What does your extracurricular resume say about you?

We’ve all heard that colleges want students who are involved, but this tends to bring up more questions:

  • What level of involvement is expected?
  • What types of activities should you choose?
  • Should you be involved in a sport?
  • Do you need a specific number of volunteer hours?

Too often the result is students racing to join clubs and organizations because they think it will “look good to colleges” not understanding that the value is on the experience NOT on the seemingly impressive titles.

It helps to understand WHY colleges want students who have dedicated time outside of school to extracurricular pursuits. Universities want to see students who are willing to pursue interests, develop new skills, and commit.

Knowing WHY colleges want involved students can help you make strategic decisions on how you choose to spend your free time.

In the next month, I will delve deeper into the topic of extracurricular activities, what you should consider doing, and how many activities are enough. To make sure you receive these updates, make sure to sign up to receive my newsletter.

(Auto generated transcript of the video)

Why do colleges care about extracurricular activities?

I’m Megan Dorsey from collegeprepresults.com and the cohost of “The College Prep Podcast.” And over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of students to improve their test scores and their college applications and get into the colleges of their dreams.

I think all students and parents have heard by now that colleges like to see students who are involved. But most people haven’t stopped to think about why and what that results in our students who are running around joining clubs, signing up, playing sports, trying to quote, look good to colleges, but they haven’t been strategic in their choices and they don’t really know why they’re doing it other than because colleges want extracurricular activities. So let’s stop and think.

Colleges like the answers to these questions. What are your interests, what are your talents? And then how do you choose to spend your time?

In other words, what do you choose to do when no one is making you? Now I have a seventh grade son who like many, you know, 13 year old boys probably would prefer to spend all of his time playing Minecraft or Fortnite or whatever the game is this week and would default to doing that exclusively if we didn’t know. And again, make him get out and do something else. Think about it. Colleges are looking, did you take the time and effort to break away from video games or hanging out with your friends or playing on your phone to build your own interests and talents? And the reason why they do this is because it’s going to give them better students, better prepared students with more skills who are more successful, not just in college, but going forward. How is that? Well, there are a lot of skills that are not taught and your basic high school curriculum.

So if we think about the classes you take between 8:00 AM and 3:00 PM you’ve got English, math, science, history, another language, and maybe a couple choice electives. But there’s so many other skills that just don’t usually fit into the common curriculum in the high school day. Maybe it’s leadership ability. Maybe it’s your ability to communicate effectively with others or your interest in a specialized field. Maybe you have a particular interest in something like archeology that’s not ever going to be offered at your high school. Students participating in extracurricular activities though are developing these skills. The other thing is once you’ve done that and you’ve taken time to develop that skill, you’re bringing to the college campus part of that, so it could simply be an ability to commit. I spent four years doing high school band. I know how to show up to practice. I know how to take coaching and direction.

I know how to spend extra time and still get my homework done. So those students come with a whole package of skills that the person who didn’t participate in extracurriculars did not. The other thing is colleges love to see people who are willing to pursue their interests. It’s one thing for seven year old you to say, Oh, I think I want to be a doctor when I grow up. It’s very different for 17 year old you to say, I’m interested in medicine. So I am taking these science classes at school. But you know what? I also volunteered at the hospital or I got a research opportunity the summer before my senior year to see if I’m really as interested in biology or chemistry, science as I thought I was. It’s different to be committed than to be simply casually interested and extracurricular activities give students the opportunity to pursue that.

And I know a lot of people say, but you know, I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know what I want to major in. Colleges aren’t insisting that you pursue everything and come with a fully decided picture of your future, but they do love to see people who have spent the time on your own, your free time to learn about new fields of interest, to pursue different topics and passions and to develop their talents. So that’s why colleges ask about extracurricular activities. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be exploring some ways that you can enhance your college applications, your extracurricular resume, through your choice of activities. And it’s not just quote to look good to college, but it really is to develop you as a person and to get you on a path to make better choices of major or possible career connections or opportunities. So go ahead and sign up over college prep results.com to receive my weekly newsletter. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and think about what you’re doing with your free time and what it might tell colleges about you and your talents and your interests.