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9 months ago
Admissions Advice

If I want to get into a top university, what extracurriculars do you recommend?

Just as an FYI, I would never participate in a long-term extracurricular for the soul purpose of getting into a good college. However, recently I have been completely lacking ideas for extracurriculars that would both be enjoyable and be very beneficial for college admissions. Listing as many ideas as possible would help me greatly. I will be applying to schools such as those in the Ivy League and am currently a freshman. Thank you! :)

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2 answers

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9 months ago

Hi there! While there aren't necessarily any specific answers to "what are the best extracurricular activities from an admissions standpoint," there are a few pieces of advice we can offer:

First of all, as you said, it's not to anyone's benefit for you to participate in activities as "resume padding" -- you will get less out of the extracurricular if you are less passionate to it, the group will suffer for your lack of true commitment, and admissions officers can often tell when they read a superficial or dispassionate essay about something you claim has deep importance to you. For this reason, you should mainly pursue activities that represent your true interests (with the caveat that it's never a bad thing to expand your horizons and try something new). In addition, at least some of these activities should be aligned with your academic interests. For example, if you plan to major in STEM, being part of the Science Fair Planning Committee, competing with your school's Science Olympiad team, or conducting research are ways to engage with that interest, learn more about it, and demonstrate your commitment to it. On the other hand, if you are planning to study the humanities, you may want to consider the arts, your school's literary magazine, or starting a blog on something you're interested in. This is not to say that you must limit yourself to a single niche (you can do science and humanities, to be sure!), but your application should demonstrate a sense of cohesion.

In general, colleges also like to see community engagement in some sense; after all, part of the admissions process is choosing people who will benefit the specific communities created by the college and in which the college is situated. This of course can take innumerable forms -- volunteering, organizing a drive of some kind, raising awareness for an issue, etc. -- but being conscious of the world around you is important. You can always tailor that to your interests (academic or otherwise).

One last note is that colleges like to see commitment and leadership. It is totally okay (and encouraged!) to do things that are just for fun, but there should be at least a couple places where you really show growth and initiative. This could be as straightforward as being part of a group for your entire high school career or being elected president of a student organization. On the other hand, it could be the more subtle leading by action, wherein you spearhead an initiative within a group (organizing a panel or event, heading up recruitment of new members, etc.). You could also found a new student organization (or create a local chapter of a national organization), which is a lot of work but impressive if it pays off and you are able to establish a group that brings something new to your community and can really sustain itself. Generally, the more difficult the path is in achieving the leadership, the more impressive it is; obviously, balance this "impressiveness" with other priorities, like being able to do more different things you love.

To summarize:

-Do things you love and that line up with your stated interests (it's okay if you don't know what those are yet and want to explore a bit!).

-You'll want to do something related to community service, which will (1) give you perspective on what you can bring to your future college, (2) benefit your community!!!, and (3) help you grow and teach you valuable lessons.

-Where you can, aim to hold some leadership position (either formal or informal) that will help you (1) improve the organization that you're a part of and (2) demonstrate your leadership ability and potential for the future.

I know you were looking for more specific examples, but there isn't really a set formula for succeeding in extracurricular organizations -- it's all about your personal journey! Wishing you the best of luck in carving your own path and growing through it.

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9 months ago

It all depends on what you're interested in. Since you're still a freshman, you have a ton of time to figure out what you like. Just try to find one subject (or a few related ones) that you want to major in, and participate in extracurriculars that relate. For a top university, you definitely need to show leadership and determination. Maybe start your own club, business, nonprofit, awareness campaign, etc. Also competing in renowned competitions look great on applications. Ivies are incredibly competitive. You need to do something that will make you stand out. Also aim for honor societies. They look good on applications.

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