April 10, 2015

Leadership in Extracurricular Activities for College Admissions

FAQ on the role of extracurricular activities in the college admissions process:

Why should you devote time to extracurriculars? Wouldn't this take time away from classwork? Grades should come first!

Of course top grades are necessary for admission to first-tier colleges, but grades alone no longer guarantee admission. In fact, many students believe that their grade point average is given more emphasis in the college admissions process than it actually is. Most applicants to selective universities are academically qualified, but there are simply not enough spots available. Students looking for an edge should seek to distinguish themselves through their extracurricular activities. These activities provide another set of criteria by which admissions committees make their decisions.

Is it better to join several clubs or to focus on a few?

An ability to demonstrate lasting dedication to a few meaningful extracurriculars, rather than mere membership in many, can make a significant difference. Students should aim to demonstrate a significant contribution to their school or community and the ways in which their participation or leadership has influenced themselves on an individual level.

Is it really necessary to obtain a top leadership position in a high school club? Everyone is competing for these positions!

I understand your concern. It can be extremely difficult to gain the top leadership positions in school clubs when there are so many other qualified candidates. I recommend that students pursue their extracurricular passions outside of the school environment in addition to those organizations within the school. Opportunities abound in community organizations, nonprofits, internships, and the Internet. A student who wants to make a substantial impact on his or her community should think about a problem or need and how it can be addressed. 

Some common methods are to launch innovative fundraising campaigns for worthy causes or to mobilize a group of peers to tackle it head-on. Teachers, parents, friends, and college counselors can help to plan these types of endeavors. Founding a community organization, a nonprofit, or a school club can demonstrate leadership and organizational skills that indicate ambition and future success. These are traits that admissions committees seek in applicants.

This sounds like a significant investment of time and effort. How can a student start an organization while excelling in classwork?

Of course, taking on any of these challenges is not easy, but neither is getting into a top college. Through adequate planning and efficient use of summer and winter vacations, high school students have the ability to accomplish a great deal without detracting from classwork or grades. The Internet is not just for Facebook and YouTube; researching a topic and finding communities of students around the world with similar interests can lead to collaboration and skill-sharing on any topic.

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