A lot of students often ask, “How many activities should I have on my college application?” Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t a cut and dry number. Do colleges want to see that you’ve spent time applying yourself outside of the classroom? Yes. Do colleges want to see a well-rounded candidate? You bet. We would argue though that instead of a CV or resume a mile long, the thing that colleges want to see more than anything is passion and interest.
You display passion and interest on a college application by showing devotion and leadership in a few activities. You are only one person and to do this properly it’s just not humanly possible to be super involved in a ton of activities. Colleges want to hear how you contributed to a club or an organization and what the experience meant to you. These types of experiences are the ones that can shape what you want to major in, do career-wise, or the type of person you want to be. They also make great material for college essays.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you are thinking about quality vs. quantity with your high school activities:
1) Do things you like doing. This may sound super obvious, but have you ever stuck out an activity because you thought it would look good on a college application? While staying in chess club may sound like what Harvard or Princeton would like, admissions folks can see right through that. Choose things you like doing because in order to make them really count and have the level of involvement colleges want to see, you need to invest yourself in these activities. Putting college applications aside, keep in mind that the activities you are easily able to do in high school, you may not be able to do them in college because you’re too busy or just not able to do them. Enjoy the things you like doing now.
2) Get involved. Once again, this isn’t rocket science (unless that’s what you’re in to!). Once you find something you’re passionate about, move from participant to active participant and then go out for a leadership position. This doesn’t necessarily mean becoming JV captain of the volleyball team. This could mean going beyond that surface level of involvement. Here’s a good example. Let’s say you like animals so you decide to volunteer at a vet clinic. Instead of just showing up and completing your hours, what if you help organize a pet adoption day at your local park. Then you also work on a social media campaign to take pictures of those little cuties and get them all adopted. See? This is going above and beyond.
3) Until you find what you like, experiment. While your senior year probably isn’t the time to go out for a bunch of new activities, your freshman and sophomore years are definitely the ones to spread your wings and try some new things. Always wanted to try ski club or interested in starting your own baby-sitting business? Give it a shot. You should definitely use your junior year to narrow down your list and focus on a few key activities, but use those younger years to try some things outside of your comfort zone.
4) Keep a record of what you do. It sounds silly, but if you don’t remember the things you have done, no one else will. Write down what you are involved in and keep notes on how much time you spent and any awards or accomplishments that you achieved while doing them. This will help you when it comes time to talk about them in your college applications or your essays. You can also always use College Tracker to keep a handy record in your phone. Upload photos and videos to really remember what you’ve done as vividly as possible.
Remember, quality outweighs quantity for your activities on your college applications. Find things you like to do and really invest your time and energy there. Get creative by expanding those activities in your community, home, and school and thinking outside of the box to develop leadership opportunities for yourself that will really demonstrate your passion to colleges.
To read more about finding opportunities for finding activities during COVID-19, click here.