July 20, 2012 by Admit It!
Admit It! You’ve heard all of the rumors about how colleges evaluate extracurricular activities (or as we lovingly call them, ECs). You’ve heard that you have to demonstrate at least 100 hours of community service to be admitted, or you’ve heard that admission is dictated by which type of instrument is needed in the band. C’Mon Man! Urban admission myths all. What colleges look for when reviewing extracurricular involvements is 1) demonstrated commitment or passion (meaning that some of your activities have been sustained throughout high school) and 2) any way you distinguish yourself within this arena (leadership positions, honing special talents, starting a club or organization). When composing EC resumes, applicants tend to make a few pitfalls, ones worthy of a collective C’Mon Man!
Listing components of the same activity on multiple lines (i.e. putting your 9th grade play on one line, your 10th grade play on another and so on)
- C’Mon Man! Give us some credit. We understand that doing this is usually an attempt to make one’s resume appear fuller than it actually is. If you’re dedicated to a few specific activities that is just as good as students who participate in more activities that require less time. There are spaces in our class for those jacks of all EC trades and there are spaces for those who do one thing but do that one thing really well. It’s not about the quantity of activities, it’s about the quality.
Including classes on your list of extracurricular activities
- Part of this C’Mon Man! belongs to the Common App. Some of their EC categories (such as foreign language) might lead you to believe you should include classes on your EC list but do not. Classes are classes. ECs are what you do when you’re not in class.
Listing hobbies as extracurricular activities
- C’Mon Man! We’ve made note of this several times in previous blogs. Reading, writing, hiking, exercising, etc. are hobbies not extracurricular activities. When these activities are included it’s again usually an attempt to make one’s list look fuller than it is. A longer list does not imply a stronger list.
Not making a fine art submission when your EC list is all about the fine arts.
- C’Mon Man! Show us your talents. The fine art submission is there for you to showcase the skill you’ve honed. We’re sometimes at a loss as to why someone who’s non-class life revolves around music or dance or studio art does not make an art submission. It’s optional of course, so it’s up to you of course. Just remember, we’re admission officers, not artists. We’re not qualified to evaluate your skills but our professors are. And just like we rely on our coaches to point out to us the best athletes, we rely on our fine arts faculty to point out our best artists. No doubt the work for the art submission is already done; you have your product. Just send it to us and if the review is positive, it can definitely be a plus factor for you.
Exaggerating the number of hours you spend on your activities. We’ve seen students claim they spend more hours per week participating in ECs than there are hours in a week.
- C’Mon Man! It’s one thing to try to paint yourself in the best light. It’s another to overdo it. Attempting to make yourself look too good often has the opposite effect.
Your activity resume should portray who you are and what you’ve done, not who you think you should be. The best thing you can be in your application is yourself.
Wendy Livingston ’03, M.Ed. ‘09
Senior Assistant Dean of Admission