There’s no secret that colleges look beyond student grades and test scores. They also seek feedback and perspectives from your teachers and guidance/college counselors. Your essays also matter. Whether it’s the Common Application personal statement or the college supplemental essay, they invite you to voice yourself. Equally important are your extracurricular activities (ECA) that provide insight into what shapes and/or influences who you are. Often, it’s the most underrated aspect of your application to which few students pay much attention nor thoughtfully consider its implications as it relates to college admissions.
What ECA is Not:
ECA is not and should not be a random list of things that you have done. Whether its playing Tennis for 2 years, piano for 7 years, 1 year editor of your school paper or 2 hours of volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, your ECA should have a greater sense of purpose and direction. Because, as it is, this list of ECA doesn’t provide a clear and succinct impression of what you’re passionate about and/or what motivates you.
ECA is NOT about having the longest list of involvements. Sometimes, students will list 15-20 activities that they have been involved in since middle school. What they fail to realize is that it's not a contest of how many you can do. But rather, it should be about the quality of commitment to a handful of activities that genuinely reflect your interests, passion and its relative association to your future aspiration.
What an ECA is/should be:
Demonstration of what you’ve devoted your free time to
Reflection of commitment & devotion to a handful of concerted activities
Introduction to and exposure to a potential academic/career interest
Opportunity to deepen knowledge
Differentiating factor that separates the focused from the unfocused
Showcase of skills and abilities
Profile of an Engineer: Strong math and science achievement as evidence by mastery of coursework consistent with performance on standardized exams. Additionally, he/she must show evidence of Engineering interest, knowledge, and motivation for the field. Oftentimes their extracurricular activities such as FIRST Robotics, Math Olympiad, Summer Research in Nanotechnology, contributing Writer for School’s Science Publication represent the artifacts of a concerted alignment of activities with their intended pursuit and aspirations, thereby presenting a cohesive profile of a more focused student destined to become an Engineer.