Student activities and admissions

By Sarah Soule

There is a question that is typically asked of high school students during the college admission process and that is: “How did you spend your summer vacation?”   It is often a requirement on college applications and is considered by many institutions as an integral part of the admission procedure.   As members of the Class of 2013 at area high schools contemplate the college counseling process and consider their listing of extracurricular activities and participation in athletics to include with their college applications, it is important to review the time and effort devoted to each pursuit and the level of commitment extended.

Admissions representatives are eager to learn what a student is passionate about and how they spend their time outside of the classroom.  Involvement in out-of-school activities enable students to develop leadership skills, learn about outside interests, participate in meaningful activities, serve worthy organizations, and build upon athletic prowess, and all the while giving time, talent and energy to a cause or team.  Some students opt to spend their time exploring a career field through an internship or co-op experience at a nonprofit, while some work at a local store, babysit, or assist at home with daily chores as well as pursue a sport or club activity.

During the academic year, students can choose from a myriad of clubs, activities, and athletics at school to add to their profile.  It is important that students participate in activities that are of personal interest to them as the experience will be that much more rewarding.  Aspiring applicants need to focus their extracurricular activities on their personal strengths and direct their attentions and abilities where they will find the most benefit as in doing so, they will ultimately thrive.  Students should also be encouraged to consider participating in things that they have never tried before as it might prompt a new area of interest!

Colleges and universities want to see a student who has been involved over time in activities that will represent a diverse range of talents; ones that the student will potentially continue with at the collegiate level, if admitted to their institution.  They are not interested in reviewing a mish mash listing of multiple programs, organizations, clubs, sports and activities where the student has been unable to commit themselves in a meaningful way.  It certainly is beneficial, too, if the student’s letters of recommendation can address the candidate’s participation in these activities, in addition to touching on their academic preparation and readiness for college study.

As always, it is important for each student to have a healthy balance of academics and activities as they prepare to apply to college.  Some summer programs and activities continue throughout the academic year and students should be, if time allows, encouraged to continue their participation.

Rising seniors should review the websites of the colleges and universities they are considering and check out their athletics and activities section.  If you have questions, feel free, if there is a link or contact information, to contact the appropriate person at the institution to address your concerns.

Sarah Soule is an independent educational consultant and is a professional member of IECA.   She serves as the Director of Admissions and College Counseling at the Vermont Commons School in South Burlington and previously worked as a senior member of the admissions staff at Champlain College. 

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