The point of listing your extracurricular activities is to give colleges an idea of who you are and not just what you know. Unfortunately most schools don’t have time to meet you or check out your tumblr (where all charming personal nuances lie) so in order to prove you are more then a metric of math and AP Lang, you need to tell them what you do outside of class.
Of course, playing Super Smash Brothers for hours on end or re-reading John Green novels isn’t as impressive as helping the needy, so we usually focus on the later.
But it’s when we try too hard to be impressive that most of our thinking gets skewed: You want something that colleges will have heard of so you pick an activity set up by your school. You want to stick out so you think you should start your own activity. You get wrapped up in the “balanced individual” idea and think you should have a sprawling list of achievements like some sort of teenage 2015 Ben Franklin.
All of those ideas, pretty much, are wrong. What you want, as a matter of fact, is something that you like. Now, before you assume this is more do what makes you happy nonsense, consider the logic.
If the point of listing extracurricular activities is to show your personality, then you should pursue ones that will actually do that right? While helping an elementary school student with his math homework is important, it may not be something you’re interested in—because you don’t really love math. Or kids. If you're looking for a degree in Finance, why would they care about your whether or not you like to teach kids?
On the flip side, if you do an activity that you’re actually passionate about, the following impressive things are bound to happen:
- You’ll have a passion and talent for the activity and will achieve more impressive results.
- You’ll be able to write a much better college essay if you can describe an activity that truly reflects your personality
- You’ll put more energy into the activity and continue excelling in it throughout high school.
Here are a few examples of activities that colleges will love (if you love them too)
- Join a band and play gigs or make a CD
- Blog about a subject you’re interested in and get mentioned by professional bloggers or journalists
- Give sports lessons or substitute as a coach for a kids league.
- Become the head editor of your school newspaper by Junior or Senior year
- Teach yourself to code
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