What Do College Admissions Professionals Look for in Extracurricular Activities?

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One of the most stressful sections of the typical college admissions application is the one that focuses on the numerous extracurricular activities undertaken by the student during their time in high school. Without proper preparation during the preceding four years, this section can either be desperately bare or full of disparate activities that might not have the desired, positive effect on college admissions counselors that students might be hoping for. The best strategy when preparing for a college education is to start early and to pick activities that most appeal to the sensibilities of the average admissions office. For those looking to gain a bit of insight into exactly which activities constitute the best choices for their application, there are a few great guidelines to follow.

Volunteerism is a Strong Area of Focus During Admissions

Admissions counselors like to know that their future students plan to give back throughout their lives, particularly in their area of study. Volunteerism reigns supreme when proving that this sort of behavior will be brought to campus. Luckily for today’s students, all kinds of volunteer organizations are typically managed by high schools that allow for afternoon and weekend charity work. Whether it’s participating in an “Adopt a Highway” program in the school’s name, volunteering time at homeless shelters, or even participating in things like food banks and clothing drives, students who have a strong background in helping out, giving back, and enriching their community will be off to a strong start with the admissions panel.

Specialized Interests or Outside-of-School Pursuits

Unlike high school, where curriculum is broad and spans from math and science to English and the arts, students will be asked to specialize upon their arrival at campus. This specialization comes in the form of a major, and it’s a crucial way to prepare for career opportunities after college graduation. To that end, admissions counselors will want to see that applicants have made an effort to specialize during their time in high school. This might not be a specialization in something like business, education or law, but it might still show a singular interest and a long-term dedication that bodes well for the student’s fortunes.

Consider signing up for organizations like the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), just as one example, if the intention is to study a business-related field at college. Commitment to this group throughout all four years will allow FBLA members to prove their merit in the field, earn distinctions that will look even better on their college applications, and show consistency. For other students, the best choice might be to pursue something like swimming, gymnastics or other sports throughout high school. This long-term commitment, development of a craft, and ability to work in a team environment, also showcases favorable qualities that will gain students a better position as they apply for admission to their top schools.

Balance and Diversity

Finally, don’t be afraid to mix in some clubs, organizations or teams, which exist outside of a specialized interest or volunteer pursuit. School admissions counselors like to see that students can excel in multiple areas and effortlessly blend with diverse groups of people. Mixing business-related organizations with a science club, audio-visual organization, or something else completely unrelated, shows a certain curiosity and diversity that’s bound to get students a stronger chance of acceptance.

Above All Else, Have Fun and Do Things That Matter

It’s good to have a specialization with some non-related groups and it’s a really good idea to give back. Most of all, though, be sure to participate in organizations that make for compelling stories, college essays, learning experiences, and character-building opportunities. In addition to extracurricular activities, these are the things that will help secure not only college admission, but also academic success over the long-term.

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