There’s no denying how important extracurriculars are when it comes to a student’s college application.
They help students gain leadership skills, show their eagerness to engage in their communities, and thus, give them a competitive edge in the overall college admissions process.
However, the emphasis on the importance of extracurriculars has caused some kids to go too far in the opposite direction: taking on too much and spreading themselves too thin. There are only so many hours in a day, so if a student has 50 activities listed on their application, chances are that the admissions committee is not going to believe that they were REALLY involved in any of them. Trust us, an adcom can spot applicants who have spent four years padding their resumes from a mile away.
So, how many extracurriculars is too many? How should a student go about choosing the right extracurriculars and engaging with them in the right way? Let’s take a look at two different example student profiles to illustrate how too many activities can indeed be a bad thing:
Sally, spread too thin
Sally is a good student. She’s driven, curious and is passionate about getting involved. The problem is, she’s TOO involved. She’s a member of the Student Union at her high school and participates in Model UN. She takes piano lessons, and flamenco lessons, and plays on a recreational soccer league. Oh! And when she has time, she volunteers at the SPCA, but to be honest she hasn’t been there in months. And she had a part-time job working as a receptionist at a law firm because she was thinking about being a lawyer, but she ended up quitting because her grades started to slip.
When Sally sat down in the fall to fill out her college applications, she felt pretty confident at first. She had filled so many of those little extracurricular boxes! But then, she realizes that her grades and SAT scores weren’t as strong as they could have been because she never had any time to study. And when she tried to write her application essays, she realized that all of her experiences in high school were so superficial and that she never really committed to anything long enough to create an impact, for herself or anyone else.
Recommended Reading: 5 Signs You’ve Taken on Too Many Extracurriculars
Even if Sally does NOT realize this, chances are the admissions committees at the schools she’s applying to will. And her chances of getting accepted to a top school might be slimmer than she originally thought.
Carlos, clear and calculated
Carlos, on the other hand, only participated in four or so activities in his entire high school career. He played football in the fall and ran track in the spring, lettering in both. With plans to study business, he joined the finance club sophomore year and eventually became president his senior year. He started playing guitar in elementary school and continued to take lessons throughout high school, playing in his free time to relax and occasionally in concerts. With a balanced schedule, Carlos was able to study hard for the SAT and keep his grades up his junior year.
When Carlos sat down to get started on his applications, though his list of activities wasn’t miles long, he had so many accomplishments and passions to speak of: numerous games and meets won as an athlete, a leadership position in the finance club, and a love for music. Writing about these interests came easily to him, and he’s able to paint a clear picture of his personality and goals. College admissions committees can clearly see through his essays that he’s driven, committed and mature, and Carlos is admitted into his first choice school.
So which student are you?
Now, read up and get smart:
- College Parent FAQs
- Supplemental Essay Analyses 2018-19
- Admissionado College Case Studies
- Admissionado’s Guide to Senior Year
- Admissionado’s Guide to Junior Year
- Essay Brainstorming Guide
- Admissionado’s Guide to Elite College Admissions
That’ll get you started. Still have questions? Reach out, and let’s gab.
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