Extracurriculars and the College App: Diversify or Focus?

This blog post is provided by the Unigo Expert Network, a group of top education experts from across the U.S. answering questions submitted by students and parents about college admissions and succeeding after high school. To have your questions answered visit www.unigo.com/expertquestions

“I’ve heard that spending a little time with many extracurricular activities is less attractive than a ton of time with one or a few.  If I haven’t found an activity I’m passionate about, how can I still seem like a dedicated individual?” – Tami G., Pine Bluff, AR

Illustrate Your Unique Interests Through Your Extracurricular Activities Craig Meister, President, Tactical College Consulting 

The key to college admissions success is to parlay preexisting interests into extracurricular pursuits. There is no magic number of activities an applicant should undertake before applying to colleges; however, colleges do want to see that a student has pursued his or her interests deeply outside of the classroom. So, if you have any interests whatsoever, figure out a way to pursue them in the extracurricular realm as opposed to simply pursuing them as hobbies. For example, don’t just play your guitar in your bedroom; share your talent as a guitar tutor, talent show entrant, or local performer.

Focus on What YOU Enjoy; Forget Being Well-Rounded John Carpenter, Founder, AskJohnAboutCollege.com

First off, forget about impressing colleges with activities. That's entirely the wrong approach to take, and in most cases, admissions officers don't value a list of activities that kids have pursued just for the sake of trying to look well-rounded. Be square. Be yourself.  Make a list of the two or three things that you LIKE to do, and put your energy there. For instance, one year a student came up with the idea of forming a club based on talking about deep ideas -- something she loved to do. So she formed the philosophy club; it was an instant hit.  She did what she wanted to do, and that left a positive impact on her school. College admissions officers notice that kind of thing.

You're on a Voyage of Self-Discovery -- Pursue What Interests You Diana Hanson, Independent College Consultant, College Mentors

Do you play a sport, write for the student newspaper, volunteer at your place of worship or in the community, and belong to the debate club? That makes you a well-rounded student with a wide range of interests.  Colleges are looking for curious students who have a zest for life -- in addition to having academic credentials -- so make your diverse interests an asset by including them in your applications, both in the essay(s) and volunteer/activity listings.  While colleges do like to see some consistency in your extracurriculars, there are also benefits to trying a variety of clubs/sports/activities throughout high school. It shows you're doing your job -- finding out who you are and what you enjoy!

Get the full story from 35 more experts -- including the Dean of Admissions at University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan University, and more -- at www.unigo.com/expertnetwork. To send your question to our experts, visit www.unigo.com/expertquestions

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