Will My Extracurriculars Get Me Into My Dream College?
When you start researching the top US colleges, the figures and stats of gaining admission are a wee bit alarming. Top US colleges, such as Stanford, boast outrageously low admission rates that can dip below 5% - that's so exclusive, it hurts.
Hearing that might make you want to curl up into a ball on your bedroom floor, try not to cry but cry deeply.
But even if the admission percentage is dramatically low, it doesn't mean you're stuck without a chance.
Instead, you need to rise above and start setting yourself apart from the rest of the application pool. By cheating...
No, just joking - but sort of. You need to do what the vast majority of others aren't and start speaking the admissions officers' language.
They're the ones going through 30 to 40,000 applications. Their eyes are trained to pick up on certain traits and features of good applications - one of those being the right type of extracurriculars.
In fact, we've written an eBook jam-packed with new information on the US application process you can download for free now.
How Do Admissions Officers Rank Your Application?
On your college application, you're required to share a number of achievements, including:
Your SAT or ACT results
High school results or GPA
Extracurricular and leadership activity.
Of all the elements, the most vital aspect of your application is your extracurricular activities.
Grades are your entry point, your GPA validates the grades - but it's extracurriculars that separates you (the wheat) from others (the chaff).
But are they strong enough to get you into your dream college? Well, Let's find out!
What Is The Value of The Extracurricular?
The term ‘extracurricular’ is deliberately vague.
It can mean anything from sport to starting a box social.
This vagueness provides freedom to express yourself and let the college board know why they should accept you - why you're different.
In order to give yourself the greatest opportunity of gaining admission into your dream college, it is wise to break down your extracurricular activities into two different categories, extracurricular and leadership.
For the sake of you application, extracurricular can be defined as any activity beyond the standard curriculum where you're proving an experience or a skill.
This may include competitions such as olympiads, model UN tours, debating, or involvement in sports clubs.
It can include helping out at the hospital, working with a charity or mentoring kids.
It might even mean ballet, or music, or doing stand-up comedy.
ANYTHING that demonstrates your skills and experience.
Whereas leadership can be defined as anything where you’re managing people. In order to strengthen your college application, we recommend breaking down leadership into a further two categories, institutionalised leadership and innovative leadership.
This involves coming into an already established institution or organisation, such as a school or sporting club, and taking on a role where you’re managing people.
This can include positions such as head boy or girl at your school, captain of the drama team, captain of your netball team or manager at your part-time job.
Alternatively, this is any form of leadership that is new and innovative.
Who would've thought?
It's super important to include this type of leadership on your extracurricular list because it can be the defining factor of your college application - an element that can set you apart from the riff-raff.
Innovative leadership can include achievements such as founding a company or social enterprise, managing and organising a charity event or starting a club.
You start something, you lead it, you're an innovative leader.
How Do My Extracurriculars Stack Up?
While any form of leadership and extracurricular activity will strengthen your college application, we recommended you have:
- at least 4-5 examples of extracurricular activities
- two examples of institutionalised leadership
- two examples of innovative leadership on your US college application.
This combination is considered to be the best, showing admissions officers three extremely desirable traits: Passion, initiative and leadership.
If you can get this blend right, you're going to outclass the majority of applications and put yourself into consideration. Just off the back of your choices.
If you don't feel like you've got this blend right... not all hope is lost.
Every college is different
Not every college is looking for the well-rounded blend of extracurriculars and leadership.
Some colleges want the lopsided candidate.
What is that I hear you ask?
A lopsided candidate is an applicant with experience weighted towards a specific style of leadership or extracurricular.
For example, one college may want to bring in a class full of an influential leaders, who are experienced in forming strong relationships with people and guiding them towards an end-goal, while other colleges may be looking for a thoughtful leader with strong examples of social responsibility and charity work.
For this reason, researching your dream school and understanding exactly what they’re looking for is essential when crafting your application.
So if your strength is charity work, apply for altruistic schools with lots of community programs and organised charity events.
If you're more of an athlete, then look at your top athletics programs - like University of North Carolina or University of Florida.
Catering your application to your strengths and sending it to the schools that search for those strengths can be the key to getting successfully admitted to your dream university.
While having strong extracurricular involvements on your application will improve your chances of gaining admission into your dream college, the best course of action to gain admission is through early preparation and research.
Work hard at school, put in overtime on your extracurriculars and speak to tutors, mentors and experts who've been there and done that. Start preparing today to avoid disappointment later.
And don't forget to grab your free copy of our eBook, which will help you crush your application.
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How to ask for a recommendation or reference letter
They may seem like a stressful part of the application to organise, but for top-tier universities like Harvard; with an admission rate as low as 4.6%, letters of recommendation are fundamental in supporting your application.