Your involvements outside of the classroom can be an important component of your graduate school application. Can you make a connection between your activities and the field you are entering? Did your participation in an activity influence your decision to pursue this career?
For example, an applicant to clinical social work or counseling/marriage and family therapy programs may have served as a resident assistant in college. In this role, they used mediation skills as a peer leader to resolve conflicts between roommates. They created a cohesive living-learning environment, developed crisis management skills, and led educational and social programs in their residence hall. These experiences are clearly relevant to working in the helping professions.
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If you are applying to graduate school in a healthcare field like occupational therapy or speech and language pathology, have you had any experiences working with people in need? If you volunteered at a shelter, you likely interacted with diverse populations facing a variety of challenges including housing, financial, and mental health issues. Did you volunteer with individuals with special needs as a Best Buddy? Your ongoing connection and support for your buddy demonstrates an ability to relate to those with developmental delays.
Were you a member of an athletic team? As a varsity athlete, you likely learned to balance academic commitments with the athletic schedule and therefore developed strong time management skills. You also learned how to work as a part of a team to achieve goals. Some activities give you exposure to the career field that you want to enter. Did working with an athletic trainer open your eyes to a career in physical therapy?
A student who is applying to graduate school in public policy or macro social work can include their experience in a leadership role in student government when they advocated for policies to improve the student life experience. Did you start a new club or student organization? Your entrepreneurial skills relate to many different career fields and show your ability to take initiative and motivate your peers.
You can include in your graduate school application activities that you engaged in during your undergraduate education, in your community, or in a faith-based organization. What matters most is the depth of the experience, what you learned, and how the experience changed you. A long list of short-term activities will not distinguish your application. Activities that you engaged in where you had an ongoing commitment, where you took a leadership role, stretched yourself, and did something that you are proud of are the ones to include in your application.
In recognition of the importance of experiences outside of the classroom, many in higher education are now describing activities as “co-curricular” rather than “extracurricular”. Including participation in meaningful activities that show both your personal and professional development can really make your graduate school application stand out.
If you would like the guidance and support of experienced admissions consultants as you work on your grad school application, Accepted is here to help. We offer a range of services that can be tailored exactly to your needs.
Alice Diamond was Associate Dean for Career and Community Service at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She has 35 years of experience in career and admissions advising for undergraduate and graduate students. Want Alice to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!