Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

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Our counselors answered:

Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

Rod Bugarin
Former Admissions Officer Columbia, Brown, and Wesleyan University

Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

Here is my video response to the question.

Patricia Aviezer
President Inside Track To College, Inc.

What's In A Brand?

Involvement should have little to do with impressing highly selective colleges and more to do with defining your interests and expressing your passions. Entering High School really offers so many opportunities to "get involved." Which should you choose? In the college admissions process, you will sometimes hear the term, "Branding." What the counselor is trying to relay is the concept of "packaging" your application so that the materials you submit clearly display your interests and passions. One of these ways branding works is through your activities and organizations. Students who decide to "collect clubs," especially at the last minute, will not win friends in the admission office. With all of that said, students who are admitted to highly selective colleges often have very clearly displayed passions, and are highly recognized and acclaimed for their talents. During a visit with the Director of Admissions at Harvard several years ago, he described some of the individuals who were included in that year's Freshmen class: Olympians, internationally reknowned pianists, published authors, nationally awarded science and math students and the list goes on and on. These are very powerful human beings! My best advice? Be involved, be consistent, be a leader, be yourself!

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

The specific activities are less important than the nature and extend of your involvement in whatever you choose. Each activity says something about you, but a wide range with limited depth may say little more than that that you cannot focus—and that is not good. A smaller number of thing to which you are committed, in which you have had a chance to show leadership or initiative, is preferable and will serve you better. Too, the way they connect with the rest of your application helps create a fuller picture of who you are, what matters to you, and what you will be able to contribute to their school community the admissions office is trying to build. Commitment and passion are more important than any particular type of activity.

Raolat Raji
School Counselor/ Owner OHHS/Good Counsel College and Career Services

Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

No, not in the way that you think. It's important to highly selective colleges that you are involved in some type of active or organization. One or two is just fine. The most important part is that they see longevity. To be a part of 30 organizations for two month each is not as impressive as being apart of two organizations for four or six years.

Cindy Sherman
Guidance Counselor/Crisis Counselor Bloomfield High School

Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

I believe that what schools look for is community service and well rounded students. I believe they also like to see a student who has an interest and tracks that interest through high school, whether it be art, music, robotics etc...

Rana Slosberg
Owner Slosberg College Solutions LLC

Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

Passionate involvement in a few activities, which demonstrate leadership and initiative will impress colleges. Becoming an Eagle Scout is an example of such an activity. Demonstrating strong intellectual curiousity, such as doing significant independent research while in high school, will also impress colleges.

Edward LaMeire
CEO LaMeire College Consulting (lameirecollegeconsulting.com)

Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

Yep. But, here's a quote to live by, from the Dean of Admissions at Amherst, from an interview on NPR. "There are years that it's great to be a runner and there are years that it's great to be a lacrosse player, and there are years that it's great to play the piccolo and there are years that it's great to play the piano. But the candidate doesn't know that." In a vacuum, though, what impresses? Academic programs (RSI, SSP, Telluride) Crazy leadership (the Congressional Page Program, back before they disbanded it) Intense sports (Olympic-level at times...if nothing else, success in a coveted sport. Remember: Ivies can't give athletic scholarships, so they need to recruit nearly double the squad. Also, remember this: Ivies have wacky sports, like fencing, squash, and equestrian. These are good to have an involvement in.) However, I believe that admissions is moving beyond this "impressive" phase and more into the "people" phase. It's gotten to the point now where everyone is doing something intense over the summer. I've had 9th graders working in materials science labs at Stanford! And - surprise, surprise - it's usually the well-off kids that get involved in this and other impressive activities. In my opinion, the tide will soon turn, and once "impressive" activities will be seen as nothing more than one aspect among many.

Diana Hanson
Common Sense College Counseling College Mentors

Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

Most important is developing activities in which you have real interest. Colleges like to see depth of commitment to activities, so settle on a few activities in which you have shown growth/leadership. In terms of organizations, of course, highly selective colleges will welcome academic honors as well as depth of activities.

Kiersten Murphy
Executive Director and Founder Murphy College Consultants LLC

Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

Leadership, evidence of intellectual curiosity and genuine commitment.

Tira Harpaz
Founder CollegeBound Advice

Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

There are a number of activities that will definitely stand out to a college-competing at the Olympics, being a solo (and successful) recording artist, having the lead in a Broadway show, running a profitable business based on an original idea etc. However, for the vast majority of applicants, who will not fall into any of these categories, the most important thing is to be involved in activities in which you show initiative, accomplishment and growth. Try and find activities you enjoy by 9th grade and pursue them throughout high school. See if there's a way to broaden your interest-if you've founded a high school club, is there a way to establish branches in other schools or join a countywide council of students interested in the same subject? Try to seek opportunities outside of your high school. If you're interested in politics, in addition to being on the Student Council, maybe you could work for a local or state candidate, write a political newsletter or even blog about political issues for a local newspaper. Selective colleges get thousands of applications from students who are president of two high school clubs, have won an award in Model Congress, play a varsity sport and have organized a fundraiser for a charity in 11th grade. See what you can do to stand out and think outside the box.