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Extracurricular Activities – What makes them "Extra"

The Common Application provides ten spaces for you to list all your activities including sports, clubs, music, volunteer service, jobs, and internships. One question we are asked a lot is what extracurriculars are the most impressive to college admissions to ultimately fill those ten spaces. There is no magic mix of extracurricular activities or awards that will sway a college decision, but you can tilt the odds in your favor simply by exploring activities that interest you, play to your strengths and serve your goals. Colleges want candidates who have spent their time wisely, diving deeply into the things that interest them.

The well-rounded candidate no longer carries the day in the admissions process. Admissions will be more impressed with a candidate that enjoys their high school band so much that he starts a non-profit volunteering to provide music education with his fellow band members to underserved school districts. This students commitment and impact in his community will overshadow a candidate who is the president of multiple high school clubs but does not show a particular commitment or passion to any one thing.

9th and 10th grade students should explore a variety of interests to decide what they genuinely enjoy. But once you know you should look for ways to extend your interests perhaps by volunteering to teach younger students, taking summer courses to hone your skills or attaining an internship or shadowing experience. Deciding which activities to continue to purse will be driven by your unique interests, desires, and goals.

Your commitment to your passions may lead to a leadership role, awards, or other notable achievements. Remember it is quality and depth of how you explore your individual interests that will impress admissions and make your application stand out.


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