Improve Your College Application : Extracurriculars

Applying to CollegeHey everybody! It’s Ridge with another post about the college admissions process. This time, I’ll be talking about extracurricular activities. I hope you enjoy it!

As high school droned on, I found it important to take on some activities just for fun or to “expand my horizons,” as the cliche goes. High school can be incredibly monotonous for a student oscillating between falling asleep in class and falling asleep while doing homework. Sometimes, I just need a pick-me-up, something I can do during the day that involves more than just looking at a whiteboard and taking notes. Enter extracurricular activities. These are hobbies that involve doing more than just sitting and listening. Extracurricular activities, or ECs as they are sometimes called, include three broad types of activity: sports, arts, and volunteer work.

Epic Violin Guy
I take it back, violins can be cool!

Sports weren’t for me, but I did find some things that were for me. I am still involved in the first EC I ever participated in: violin. I have been playing violin since the second grade, and, although it is not the coolest or most unique of instruments, the violin still entertains me with possibly the largest repertoire of solo and chamber music for any single instrument. Playing an instrument falls into the second broad category of ECs: arts. Many colleges value the creativity in the arts (particularly Ivy League schools), and many include an optional arts supplement for talented artists who want to show how important their art is to them. Generally, these supplements involve submitting samples of one’s work. Common arts include: dance, theater, drawing/painting, and musical performance. Again, you can benefit from doing one of these arts even if you aren’t exceptional or naturally talented.

The final group is volunteer work. This is probably the easiest to do as it does not require any particular skill. Volunteering is loosely defined as doing work for others without the expectation of compensation. It is a very popular activity, especially during the summer when there is plenty of time and very little to do. During the summer, many hospitals accept high school volunteers to help around, and many of my friends and I have been involved in such programs. Volunteering is measured in the amount of time you work, and while many universities will not “require” you to have a certain number of volunteer hours to be admitted, many will look very¬†favorably upon such acts of charity. As a mark of good character, meaningful volunteer work reflects well on an applicant because colleges will see that you are involved in the community and are doing things for others as well as for yourself. Many schools also have service-oriented clubs, like National Honor Society, that offer volunteer opportunities throughout the school year. There are also awards for volunteering, such as the Presidential Service Award.

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Presidential Service AwardColleges value extracurricular activities because of what those activities represent about the applicant. Successful athletes are dedicated and disciplined, and usually work well with others (which is important in a classroom environment); accomplished musicians or individuals with similar artistic outlets tend to excel in large part because of their creativity and imagination; service activities like volunteering show colleges you are committed to your community, and that you can bring that same commitment to serve to their community on campus.

While the personal benefits of ECs are evident in the friends you make and skills you learn through such participation, it is important to note that when you are applying to college you must be able to translate your experiences into something quantifiable. In other words, keep track of your accomplishments and be sure to brag about them when you apply to college!

By Ridge Liu

Ridge Liu went through the Test Masters SAT & PSAT course between his sophomore and junior years of high school. Ridge went on to obtain a Perfect Score on the SAT, and we expect him to be named a National Merit Semi- or Finalist this fall.

You can find Ridge’s last “Improve Your College Application” post here.

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