You are this close to finishing your application, but in the section that asks you about your extracurricular activities, you freeze up. I don’t really have any extracurricular activities, you think. What should I do now? How will I be able to stand out from the competition?
We’re glad you asked. Team Accepted has worked with countless applicants who have found themselves in this exact nail-biting dilemma. They frantically search for a non-school or non-work endeavor to latch onto, hoping that the activity will reflect well on them. They hope the adcom won’t pay too much attention to the fact that they just started the activity two months before the application due date. (Yikes!)
We are here to ease your mind by offering these 5 ideas:
- You may already have some extracurriculars and haven’t recognized them
It’s unlikely that your life consists solely of school and/or work and basic life maintenance. Look at your weekly or monthly calendar to discover unique experiences that could be considered “extracurricular.” You don’t need clear-cut activities such as, “Acted as president of the chess club” or “Volunteered in a local soup kitchen.” Do you sing in a choir on Tuesday nights? Participate in a weekly fiction writing circle with friends? Are you an avid gamer? Do you do yoga, meditation, or are you training for a half-marathon? Do you have a podcast, moderate a discussion group on Clubhouse, or are you learning website design? Do you run an Etsy shop? Do you have a standing weekly “date” with a grandparent who is otherwise alone most of the time?
These are all completely valid, growth-oriented ways to invest time outside of work or school. Each has the potential to reveal your passions, interests, and goals. Some may have helped you develop leadership skills. With others, your gains may be physical, creative, intellectual, social, professional, or emotional-psychological. They will all broaden you as a more fully evolved individual to the admissions committee.
- Better late than never
Some applicants think they’d be better off bypassing the subject of extracurriculars entirely, rather than highlight the slightly suspicious timing of having so recently begun the activity. No one wants to come across as phony.
We agree that showing long-term extracurricular activities would have been preferable, but showing recent and short-term involvements are better than none. (And they will certainly be better than having your main extracurricular activity consist of kicking yourself over and over again for your lack of planning.)
Now’s not the time to harp on regrets; now is the time to act. Get out there and do something.
- Even short-term involvement can transform you
Keep in mind that participation in non-school and non-work activities, even if just for a limited period of time, will elevate your flat, one-dimensional admissions profile into a more vibrant, colorful, and interesting candidate profile. Not only will you be viewed in a more holistic way, but your new involvement may also quickly begin to expand your own vision, understanding, skills, and potential.
Now’s your chance to transform yourself from a pile of grades and scores into a real, live human being – one who pursues his or her interests and passions outside of the work and school arenas.
- Your application efforts may be delayed or extended
Another reason to jump right into an extracurricular activity even though you may feel like it’s too last minute is because you don’t know the outcome of your application effort. For example, you may decide for one reason or another to push off applying until the following year. You may get waitlisted or you may get dinged from all your top choice schools and decide to reapply next year. Whatever the case, this could be the beginning of what turns out to be an entire year of extracurricular involvement.
- Hobbies are good for YOU
Forget for a minute that you’re applying to school (if that’s even possible!) and think about what’s actually good for you. It’s not healthy to sit at work for 18+ hours a day in an office or at home before crashing on the couch because you’re too tired to make it to bed. Forget the application process completely– finding something to do that is unrelated to work, school, or other obligations will enrich your life. The right activities will energize you physically and creatively, and make you a happier person.
Take home message: It’s NEVER too late to get involved in some meaningful, interesting, enriching, and fun extracurricular activity!
At Team Accepted, our experienced consultants will help you create an enriched, interesting, and outstanding application. From helping you choose the right programs to identifying your strongest experiences, academic credentials, skills, and even extracurricular activities, we are your partners on your road to ACCEPTANCE!By Judy Gruen, former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University. She is the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!