Extracurricular Activities: What Colleges Really Care About

By Steve DorfmanCollege Extracurriculars

Everybody knows colleges want well-rounded students. Kids are asked to volunteer, join sports teams, participate in clubs and be a part of student government. However, there are actually only three things that colleges care about when looking at extracurricular activities, and being “well-rounded” is not one of them.

Consistency. The biggest misconception is that students should be involved in many activities. In reality, not only are colleges unimpressed by all the activities, they are actually turned off by them! One of the major factors a college considers is how mature an applicant is. If someone is involved in three different types of volunteer work, two unrelated clubs and student government, this does not show maturity. It shows confusion. A student who is haphazardly involved in activities can be seen as not yet having developed real interests, which begs the question of whether or not that student will continue with activities once they are admitted to college. Admissions personnel focus on consistency. Has the student been volunteering for the same organization throughout high school? Are the activities the student is involved with all related? These are the questions they are asking.

Leadership. Besides exhibiting passion and consistency, colleges want students who are leaders. Universities want to make sure the student body is productive, community oriented and active after graduation. A person who exhibits strong leadership skills and experience as a teenager will almost assuredly be that way as an adult. There is no better way for a college to guarantee they will have students who accomplish a lot on behalf of the school than to choose students who take charge.

Uniqueness. Finally, colleges want to see activities that will help differentiate students. There are approximately 25,000 high schools across the U.S. That means that there are 25,000 valedictorians, 25,000 class presidents, 25,000 captains of the wrestling team and 25,000 head cheerleaders. Imagine how many captains of sports teams and presidents of school clubs there are. These sorts of activities do nothing to distinguish one student from another. To stand out, students should be involved in off-campus activities. How many students have started a nonprofit or are the president of a local charity? How many students are involved with local government or have done internships for a major company? Nearly every student in the U.S. does all of their extracurricular work on campus, so an easy way to stand out is to leave the campus and be involved with organizations in the community.

Keeping these points in mind will help your student stand out as a stronger college applicant. And applying these concepts doesn’t take any more time than what students are already doing. It’s a way for students to work smarter, not harder, toward reaching their goals.

Steve Dorfman is owner of Tier One Tutors, a Southern California test prep and academic tutoring company. As a father of two, he understands the constant worrying parents have about their kids’ education. To learn more, visit www.TierOneTutors.com or email Dorfman at Steve@TierOneTutors.com.

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