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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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What does 'extracurricular' encompass?

Hi, everyone! I'm a high school junior and keep hearing how important 'extracurriculars' are for college applications. But I'm not quite sure I understand the term completely. What kinds of activities fall under extracurriculars? Are there certain activities colleges prefer?

13 days ago

Extracurricular activities are basically any activities that you participate in outside of your regular school hours that don't fall under the category of paid work or school assignments. They encompass a wide range of pursuits that can be academic, athletic, arts-based, or community/service related.

For instance, they could be school clubs like Debate Club or Math Olympiad, sports teams (both school and community-sponsored), volunteer work, internships, research projects, and many more activities. They can even be personal projects or initiatives that display your passions and skills, like starting your own blog, running a small business, or creating and managing a community service project.

Colleges generally don't have a preference for specific extracurriculars over others. What matters more to them is your level of commitment, the impact you've made, and your growth within those activities. However, it's commonly understood that colleges categorize extracurriculars into four "tiers," with Tier 1 activities being the most impressive and Tier 4 activities being the most common.

Tier 1 activities include things like rare national or international achievements, such as being ranked high in a sport at a national level, winning international competitions, or garnering national awards. Tier 2 activities showcase high achievement but are a bit more common, for example, being student body president or playing in a state orchestra. Tier 3 activities, like leading a club or being a team captain, convey your interests and demonstrate some degree of achievement. Tier 4 activities are the most common and include things like general club membership or regular volunteering.

That said, remember that quality is generally more important than quantity. Having a deep involvement in a few activities typically holds more weight than being superficially involved in a large number of clubs or activities. Try to pursue activities that genuinely interest you, and you can develop a "spike," a highly-developed specialty, which could make you appear more distinctive to colleges.

For example, if you're interested in computer science, participating in Code Club, winning regional coding competitions, and investing time in helping your community learn coding could be your set of impressive extracurriculars. This way, you can show colleges that you have a passion and deep commitment in a particular area.

So focus on the activities you care about and are excited to participate in. Consistency, growth, and leadership in these activities are what colleges value the most.

13 days ago

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