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MAR 13, 2020 • 9 min read
As a company focused on the benefits of online learning, we are also more than aware of how unsettling these times of uncertainty can be, as parents and students try to figure out the best way to move forward.
This is part 2 of our blog series with Crimson Education CEO Jamie Beaton focusing on how Coronavirus may effect extracurriculars and leadership activities.
A top university wants a well-lopsided candidate. This means they want you to be great in one area, but involved in other activities as well. I was hugely involved in debating during high school, competing in high level debating competitions across New Zealand and at an international level through Model UN. Beyond that, you need a broad base of extracurricular activities. I involved myself in the Auckland Theatre Club as a Youth Ambassador, Duke of Edinburgh, and a range of different community service/volunteering initiatives.
Overall, you want 1 or 2 activities that you’re very good at, plus a broad base of different activities. For formal ECLs, typically you want to do things that are internationally regarded. For capstone projects (projects you begin yourself), it’s important to show the impact you’ve made.
For example, I’d rather a student go to a rest home and give out ipads and teach the elderly how to use them so they can call loved ones, instead of spending 100 hours there somewhat disengaged and simply passing the time because they think it might look good on their application. If you spend 100 hours there; great, but what was the impact? If you choose the iPad solution; you can show the impact you’ve made.
You also want your whole ECL profile to fit around your main interests. You don’t need them all to be the same, but if you show a narrative of how they all fit together, this is preferable. The US Common Application has 10 slots for ECLs and a section for honours, so ideally you’d want great content to fill all those spots.
This depends on where you apply. For the US, most schools find it interesting for you to have experience in different extracurriculars demonstrating your various passions. If you’re only a STEM student and apply to a liberal arts school, they’re going to wonder how you’re going to do in their core curriculum. To show you’re a diverse candidate with skills across the different areas, having a range of extracurriculars is fine, as long they show good achievement and your academics are strong in your interested area of study.
If you do a range of activities without showing any achievement or depth, that’s a bit more problematic. When applying to the US, your activities can be different and should be different – you want to show you have the capacity to appreciate a liberal arts experience, which by nature is exploratory and diverse. I would also recommend at least one extracurricular related to your major, but this is more relevant if you are applying to a UK university, as opposed to the US.
For the UK, it is important to have extracurriculars related to what you want to study / apply to, as the application process is much more academically-focused. As an example, when I applied to Economics at Cambridge, I had a Macroeconomics competition under my belt, I did a lot of Economics research, I did A Level Economics and A Level Business and I competed in business competitions. Thus, if you’re interested in studying in the UK, then your extracurricular activities should be more focused on your major.
Applying to both the US and the UK, is more than possible; however, it’s important that you fully understand
a) what university life is like in each country
b) what the application processes entail
c) how to best use your time throughout high school to ensure you are creating a dually-strong application.
Choose extracurriculars that will stretch you academically, help you develop useful skills and that you enjoy. Examples of this are Model UN, humanities (writing / theatre / drama / communications to improve oratory skills) and volunteering in areas you care about.
What strategy can you recommend to make the most of this situation?
This is a similar situation to some schools never offering any extracurricular and leadership activities (ECLs) in the first place. Firstly, you do not have to do ECLs that are linked to your school. In fact, creating your own ECL projects or clubs outside of school or online shows more initiative and develops your entrepreneurial skills. Think about the skills you’d like to develop, a problem that needs to be fixed in your community, or something that you would like to try – this is a good place to start when planning ECL projects.
If you are low on time, do a self review to work out how you spend most of your time. Can you create better study habits? Is there a current activity that is adding no value to your development? Is there a subject you should change or drop? Our ECL mentors are great at helping you explore your options depending on your unique situation!
Make sure you keep an eye out for the final instalment of this blog series where Jamie talks through US/UK University Applications and how to tackle these during this period.
Jamie has also answered How will the Coronavirus Affect my Education? in the first instalment of this blog series.
Most importantly, we at Crimson Education are here to help, Crimson has created a toolbox of resources and information that can help you navigate the impact of Covid-19. If you have any questions or would like to talk more to one of our Academic Advisors about your own personal aspirations you can book a free consultation.
*Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admissions support company specialising in helping students gain entry to some of the world’s most competitive universities including Oxford, Cambridge and the Ivy League. Our holistic approach provides support across all areas of the US and UK university application process. We assist you to find your best-fit university, create a personalised roadmap, ace your standardised tests, craft the perfect essay, build candidacy through extracurriculars, and more. Find out more about our Admissions Support program.*