Students and parents often wonder what it takes to get accepted into a competitive college. Are good grades enough? Or does a student need more? There are various factors that go into the college admissions process and are looked at holistically in order to determine whether or not a student will be admitted. One of those key factors is extracurricular activities. So, today we’re going to discuss what it means to build a competitive extracurricular profile for college admissions.

See what you already have

Some students already have involvement in certain activities from middle school (or earlier in high school if you’re reading this a little bit later in your high school career). Use whatever you are already involved in as a starting point to take stock of where you are today. If you have no extracurricular involvement, make a list of your interests and skills and use that as a starting point. It’s important that you write this all down so you can easily visualize your current situation, as this will be the foundation for further engagement.

Consider your limitations

Using the list you built earlier, think about how much time you still have available for other activities. Is it reasonable for you to take on more? Some students will be eager to overwork themselves for the sake of putting additional items on their resume, but this is likely an unwise move. It is very easy to burnout if you’re doing something that you’re not actually interested in, especially if you don’t truly have the time to give it your full energy and attention. It would actively hurt your application if you took on extracurriculars to the point of hurting your grades and lowering your GPA.

If you’re already heavily involved in several activities, perhaps the best decision is to simply dedicate yourself to those and ensure that your work is consistent and substantive. Ultimately, colleges are not looking for applicants who are members of 25 clubs. They are looking for applicants who chose a few things to dive deeply into over an extended period of time. It is far better to dedicate yourself to, for example, student government and work your way up to President throughout the years while implementing various new initiatives for your class than to be a member of 10 different organizations that meet once a month. Remember: quality over quantity.

Brainstorm opportunities

First, see if you can expand on what you already have. As we said earlier, it is preferable for you to go in-depth with an activity than to take on another one. See if you can create a new initiative in one of your current organizations. Or perhaps you can pursue a leadership role. This is the first place you should be thinking about deepening your extracurricular involvement.

Once you’ve exhausted that, start to think about new ways that you can get involved with your interests. This can take many different forms. You might decide to start a club that doesn’t exist at your school for one of your interests. You might join or start a community service organization dedicated to a cause that’s important to you. Or you might develop your creative side by starting a totally unique and interesting project that will set you apart from the crowd.

Effective brainstorming is done in relation to the specific, unique situation of a student, so this discussion will have to remain on a high-level. When we work with our students, we sit down and look at their current involvement, skills, and interests to suggest avenues for further involvement – but this can only be done after really getting to know a student.

Make a game plan

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to do moving forward, make a game plan with actionable steps and measurable outcomes so you can stay on track and ensure you’re doing everything you need to do. It’s easy for things to slip and before you know it, high school is almost over and you never got around to starting that volunteering organization you thought about. It’s important that you hold yourself accountable and follow through on your commitments. So, be sure to get organized and stick to the timeline you set for yourself.

You’ll thank yourself later when you look back on all the amazing work you’ve done!

At American College Counselors, we work one-on-one with students and their families to figure out the optimal extracurricular pathway for their unique situation – we also provide guidance and support for all other aspects of the college admissions process. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please contact us to set up a free initial consultation where we can get to know each other a bit better and explain exactly what we do. Send us an email at in[email protected] or call us at +1(954)-638-3578.