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Which Activities Do Colleges Value?

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The example above shows the Common Application Activities section, which offers 10 spots for a student to fill in. Does this mean every college wants you to have 10 activities? Well, no, but in most cases, students should at least be able to fill up half of these activities with a variety of sports, community service, work, and/or other things they are passionate about.

The problem is, oftentimes, students only have 2-3 activities which, unfortunately, in this highly competitive college admissions game, just isn’t going to cut it (with these activities only being sports!). It is best to start early; however, it is rarely too late to start being more active within your school or community in order to strengthen your college profile.

Ask yourself these simple questions to assess your own activity choices:

-Do your activities relate to what you plan to study? Recently I met with a student who was passionate about pursuing business in college; however, his activities resume only included 2 sports and participating sporadically in a youth church group. Right off the bat, I asked him why he wasn’t a member of a business-related club on campus (it turns out his school offered a Marketing Club) or hadn’t volunteered with a local business. These are activities that an admission officer might expect to see a future aspiring businessman take part in. Think about areas you are interested in and see how you can become more involved. Interested in Finance? Take a local Quickbooks class, learn basic bookkeeping and accounting, and then volunteer your services to a local non-profit. Interested in Finance? Take a local Intro to Marketing Class online and volunteer your newfound knowledge to a local business in need.

-Start early/Leadership Roles The earlier you join a club, the better. Colleges are looking for activities you have been involved with over time. It won’t help you to join 5 clubs in your senior year! By joining early, you also have a better chance of taking on a leadership role by the time you are a senior (e.g., President, Treasurer, Secretary, etc.) There's a big difference between having a bunch of activities on your resume and not being responsible for anything other than just showing up and following others. Colleges value students who know how to engage others, collaborate and lead. Not sure where to start? Check with your school's Clubs & Activities advisor and see what clubs are available on your campus. Most high schools also list their clubs on their school website so you can contact the president or the faculty advisor ASAP to find out what you need to do to join. Last but not least, if your school doesn’t have a club for an activity you absolutely love, go ahead and start your own club! All colleges will value your focus and drive to create something you are wholeheartedly enthusiastic about. It matters less WHAT your club is about but WHY you decided to organize it. Colleges want to see you can be passionate about something and dedicate the time and energy to doing something that is impactful, like starting a club. **Special Note: I think it is worth mentioning that popular/common activities where probably hundreds of thousands of students out there also participate in a similar activity may be less helpful for your future application. This is not to say that you shouldn't do something. However, you may have to think deeper about at least one other activity that IS unique to you and would stand out from a crowd. I especially liked this article highlighting the different "Tiers" of activities.

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