I often get approached by parents asking me what I think about a student participating in a very specific activity, sport, or service work. They want to know if that one thing is going to help their child get admitted to college. How about working at a hospital? Doing research? Playing one sport over another? Exceeding the community service requirement for high school graduation?
Many parents want some confidence or affirmation about what their child should do in high school to impress elite colleges. Honestly, they all sound good to me. The act of "doing something" allows a student to list it on their college application. The student can check the box, so to speak. Yet it doesn't necessarily move them or the admissions officer reading their application unless the student has taken that experience to a whole new level.
That's my mantra: "A whole new level."
That's the making of a visionary, a change agent, and a genuine and transformational human being. Every single student I come in contact with has the potential to be this type of individual. However, the pressures of fitting in and all the other demands on a student sometimes make it hard for them to realize this about themselves until after high school. When a student is able to take this concept and put it to good use as a high school student, they end up surprising themselves and the most difficult people to impress: college admissions officers.
Here are five ways to take an extracurricular activity to a whole new level:
- Find one sport, one hobby, one responsibility, one thing, or one organization that you are naturally talented in and drawn to participate. This can happen before high school or anytime during high school. The sooner a student realizes that one thing, the more impact they can make.
- Do it because you can't imagine your life without it. That will push you to go above and beyond for it. Showing up to a weekly meeting, a daily practice, or even a service trip shows commitment. Yet the student who immerses themselves, wrestles with the demands of the experience, and comes out of each engagement with greater focus and vision for their contribution stands out far more.
- Think grand. Don't just do what everyone else is doing with it. Be creative, groundbreaking, and novel with your approach.
- Seek out a mentor who can give you advice when you don't know what to do. Mentors at the top of their field are often surprisingly humbled by a student's request and can provide the student with unparalleled insight.
- Be dogged about it. When someone questions your path or vision, dig deeper and reach farther than you ever thought you could go.
To take an extracurricular activity to a whole new level takes sacrifice and a belief in oneself. However, students do not have to implement this mantra with every single activity they do. Sometimes being a "member" in a club helps a student prioritize and implement goals as a visionary with their special activity. They can continue other activities that fit into their schedule.
"Think quality, not quantity, when it comes to #extracurricular activities" TWEET THIS
That one thing they do at a higher level fuels them and gives them something to strive for which is greater than themselves. When that occurs, confidence emerges and ideas begin to flow. What was once thought of as "grand," becomes a reality. No one can deny this, not even an admissions officer at an elite college, especially if everything else in the student's application is on par.
It is not the act of doing something that matters for college admissions or anything in a student's future. Instead, it is what the student does with the activity, the moment, or the opportunity which separates them from everyone else. That's what I try to do every day, but I wish I had embraced this philosophy back in high school. The possibilities seem endless when a student is in high school, and youth is on their side.