How to Choose Your Extracurriculars: The Myth of Well-Roundedness

By Jacky Huang

When applying to top colleges, I believe one thing to focus on is the activities and extracurriculars you put your time towards. Before joining a club or becoming really involved, reflect on the activity’s significance or importance to you. If your reason for joining is that everyone else is doing it or because you think it “looks good,” take a few seconds to really evaluate that decision.

If you think clubs like BETA Club, National Honor Society, Key Club, and Interact Club will look good to top colleges, you are wrong. The mentality of joining things because YOU think it’s what admissions officers are looking for will definitely hurt you in the long run. Admissions officers aren’t just checking off boxes to see if applicants are in X, X, X clubs. Actually join clubs that you are passionate about and create REAL impact in them.

Admissions officers are looking for passion and passion is impossible to fake. Applicants show passion by clearly describing their motivations for getting involved in certain activities. They show the hopefully significant impact they created by being a part of it. It’s not about how many leadership positions you hold in the bajillion clubs you’re in if you can’t write about a single thing you’ve done. Admissions officers would rather you be extremely involved in a few things and clearly show your passion and outcome in those activities.

I’m not saying don’t do a bunch of things. Just make sure you’re not only doing it but also creating a significant impact on the club members, the school, the local community, or the state. However, if you are truly passionate about community service and have invoked a lot of change in the more typical organizations like NHS, BETA Club, etc. then that’s totally alright as well. But NEVER join a club just because everyone else is doing so.

Finding passions is extremely hard to do especially in high school, but I recommend thinking about the problems that have impacted your life or community and going from there. The best advice I can give about passions is think about what is meaningful for you: What do you want to change in the world?

Also try to be extremely specific when describing and finding your passion. Instead of being interested in just education development, be more specific with wanting to improve education development and access to resources in urban ghetto areas because those are the realities you live in. Instead of only being interested in sustainability, maybe focus on spearheading sustainable development in the Middle East.

When you are very specific in your passions and have extracurriculars that all in some way point back to it, you start creating that “spike,” as some people say. A spike is an area of focus where you show significant interest and results. Admissions officers are trying to build a well-rounded class and are not looking for a well-rounded applicant.

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