Some common FAQs to answer your queries

What is the best way to describe my extracurricular activities in my college application?

You may perhaps be concerned that by working on a singular and uncommon activity or task, it will not reflect well in your college application since it will be challenging to express your position fully in the Common Application Activities Section.

Your worries are unwarranted because there are many alternative documents to demonstrate your achievements to college admission staff such as:

Letters of recommendation

When you request your teacher and counsellor for a letter of recommendation, update them about your activities in detail so they are aware of how passionate and focused you are about it. Thereafter, make it a point to specifically ask them to speak about it in their letters.

Personal Statement and other Essays

It will be a good idea to narrate your experience in the activity or task – as you look at it in retrospect if you’ve put in a fair amount of time and effort.

Additional Information Section in your application

Such additional information that a college allows you to include is just that – it should not be written like the other essays in your application. You could just put down your experience in the activity as a synopsis.

Interview

If there is an opportunity for you to interact on a one-on-one with the admission staff, use the opportunity to talk about your singular activity.

An aside:

Don’t be alarmed by the numerous slots available to list your activities in the Common Application Activities section. It is not mandatory to fill all the slots – no college admission committee expects it. But most students have this fallacy that filling up the section with information will look good and awesome.

A singular, significant, and outstanding narrative and not an exhaustive list of activities invariably inspire all college admissions staff. So you may just as well junk the irrelevant activities from your application.

Is it acceptable if I also participate in a less time-consuming extracurricular activity because I simply want to? Even if it has no connect with my core activity?

Yes you can. It will be a good break for you – as long as it is just a short break of an hour or two in a week. You could utilize this time to explore some other activity that you are keen on and that is quite unrelated to your core activity. It could be doing community work or joining a club.

But steer clear of any such activity that will eat into your time and will need continuous rehearsals or make you feel burdened with it in class and outside.

Can’t I hang out with friends? Is it essential that I should choose solitary activities? Why should I stay away from group activities? It will be such fun.

Yes, being with friends can be de-stressing. So let’s face it – as a high school student who is immersed in back-to-back activities, you most probably bump into friends at school, while interning, at part-time jobs, volunteering, etc.

So it’s a good idea to register for similar courses and a low priority activity so you can be in it together with friends. You will even benefit from it if your friends are as committed as you are since you will be exchanging notes constantly and thereby broadening your outlook.  

Overall, my GPA and test scores are no match for other students who will have done better than me. I’m now in my senior year but have the option of pursuing a time-consuming and outstanding extracurricular task to make an impact. The hitch is that I’ll be unable to see it through. Should I pursue it at the cost of losing an academic year in the bargain?

When you are certain that your chances of being accepted by a reputed college are slight, then, it may be a good idea to take a year’s break and commit your time and energy to pursue a singular and significant activity. When this activity is in sync with the extracurricular profile that you have already been building from your early high school years, you will still catch attention despite having grades and scores that aren’t competitive.

I prefer to follow my own path and still have a significant impact on my school. Is this acceptable?

If what you have passion for and want to do is not part of what extracurricular activities your school provides, only then, use your resources to address your need. In doing so you will display enterprise and willingness to pursue your interests anyhow.

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