Co-founder Sara Bittner shares her thoughts on how universities view extracurriculars and how LAUNCH helps clients structure their activities for the best application possible.
We know the importance of extracurricular activities are quite unique to US college/university admissions, but how do admissions offices actually evaluate a candidate’s participation? As with most aspects of the holistic admissions process, the answer is a resounding IT DEPENDS! Every university does it slightly differently, but a well-rounded extracurricular resume might be the factor that lands an application in the admit pile.
Your involvement in extracurriculars can demonstrate a wide variety of interests, or where you have a more in-depth interest. A well rounded list will have a bit of each, to show admissions how you will contribute to on-campus life. Here at LAUNCH, we advise our students to participate in 4 types of extracurricular activities:
TIER 1: In Tier 1 extracurriculars, a student has participated in an activity at the (inter)national level, or attended a prestigious enrichment program. These types of activities demand a very large time commitment from the student, so we only expect ONE Tier 1 activity from a student.
TIER 2: Tier 2 extracurriculars are similar to Tier 1 in that they show deeper involvement and a significant time commitment from the student. These include such activities as playing a sport with distinction, high ranking leadership positions in a club, or state level awards in a competition. A solid resume should include TWO to FOUR Tier 2 activities.
TIER 3: Tier 3 activities should show a bit more varied interest. In these activities, a student might hold a less prominent leadership position, win local competitions, or participate in JV (2nd team) level sports. We expect ONE to THREE Tier 3 activities.
TIER 4: Tier 4 activities showcase your diverse interests. A student is a general member of an organization that has few requirements. Because these activities require less time and energy, a student should have TWO to FOUR of these activities.
It is important when selecting your extracurricular activities that you are a member of contrasting activities within the same tier. So if you are the president of your school’s debate team (tier 1 or 2), it is beneficial to have a contrasting interest, perhaps a sports team or music.
The Common Application leaves 10 spaces for you to fill in your extracurricular activities, and at highly selective colleges, they do expect you to be able to fill all ten slots. Again, this depends on the commitment of Tier !, but most applicants are able to fill all 10 spaces through their combination to hobbies, volunteerism, school activities, sports, and work experience.
Why do colleges evaluate prospective students’ extracurricular involvement? They want to be sure that admitted students align with their values, or might help in changing the culture on campus. Colleges should be able to tell which clubs on campus you might join (or start!) based on your extracurricular involvement in high school. At the end of the day, all universities want a well-rounded study body full of students who will thrive in and contribute to everyday campus life at the university and in society post graduation. At LAUNCH, we coach students to cultivate a well-rounded life outside of the classroom which showcases their gifts and talents to the world while continuing to #dreamlaunchsoar.