Is it better to be involved in several extracurricular activities or to concentrate on just a few?
Get involved in activities which hold a deep interest for you. Start a club or organization around an issue or cause which is meaningful to you. There is no one “right” or “wrong” activity. Some students like to be involved in many different activities, while others like to focus on one or two key areas and through them, show leadership and initiative. Search for opportunities to expand and deepen your involvement. Don’t choose activities because you think they will help you get into college.
As a college counselor, students sometimes ask me how important community service is when admissions officers evaluate applicants. My answer is that while volunteer work is always beneficial, for the volunteer as well as for those who are served, service is no more important than any other activity. Choose activities because they fit you, will help you find what you love to do, and will promote your personal development as you move through high school and college. Remember, admissions decisions do not rise nor fall on the fact that an applicant chose one extracurricular over another.
The activities you choose in high school will become a part of your college applications. If you are using the Common Application, make sure to write clear, concise, and data-specific descriptions of each of your activities, describing each activity and your accomplishments as thoroughly as you can within the 150 characters and spaces available. Review your entries with someone unfamiliar with your school to ensure the names of organizations are understandable (beware of acronyms) and that your contributions are well-documented and show the impact you had on each. Leave the admissions officer reading it with all the information they need to understand your accomplishments. For example, if you were a member of the National Honor Society, instead of saying Our chapter did a lot of volunteer work, say something like: Created Teacher Appreciation Day; tutored elementary school students; raised $1,000 for school supplies; raised money for March of Dimes; held food drives. Many times when I was reviewing applications as a college admissions officer, I’d read a lackluster description for an activity and think “I know they must have done more than that.” No matter how strong your grades are, if you don’t describe your activities with depth and substance, your application will suffer.
Pick activities you love, not ones you feel obligated to participate in.
Thanks for all your help with Emma. You have been great and your support is appreciated. We could not be doing this without you!