This is a guest post by Veronica Mason. Veronica Mason has worked as an academic adviser since graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in education. She enjoys learning about innovations in education, particularly online classes.
It’s hard to know exactly what a college is looking for when evaluating student applications. As discussed in previous blog posts, having a solid GPA, getting involved in activities outside of school, and being a good fit for the school’s needs are all important aspects.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to have these qualities; you also have to know how to best present them to the admissions committee. With extracurricular activities in particular, it’s important to highlight why participation in that activity means you should be accepted. Below are some ideas of what to highlight.
Giving Back to the Community
It’s important to stress that your activity benefits your community, school, or student body in some way. Even if your group did not participate in community service, your club could have provided activities to complement the school’s curriculum or increased interest in an important issue.
Community service outside of school should also be added to your application, especially if it links back to a legitimate source like collecting donations for The Salvation Army.
College admissions committees are aware that some students join activities simply to have something to put down on their applications. Show that you were serious in your involvement by listing the years you were involved and any leadership positions you had.
If it is an important aspect of your application, a letter of recommendation from the coach or adviser can confirm your dedication.
Ingenuity and Initiative
Any school would love to have a Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg as part of their alumni. You don’t have to go out and build a new computer system, but if you are working on a project on your own time, mention it in your application, maybe creating an site to identify gaming hardware for know things like is logitech g105 mechanical or what’s the best gaming mouse.
Completing something on your own—whether it is publishing short stories, organizing a fundraiser for a specific cause, or taking online classes in something extra you want to learn—will show that you are creative, driven, and willing to turn your ideas into reality.
How It Relates to the Major You Want to Pursue or the College Itself
Knowing the strengths of the college or university will give you an advantage in applying. Reexamine why you want to apply to the school and why you think you’d be a good fit. Then find ways that your activities relate.
For example, let’s say that you are the editor-in-chief of your high school yearbook. If you are applying to a school with an award-winning yearbook, such as Kansas State University, then that’s the perfect activity to highlight because they will be looking for recruits for the staff.
However, most universities do not have a yearbook. You will need to find another way to make this activity applicable. If you are planning to pursue a degree in design, journalism, or photography, then the skills you developed while making a yearbook make you a better candidate for those programs.
Finally, if you have an experience that will make you stand out from other students, like studying abroad, highlight that above anything else. While it’s impressive to be a part of a club like National Honor Society, hundreds of other college-bound students thought to do the same thing.
You can also emphasize unique aspects of the best team activities. If you were on the soccer team and that team won the state championship, mentioning the win will show another level of dedication.
Apply these tips—and use correct grammar and spelling, of course—and you can send off your application with confidence.