Is independent research a valid/good extracurricular? Answered
I am passionate about biochemistry and global healthcare, and have been working on independent research/research papers (some with the guidance/mentorship of a professor) regarding a few topics. I am not sure if this research is a valid extracurricular or if it would look ‘worse’ than being a leader of a club, etc. In summary, I am doing it because I am passionate about it but want to know whether it will look ‘worse’ than another extracurricular I could be doing during this time.
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Research is absolutely a great extracurricular -- in fact, it is a highly sought after resume line item. The question is, is your research published? Publications boost your extracurricular profiles significantly. Non-published research is an extracurricular, but falls slightly more on the hobby end of the spectrum, since there is no way for an admissions officer to actually identify quality independent research, short of reading it themselves (which they will assuredly not do).
Perhaps it may look "worse" than another extracurricular, and that's something that is fair to consider. But keep in mind also that if you are doing research because you are passionate about it, you are laying the groundwork for academic achievement / impressive extracurriculars a few years down the road, which would be impossible to attain without the investment that you are putting in now!
So you're a sophomore from what I can see and as a junior in high school, I think it's good that you've started so early. I would advise you to continue your research, get it published any way you can and I think that will help with the admissions process. But don't forget to put time aside for other things including schoolwork and even community service, colleges will also like that. All I am saying is don't put all your eggs in one basket, do more besides your independent research and schoolwork if you haven't done so already. Overall you are in good shape.
Yes, yes, yes... but here are some suggestions.
I've been doing independent research since freshman year and it definitely is a valid extracurricular. It's great that you are working on research papers and it shows that you are passionate. However, I would suggest a few things.
Since you asked about clubs in particular, here's what I found. First, make room to participate in clubs as a sophomore. I started out as a member or small position in many clubs, but I worked my way up into them! As sophomore, I'm guessing you aren't yet a leader of a club (if you are, kudos to you!), so use this time for independent research! When you get into junior year, I would definitely start trying to get some sort of leadership position, even if it is just secretary or vice president. These will mean less time commitment.
To extend your research and passion, I would definitely recommend becoming an intern as a junior! I am doing an internship this year, and I will be continuing for my senior year. I would definitely recommend it!
I would in general say that you are in great shape with your research and it's great that you've found your passion so early. Keep pushing with it! On the other hand, colleges like well rounded students, so keep up your grades and add in a few extra curriculars. It's okay if you aren't a leader or have 1000 hours of community service. Your passion can be your shining point, but keep up other things in general to be "well-rounded".
Good luck! Feel free to ask me any questions by commenting :)
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