science, language, film, sports, debate

· Church activity – community outreach, teaching/volunteering at summer camp, mission work, church-sponsored music and athletic programs

· Government – student council, student government, advisory boards, leadership positions

· Military – ROTC, drill team

· Sports and swimming

· Volunteer Work – tutoring, mentoring, hospital work, animal rescue, community fundraising

The options for extracurricular activities are vast, and the list above doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Keep in mind that extracurricular activities don’t have to be officially recognized groups – hobbies, such as blogging, collecting, or car remodeling, count too. Whatever the activity, be sure to avoid describing extracurricular activities in broad terms. A college application is the time for the student to get specific about who they are and their interests. As your child progresses academically, keep note of various activities that interest them. Encourage them to pursue the things they enjoy and cheer them on along the way.