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Choosing Your Extracurricular Activities: It’s About Quality, Not Quantity

Quality Over QuantityThe other day I was working with a student who was talking about all of the clubs and activities he was involved in. After we had written everything down, the list was at 15! Fifteen different clubs and activities and when I asked him why he was involved in so many different things, he had a simple answer.

Because he thought he had to.

A situation like this is typical. High school students feel they have to be involved in so many different things so that they stand out in the college application process. The truth is, when you’re piling all these sports, activities, community service, club meetings, theatre performances, etc. onto your plate, you’re investing your time and energy for the wrong reasons. You’re spread thin and end up showing a college that you don’t have a commitment to anything.

Instead, students should be focused on making the most of their activities outside of class by doing things they enjoy and are good at. This is called building a brand.

What’s a brand you ask? Well, think about what you are interested in; how much do you really know about what it will take to do well in this program and, ultimately, in the profession? If you want to major in nursing, have you volunteered at a hospital? Have you considered taking a class to earn your EMT license? For mechanical engineering, have you been involved in robotics? Maybe looked at local community colleges to take a CAD course? For design, have you interned or worked part-time with a local designer? Do you have a portfolio? Journalism majors, have you written anything that has been published either on a blog or through the local newspaper?

The point here is that you can invest your time blindly and hope that a random combination of activities will stand out. You can operate on assumptions and hope that they will lead you to something. You can be ignorant of the fact that colleges are trying to build dynamic classes which are comprised of interesting students with unique talents, skillsets and backgrounds.

I think it makes more sense to dedicate time to building your brand by doing several things:

1.) Complete a job-shadow with someone who does what you want to do

2.) Volunteer your time to a cause or organization related to your field

3.) Find a part-time job that gets you in the door somewhere where you will learn more about your major or your intended field

4.) Join or create a club at your high school that allows you to participate in activities related to your intended major

5.) Join professional organizations or associations related to your field. They often have programs for high school students and opportunities to be mentored by a current professional.

6.) Check with your high school to identify any “school to career” programs or internships.

If I was still reading applications for an admissions office, I can tell you that a student who had compiled a handful of in-depth experiences that were related to their major would have stood out to me much more than the student who had gotten involved in a bunch of activities that had no connection to one another.

As I tell my students all the time, it’s about quality, not quantity.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

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