How Important Are Extracurriculars for Your College Application?
Do schools really care what clubs you joined, what sports you played, what charity you may have volunteered for, or what musical instrument you possibly tried to master? What exactly are colleges looking for when they ask you for all the activities, clubs, positions, events and charities you have (perhaps) participated in during your high school career?
I would like to answer this question today, based on my own experience as a former Harvard University interviewer (and as a Harvard graduate, myself).
In terms of extracurricular activities, admissions officers are looking for a point-of-entry into your personality. They want to find something they can focus on, that’s interesting, that will differentiate you from the many other applicants in the pile. Admissions committees use your extracurricular activities to paint a picture of who you are, as a student and as a person — to develop a fuller understanding of how you spend your time when you are not studying or at school, and to access your level of intellectual and cultural interest, background and depth.
In other words, your extracurricular activities are like the paint a painter paints with while creating a portrait of YOU. Your goal is to make those colors, that paint – your portrait – as original and interesting as possible. Especially if you are applying to the Ivy League.
The following is probably the most important thing I can say, and something you may not ever read elsewhere, as it is certainly an insider tip: Ivy League schools are looking for ORIGINAL THINKERS.Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, and University of Pennsylvania. These are the 8 schools that make up the Ivy League, and to get into any of them, not only do you have to have the grades, the test scores, and the proper level of classes, but you need to demonstrate ORIGINAL THOUGHT.
These schools pride themselves on developing the next leaders of the world — economically, politically, and in the arts and sciences. Going back to the question then — you will be ahead of the game if your extracurricular activities are unique and demonstrate your individuality. Your ability to stand out from the pack. It is this, your own personal voice and interests that make you a unique and powerful future leader, in whatever your field.
So, strive to list those experiences and activities that are perhaps unusual, perhaps a little different from your friends. Demonstrate, if there is skill involved, that you do it and excel at a very high level. Let your uniqueness shine through, and that will shine through to the admissions committee, as well.
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