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05/28/2020 at 01:12AM
Admissions Advice

How to chose extracurricular activities?

What extracurricular activities would be best for tier 1 universities? Would certificates from online courses count as extracurricular activities? I do ballet, folklore, English (my native language is Spanish), robotics and science events. I can't do many independent things since I'm only 13 (ninth grade).


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05/28/2020 at 06:17PM

First off, certificates from online classes would definitely count. It shows you spent time furthering your knowledge about something you are interested in.

In terms of choosing your extracurricular activities, I think that you are off to a good start. You should keep focusing on the ones you already have in order to show dedication and improvement. If you want to strengthen your extracurricular profile, you should look into more opportunities in the areas you are passionate about.

This is essential when applying to tier 1 universities. These colleges are not looking for one specific extracurricular that will guarantee you admission. Neither are they looking for applicants who divide their time over 10-12 different activities, but never really accomplish anything substantial in any of them. What they are looking for is that you take the things you have already dedicated your time to and go further. You might have heard the term "spike." A spike is an area that you are very passionate about, have a considerable amount of achievement in, and have gone beyond the expectations to seek opportunities. It is an extracurricular that you are so versed in that you have made an impact on your community and even more (across your state or across the nation). For examples of a spike, I suggest you refer to the College Vine blog page under extracurriculars, specifically the 4 tiers ( Tier one activities are considered a spike.

You are probably asking at this point how you could apply this to the extracurriculars you listed in your post. You seem to have activities in multiple areas. This is a good thing; it shows versatility. I suggest you reassess each one and evaluate how passionate you are about it. For example, I don't know how long you have been doing ballet, but if you see it as one of your primary activities, you should look into ways to show excellence and dedication, such as auditioning for summer intensives or scholarships for ballet academies.

As for science and robotics there are many, many ways to improve your extracurricular commitment in this field. As you are probably in your school clubs for science and robotics, you should seek leadership within them. Even if there is no official leadership position, take action to strengthen your team or your club as a whole. You can enter regional or even state wide robotics competitions, or take part in things such as science Olympiad. Make sure you take any available class at your school on science, robotics, research, and engineering that will interest you and challenge you. Additionally, there is a variety of summer programs run by universities for high school students interested in stem. While you may or may not get into the most prestigious ones or be able to afford certain programs, there are other less known, less expensive ones that are still great that could lead to admission to programs with higher prestige. Then again, it is less about prestige than about how much you take advantage of your opportunities.

I hope this helps you at least a little bit. I strongly suggest checking out the College Vine extracurricular blog if you haven't already; it will give you better insight than I did.

BTW, I am in high school and I do ballet too :) as well as jazz, contemporary, and lyrical. I wish you luck, fellow dancer !

05/28/2020 at 05:42PM

If by Tier 1 you mean schools like Harvard, Yale, etc., the thing you should focus on is developing out a passion or an area of interest that you care deeply about and can put a lot of time into. There is no magic bullet for those schools, and no "perfect" profile I can point you to. The area you develop can be related or not related to what you want to study, and it could look like a combination of the things that you're currently pursuing (even if they're very different). And as you develop that out, you should try to maintain a few activities over your full high school career so you can gain responsibilities in them and eventually leadership experience of some kind. That's what is most effective at getting these schools' attention.


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