May 31, 2015

How Many Extracurriculars for College Admissions?

It's all about quality, not quantity. Focus your time on a one thing (or a few) that you truly care about. Pick something you'd enjoy doing even if you knew that colleges wouldn't ever learn you'd done it.

Too many students join a million clubs simply to "build their resumes," do nothing significant in them, then list them on college applications. Those don't "count."

If you want an extracurricular to "count," you should do something that you enjoy. Otherwise, you won't have anything compelling about it to include on your application.

A single extracurricular could end up consuming all your free time (leading you to have only one). However, you'll be a much more compelling applicant than one who "did" several, but did nothing truly meaningful in any of them.

Suppose you're a student interested in marketing. Here's one step-by-step approach I might recommend to help you discover an extracurricular that will stand out and make for a compelling story:

  • Talk with lots of small entrepreneurs / nonprofits in industries that interest you.
  • Keep a list of the ones you like.
  • Propose an idea you think your favorite would like and offer to carry it out for them.
  • If they say no, see if you can figure out something else for them.
  • If not, move on to your next-favorite.
  • Repeat.
No one else can suggest a specific extracurricular for you. The ones you'll really excel in are the ones you're passionate about and discover for yourself - not ones someone else told you would look good.

If you truly care about an extracurricular and become involved in organically, that passion will come across in your application. You'll do a better job in it (and in the college admissions process) because your heart is truly in it.

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