What are the Best Extra Curricular Activities for College?
Well, it depends.
It is no question that extra curricular activities are essential for college admissions. As I briefly discussed in my previous article Activities Outside of School, extra curriculars put a human face on an application that is otherwise just numbers and letters. The way that a student chooses to spend his or her time leaves a very large impact on college recruiters and admissions officers. If you have ever been to a college night at high school, then you know that one of the first questions college representatives ask is "what do you like to do during your free time?" Colleges want the most interesting people (who are qualified) to make up their student body.
The first step in using extra curriculars for college applications is finding something that you like to do. Experiment! Students should join many different clubs and organizations early on just to get a little taste of everything that the school has to offer. In the long run, this experimenting will also help students "discover themselves" as many psychiatrists call it, during their sophomore and junior years. Besides the mental advantages from finding something to do, colleges love to see activity. Although a student will probably not stay in all of the clubs that he or she originally joined (and I recommend keeping only a few), common sense says that students will find a passion for something. Peruse that something! If it just so happens that your school does not have something that you are interested in, then start it. Colleges love to see initiative as well.
So now that students have something that they are passionate about, what is next? -Dedicate more time to improve it. For example, I play tennis and am a member of the mock trial team at my high school, just to name my two biggest extra curriculars. Dedicating more time to them would mean practicing more, both alone and with the team, and doing legal research for Mock Trial, so that I am more prepared for next year's competition. In the end, this time translates into better teams and more accomplishments and achievements. There is nothing better for colleges that having the best tennis or mock trial team in the city. This would really make you unique. This also shows dedication, which is my next big point.
Students need to show their dedication to the team/activity that they are a part of. This might be by participating in tournaments outside of school, performing, or a variety of other things. The point is that students need to have something to show for their time. A few awards never hurt anyone either. These kinds of "showcases" are also great because they give students something to write about in their college essays. Applications are basically brag lists after all.
Students need to take some initiative and show their leadership skills. Yea, ok it is great that you were a member of a team for a few years, but being captain of the team really makes you stand out. Colleges love to see students lead others; who doesn't like leaders? Leadership shows dedication to the extreme. Every group needs a president, from the cheer squad to the robotics club. Students should take this into consideration when they choose clubs to join. One club might have less members, so a student will have a higher chance of gaining a leadership role. The basic point is that students need to show leadership.
Finally, students need to put it all together for their college apps. To do this, a student needs to choose the 2 or 3 activities that best represent him or her and write a killer essay/app about them. Unfortunately, I cannot help with the essays, all I can say is that it must completely own the reader. My key rule of thumb regarding extra curricular activities is that less is more. Students are better off having 2 or 3 activities and dedicating a lot of time to them than they are spending little time on 7 or 8 activities. The most important thing to remember is that Extra Curriculars put a human face on an otherwise dull and monotone application. DO NOT IGNORE THEM!!!!