• April 8, 2023

Extracurricular activities

In order for an applicant’s extracurricular activities to impress admissions committees, he/she should show spike(s), activities where the achievement level is undoubtedly excellent. Such level shows not only passion but also discipline. A spike that carries national/international recognition or in some cases regional/state recognition (e.g. ranked in national competitions or state champion) would boost the applicant. In the absence of very distinctive spikes, the next best thing would be to combine spikes of lesser significance. For admissions purposes, activities are not created equal. The following are our observations:

  • Popular sports (football, figure skating, etc.) and international/national STEM competitions (science Olympiad, robotics, etc.) are example of ‘high net worth’ activities.
  • Performing arts (dance, theater, choir, musical instruments) need to be presented at the regional or state level to add value for purposes of elite college admissions.
  • At least one spike should align with an applicant’s desired field of study.
  • Community volunteering has become commonplace. However, when other activities can be connected to community service with discernible results, the combination can have a multiplier effect and should be mentioned.
  • If there is an activity that an applicant has been involved for a long time but has not received any award or honor (e.g. recreational creative writing), it would not be advisable to show it on the application. The application process is an impersonal one and the applicant should try to seek recognition for all the effort spent.

It is only natural that some would argue that the choice of pre-college extracurricular activities should be determined by the applicant’s interest first. In our opinion, if an activity promotes one’s well-being, then pursue it by all means. Planning activities for elite college applications can follow.

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