“Extracurricular Activities” in the Right Bucket?
Copyright 2016 Roxanne Ocampo
Extracurricular activities are not simply
extra stuff you do in high school to put on your college application. If planned correctly, they can do two
important things. They can be extremely
rewarding and they can increase your odds of getting into your dream
The rewarding part is a no-brainer. When you participate in activities related to
your passion or that interests you, it will be rewarding. But what about the connection between these
activities and college admission success?
There is a method of selecting extracurricular
activities that complements your overall profile. To understand this method, you need to think about
why admissions readers are interested in how you spend your spare hours on and
off campus. It tells them more about you
than you think. It tells them about your
organizational skills; interpersonal and leadership skills; personal values;
team building skills; political views; cultural authenticity, and passion for particular
issues or causes.
So, let’s start putting our activities
into conceptual “buckets.” Each bucket
has its own purpose and is directly related to your college applicant profile. You can create any type of “bucket” but be
mindful of the profile you want to project.
I like to see students use the buckets of “Discipline Specific,”
“Cultural Authenticity,” and “Community Service.”
#1: Discipline Specific – The first bucket should be the
easiest. This bucket tells admissions
officers what you are passionate about.
If it’s engineering – participate in engineering type activities all
four years of high school. Join an
engineering related club, become a member of Mathematics Engineering Science
Achievement (MESA) or the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE),
enter engineering competitions, and apply to engineering internships during
your summer breaks.
#2: Cultural Authenticity – The second bucket is the most
overlooked one. This bucket tells
admissions officers what matters most to you from a cultural perspective. Join clubs related to the cultural group you
personally identify with such as Movimiento
Estudiantil [email protected] de Aztlán (MEChA), a ballet folklorico group, or a
political group such as the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los
Angeles (CHIRLA). Your goal is to remain
active in your culturally authentic activities for all four years of high
#3: Community Service – the third bucket is the easiest to fill because lots
of organizations want volunteers. You can
find volunteer opportunities in your local community or contact an organization
where you’d like to serve, and ask them about volunteering your time. Again, your goal is to be consistent with
your service activity for all four years of high school.
Triple Dipping – Now, super crafty
students will dip their extracurricular activities into multiple buckets. How about double-dipping a discipline
specific activity with a culturally authentic activity? For example, you can serve as the Community
Service Chair of MEChA. Better yet, why
not triple dip for maximum advantage?
Here’s an example:
Forget the Leadership Angle – Whether you’re double or triple-dipping,
don’t forget to participate in activities that showcase your leadership
potential. An important part of
your extracurricular strategy will be to take on a leadership role in these
activities. Become an officer, lead a
chapter, assume a Chair or other leadership position, and serve as a
representative of an organization.
Helpful links to
get you started on your bucket lists:
Quality over quantity (a few focused is better than 10
Stay in it for the long haul (4 years is great)
Triple Dipping is even smarter!
Never place extracurricular activities over grades
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Posted April 20th, 2016 by Quetzal Mama