What activities increase my chance of getting into a reputable economics program?

I want to be an economics major. What activities should I do to increase my chances of getting into reputable colleges?

– Aakarsh, a high school junior

You don’t need to only do economics-related activities in high school to become an econ major at a good U.S. college.

This tends to surprise applicants from abroad who are used to choosing a major or field of concentration as early as high school and who are expected to start sharpening those skills in university.

In the U.S., traditional 4-year colleges are meant to be mainly exploratory.

At a reputable university like Northwestern, you’re not required to even choose a major until right before your third year (out of four).

This means you can pursue almost any activity you want or enjoy and still be admitted to a — using your words — “reputable” college, even if it doesn’t directly relate to your intended major. The key is to pursue your chosen activities with commitment and know why you are doing it, not necessarily to match them with your intended major. (Most college students end up changing their major anyway.)

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I wouldn’t be helping you if I gave you a list of extracurricular activities to pursue or clubs to start. A student who merely follows directions is not a student who’ll contribute creatively to a college campus — the kind of student colleges want to recruit.

I need to help you see from the perspective of an admissions officer so that you can pave your own path.

What two admissions officers said about extracurriculars activities

Bryan Enochs, an admissions director at the University of Michigan, told us:

“in the extracurricular activities you want to see leadership positions and so they could be secretaries or treasurers, it doesn’t matter as long as they show commitment in an organization. Even though we recruit for the College of Engineering it doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be in engineering groups.

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