Now that summer’s here, many teens will participate in extracurricular activities to keep them occupied and, hopefully, inspired and growing as awesome humans.
And, of course, everyone knows that colleges look for students who’re meaningfully involved in activities outside of high school classes. Colleges care about the character of the students they admit, so what your teen does during non-academic hours tells them a lot about who she is as a person.
So, what should your kid do to really shine on that application outside of getting good grades and test scores?
Most impressive to colleges are students who follow passions and interests in different ways. They want to see students challenge themselves to grow and develop outside of the confines of the classroom walls.
This shows moxie, drive and leadership – exactly the type of person that every college wants to have at their school.
So, let’s dig in to the important stuff kids should be thinking about with their extracurriculars.
Quality vs. Quantity
It might be tempting to encourage your teen to learn karate, join a robotics team, take ballet lessons, work at the soup kitchen, build houses in Belize and enroll in all of the summer camps she can fit into her schedule – all for the sake of creating a nice, long list on college applications.
Oh gosh, just hold up now.
Besides overwhelming your kid, engaging in multiple extracurricular activities won’t help her get in. Admissions officers are most interested in students who are consistently involved in one to three meaningful activities in high school.
The deeper your teen dives into her interests, the more she can develop knowledge, skills and leadership within that space. And these qualities are highly desirable to colleges.
Passions vs. Impressions
Your teenager should absolutely enjoy any activity she participates in. Engaging in an activity because it “looks good” and it seems like it’ll attract a college’s attention is never a good idea. There’s no fulfillment in that, and it’ll come across in neon lights on the application.
Your teen should know that being in debate club or spending money on an expensive service trip does not trump holding down a part-time job, for example. It’s how she grows within the activities she pursues that matters.
Colleges honestly don’t care what students do outside of school. They do care that they challenge themselves in meaningful ways in order to develop in maturity, intelligence and confidence.
Download my free Extracurricular Activities Tracker & Ideas List to discover clubs, social organizations and community service opportunities that will get your teen’s wheels turning.
Leadership & Impact
Every college seeks to admit students who are likely to contribute positively to the campus in some way. Two ways to demonstrate this is for your teen to show how she’s developed as a leader or has made an impact in some way during her high school years.
Committing to an interest or two over a longer period of time allows students to challenge themselves in ways that’ll allow for this type of development.
Let your teen know that demonstrating that she’s a leader doesn’t necessarily mean she has to become president of a club or captain of a team. There are myriad ways to show this. If she’s not sure, ask her to reflect on when she’s served as a leader, organizer or role model for others. Talk about the ways she’s worked on developing into a better human being through the extracurricular activities she pursues.
And if still nothing comes to mind, help her determine how she might demonstrate these characteristics going forward within a current interest. What can she do to make an impact? How can she improve something or help another person develop in a positive way?
Colleges want to understand who your teen is and how she’s developed and grown personally over time. Help her make a big impact on applications by guiding her toward those meaningful, fulfilling extracurricular activities early on.
Don’t forget! download the Extracurricular Activities Tracker & Ideas List, and have your teen use the tracker to record those activities throughout high school for college applications.
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