Extracurricular activities are an essential part of a college or scholarship application.
Scholarship committees are NOT merely looking for the applicant with the best grades and the highest test scores, they want what most people call a well-rounded student. However, there are a few misconceptions about what this means. Well-rounded does not mean that you are a member of every club at your school, only attending the monthly meetings. It doesn’t even mean that you have to have several interests.
For example, say your interest is tennis and that you play on your high school tennis team, join a traveling team that competes in the off-season, run a tennis camp at the local boys and girls club, and have a business during the summer giving lessons. Even though tennis is only one interest, you would be perceived as well-rounded because you have turned it into several activities that extend far beyond your school involvement.
Scholarship committees want to see that you are dedicated to your passions and that you are willing to take initiative to turn them into other opportunities. The tennis example demonstrates that perfectly, as well as the fact that you have the ability to make connections with others in order to make this happen.
On the other hand, it can be great to have multiple interests. Say you play on the tennis team, but aren’t involved in all of the other ways mentioned above. It is just as impressive to balance that with other organizational involvement, such as the math team and choir. Just want to make sure that your involvement has depth.
Any passion can be turned into an extracurricular activity. If you like to garden, start a gardening club, a community garden, or organize an annual seed swap. If your passion is music, start a band, host a radio show, or hunt down bands to play for a local charity event. These examples all demonstrate depth, which is exactly what scholarship committees are looking for when it comes to extracurricular activities.
It is important to start searching for your passion early. This will allow you to try out different interests and narrow them down. The more time you are involved, the more opportunities you will find, which means more depth.
Later in this course, you will work through several brainstorming exercises to help you pinpoint the activities that will help you stand out on your applications.
Tip: Be interesting! Think about the type of activities at a typical high school: sports, math team, debate team, science club, chess club, newspaper, yearbook, etc… These are the extracurriculars that scholarship committees see every day. If you have an unusual passion or talent, pursue it! This is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd, as well as demonstrate those characteristics mentioned above: dedication, initiative, and depth.
How to keep track of extracurriculars in your College Readiness Tracking System:
Most extracurricular activities involve ongoing membership. Make sure you update your College Readiness Tracking System every time something changes about your membership, such as a new project you worked on or if you were elected for a leadership position. Also, don’t forget about those short-term projects, such as prom committee, which will also need to be tracked.
If you pursue depth in your extracurriculars, then you will most likely earn some distinction in your area of interest in the form of honors or awards. These are very important and should be tracked in their dedicated section in your College Readiness Tracking System. Similarly, leadership experience is a highly sought after characteristic for scholarship recipients and should be a goal to be tracked in the leadership section.
What to track:
- Name of activity
- 1-2 sentence description
- Starting date
- Ending date
- Leadership position(s)
- Projects you initiated, planned, or managed
- Impact, statistics and/or outcomes
- Hours of participation per week
- Log all of your past extracurriculars in the Extracurriculars section of your College Readiness Tracking System.
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