The Importance of Extracurriculars and Leadership and How Crimson Helps

23 JUN 2019

One of the most refreshing aspects of the US application process is the universities’ desire to get to know their applicants as people.

Admissions officers can get a good gauge on a student’s academic ability via their school grades and standardized test scores. They can gain insights as to their personal background, passions and beliefs by reading their personal essays, but it is a student’s representation of their extracurricular and leadership (ECL) activities which show how they explore their interests with purpose and action.

Every student has their own personal passions – and it is the pursuit of these passions, and a student’s efforts to use them to grow, share and give back to their community that sets them apart from other applicants. School–based or ‘institutional’ leadership positions provide an opportunity for a student to show how they can lead, but self-created leadership positions can be just as - or even more - effective when it comes to demonstrating their leadership and entrepreneurial potential.

With so many applications to plough through, it is a student’s ECLs that resonate when it comes to the admissions officers’ mission to create a campus rich in diversity. They want the physics club entrepreneurs and the storytellers who have used their fascination with science or literature to make a difference (see Elaine’s story below). They want the musicians who organised weekend band camps for disabled children, the debaters who petitioned their local government for positive change, and the athletes who enlisted their help of their sports clubs to raise money for communities where sporting facilities were non-existent.

The point is, with ECLs there is no right or wrong but a world of options dictated by a student’s personal passions and - in the case of Crimson students - explored and developed for optimum impact with the help of their dedicated Crimson ECL mentors.

Crimson’s ECL mentors - many of whom attended or are still attending one of the world’s competitive universities including the Ivy League - assist their students in developing ideas and structuring plans of action. They brainstorm and help their student plan marketing campaigns, task delegation, community outreach, school and club onboarding and big event execution. They also help craft a timeline of action from idea to completion...and most importantly provide the moral support along the way.

Working closely with a student’s strategist, ECL mentors are fully aware of a student’s personal best-fit university goals, and with this in mind, help their students lift themselves above the competition with capstone projects that are evidence of their student’s individual passions and concerted efforts to ‘give back’.

Become a top applicant and connect with Crimson’s ECL mentors with our Admission Support service.

So do specific universities look for students with particular interests, passions and extracurricular and leadership profiles? In some cases, the answer is ‘yes’!

Crimson also provides students with a database of ECL opportunities offered by both students and mentors worldwide. This includes positions in tech, health, the communityand more!

To learn more about what might be the best fit university for you, jump on board our College Admissions Calculator which could help you narrow down your best fit list.

And...for an example of one student’s Crimson supported ECL journey, take a look at Elaine’s ‘wish come true’ story below.

How Elaine used her passion for writing to make an impact and gain entry into UChicago

Elaine U Chicago 1

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” -J.K Rowling

High School student Elaine could well have been channeling the words of the Harry Potter creator when she used her own imagination to bring the stories of critically ill children to life.

Like every life-changing initiative, Elaine’s now thriving non-profit initiative StoryWish was birthed out of a single idea. In Elaine’s case, this idea grew thanks to the inspiration of a dedicated middle-school teacher and a group of incredibly brave and imaginative children - specifically a child named May.

“I met May at ‘Harmony Home’,” explains Elaine who goes on to explain that ‘Harmony Home’, is a Taiwanese shelter for children with HIV+ parents. “May had a passion for reading that was contagious, and given I was already a passionate book lover, I soon realized how stories can provide a much needed escape for children whose realities are daunting.”

Sadly, during Elaine’s junior year, May passed away, but Elaine was determined grow upon May’s passions and this was when StoryWish was created.

StoryWish is a program in which high school volunteers work with critically ill children, aged 8-13, to help them create their own storybook. Through StoryWish, the children write, illustrate, and have full creative control over their story. After creation, the stories are then published and delivered with a fluffy toy animal and certification of completion.

“There are many programs that focus on reading, but very few that focus on writing,” says Elaine. “StoryWish is really just a product of the children’s imaginations, we’re just helping them create it.”

As of now, StoryWish have 6 books that are ready to be put into production and will be delivered, with their stuffed animal and certificate of completion, to the children in time for the holidays!


“Through this project I became a lot better at time management, and I’ve become more acquainted with security and getting parents to trust us as an organization,” Elaine described.

“Crimson’s technology-based mentorship sparked the idea to conduct StoryWish online. My successful online connections with my Crimson mentors showed me how technology takes away the barrier of distance and before long I was video chatting with my 21 StoryWish volunteers and they were video chatting with 15 children across the United States. Thanks to Crimson, my ideas became a reality, through planning, connection, and support.”

Elaine was connected with Laura Yang, a Crimson Education Leadership Mentor and current Cornell student. Laura mentored Elaine to establish a need in the community, set goals, and create a plan for implementation.

"Elaine is incredibly mature for her age, both intellectually and emotionally. It took a combination of her dedication and ingenuity to create and continue working on such an impactful capstone project. It has been a great joy seeing her growth during our time together," Laura said.

Looking to inspire young entrepreneurs, Elaine encourages students to ‘find something that you are passionate about.’

“I’ve seen people in my class try to start non-profits but they don’t feel that strongly about it so they give up halfway and don’t dedicate themselves to it,” she explains. “People look at this as a way to get into college, as a means to an end. If you want to make a change in the world and inspire others, you really have to be passionate and determined.”

Elaine's university selections and results:

University Status
Boston College #Accepted
New York University #Accepted
University of Chicago #Accepted
UC Berkeley #Accepted
UCLA #Accepted
UC Irvine #Accepted
UC San Diego #Accepted
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill #Accepted

Attending: University of Chicago

To learn more about what might be the best fit university for you, jump on board our College Admissions Calculator which could help you narrow down your best fit list.

background image

Want to be a top applicant at your chosen university?

Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admissions support company specialising in helping students gain entry to top Universities.