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Extracurricular activities that maximize your student's college application

Caroline Duda has years of experience as an SAT tutor for Varsity Tutors. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Photo credit: Hero Images/Hero Images/Getty Images

If your student is currently preparing her college applications, take note: Schools do not examine grades alone. Instead, your child must consider a number of factors: Who is she? What are her aspirations, both during and after university? How is she already working toward these goals, in school and outside of it? Think of college applications not as transcripts, which simply state which classes your child took and what grades she achieved, but as resumes that describe her as a person: her academic and employment history, hobbies and extracurricular activities.

While there are multiple components that compose the college application, we will consider just one: extracurriculars. They may involve the arts, music, school clubs, sports, volunteering or another significant hobby. However, not every activity is relevant to your child's college application. In particular, college admissions officers analyze how activities demonstrate your child's passion, her dedication to an area of interest, and her leadership abilities. Below are suggestions to assist you and your student in choosing extracurriculars that will help her application shine.

Consider what your student wishes to major in

Choose extracurriculars that match this potential major. If your child hopes to become a journalist, being active in newspapers, blogs, and other media at her school is a wonderful way to showcase that career goal. Selecting activities related to a specific interest is also a sure way to determine whether she really does like the subject and if she truly desires to pursue it further.

Inquire

Certain activities are typically more visible within a school: sports teams, the yearbook committee, marching band, etc.. But other extracurriculars are less obvious. Encourage your child to ask around to learn what other passionate and driven students do with their free time. She may be surprised by how many opportunities exist, including internships, student governance, volunteer opportunities and other less-publicized clubs.

Create a new club

Does your child have an interest, but she cannot find an activity to match it? Advise her to speak with a teacher or guidance counselor, or with a group outside of school, about how to form her own extracurricular activity. She can determine which students share her interest and invite them to participate. This demonstrates her initiative and leadership on a college application, skills that are quite important to admissions committees.

Think about leadership

Is your child already involved in an activity? She should consider volunteering or running for a leadership position within it. A move from member to leader can be challenging, but also rewarding. It develops organizational and management skills, and it is a great way for her to network with other students who she might not otherwise meet.

Focus on a select few, rather than many, activities

Quality, not quantity, is what matters here. On college applications, it is preferable to demonstrate a deep involvement in one or two activities, rather than a shallow commitment to many. It proves that your student can choose something she is passionate about and pursue it without distraction. If she is already burdened by a multitude of extracurricular commitments, she should consider relinquishing several. The closer she moves to graduation, the more work... applications, SAT/ACT preparation, etc.... she will need to complete.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

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