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What Colleges Look for In Extracurriculars

Colleges in the USA are focused on a holistic admissions approach, meaning instead of just taking into account test scores, course rigor, and grades, they also want to see how a student engages outside of the classroom. While your academic record is undoubtedly a critical factor, colleges are also interested in what you do outside of the classroom. Extracurricular activities can demonstrate your passions, interests, skills, and values and can help you stand out from other applicants. But what exactly are colleges looking for in extracurricular activities?

  1. Depth, not breadth.

Colleges are typically more interested in seeing a sustained commitment to one or two extracurricular activities than a laundry list of short-lived interests. This demonstrates your ability to focus and persevere and shows that you have a genuine interest in the activity. Rather than joining ten new clubs each year, stick with a few activities that hold your interest. Be open to new things and experiences, explore and discover your passions, and once you find an interest or two, stick with it.

  1. Skills.

Colleges like to see what skills students might possess. Leadership is a common one that colleges look for. This can take many forms, such as holding a leadership position in a club or organization, organizing events or fundraisers, or taking on a leadership role in a community service project. Leadership can also look like working at a restaurant and training new people, or babysitting, or mentoring. Not all leaders have to be the confident president of a club or captain of a sports team.

  1. Impact.

Colleges want to see that you have made a positive impact in your extracurricular activities. This could mean anything from winning an award or recognition for your accomplishments, to making a difference in your community through volunteering or advocacy. Did you help with a fundraiser? How much money were you able to raise? How many students did you tutor? Show your impact in your school and in your community.

  1. Passion and authenticity.

Ultimately, colleges want to see that you are passionate about your extracurricular activities and that they are a reflection of who you are as a person. Don’t try to pad your application with activities you think will impress admissions officers – instead, focus on the things that genuinely interest and inspire you.

  1. Your values.

Finally, the activities you participate in tell a story of who you are as a person on your college application. They can reveal some of your values, which colleges like to see. Colleges seek applicants who will be a good fit with their community and values can convey if you would thrive at a specific school. If you’re interested in a particular college, take some time to research their values and culture, and think about how your extracurricular activities align with those values.

In summary, colleges are looking for applicants who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to a few key extracurricular activities, have shown evidence of leadership and impact, and are passionate and authentic about their pursuits. Keep these factors in mind as you choose and participate in extracurricular activities, and remember to showcase your best self in your college application.