What Looks Good on a College Résumé

We hear this question often—many times from students who have come to view the college application process as an exercise in spinning themselves into something they think a college wants, rather than an opportunity to exhibit who they really are and where their interests lie. The temptation to “amass” a long list of activities won’t help you get into the college of your choice. College admission officers are interested in reading and seeing meaningful engagement from students in what they do outside of school. They are quite capable of distinguishing between the student who does “stuff” just because and the student who does “stuff” because they love what they do.

Here is a short list on how to find an activity that shines a light on what you love.

1. Be Yourself. Colleges want to admit a diverse community of students with a wide range of talents and interests. If you’re not interested in sports, student council, or some other typical extracurricular activity, don’t worry about it. Colleges are just as intrigued by the student filmmaker or poetry club founder as they are by the power forward or student body president. Provided that you demonstrate a deep and consistent commitment, admissions officers will take notice, whatever the activity.

2. Go Deep. Assuming a leadership role, participating extensively (10-20 hours per week) in one or two pursuits will always outshine comparable applicants who merely dabble (an hour here, an hour there) in several or more activities. If you want to have an impact, find your niche, and improve your college admissions prospects in the process, forget the “laundry list” and commit to wholeheartedly following your true extracurricular interests.

3. Use Your Summer. Do you want to show colleges that you are serious about your extracurricular pursuits? Then use your summer to secure an internship, take a class, or enroll in a camp that will allow you to further explore your interests outside the classroom. There is no better way to impress an admissions rep than to forego those lazy summer days and use your vacation to better yourself.

4. Get a Job. Perhaps more than anything else, having a job demonstrates to an admissions committee that you are mature, practical, and ready to take on the responsibilities associated with adulthood. If you can get a job in your area of interest, great; if you can’t, get one anyway. Show colleges that you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty.

What you do is not about building a resume to get into college; it’s about finding yourself and showing the admissions rep your true calling (at least now). Follow your heart, strive for authenticity, and college will take care of itself. Besides you’ll have plenty of time to build a career resume later. If you need help finding something to do, give us a call, we have a lot of ideas to share.