Long before Facebook had fan pages, there were other outlets for young people with mutual interests in s topic.

These outlets were sometimes called “clubs” or “organizations”.

They way we “liked” a topic was by showing up to a meeting at 2:45 or whenever our high school classes ended.

We would flip baseball cards, or play saxophone or plan a trip to a German restaurant.  We would write and edit and plan a literary magazine.  We would play baseball or softball or basketball or lacrosse or soccer. Along the way, we’d interact and learn from one another.  We’d have officers or team captains.  Some members would be more active and some members less so.

We were in school sponsored teenage social networks, long before such a term would come into vogue.

The thing of it is, these networks are more popular than ever.  And, now, it is your children who are participating.

Yes, we’re talking about one of the more “mysterious” pieces of the College Application puzzle –Extra-Curricular Activities. How do College Admission folks look at them?  Is it worth the car pooling and the hair pulling and the time spent away from home and homework?

Yeah, how DO they fit in?  Do colleges even look at Ashley’s list of activities?  Should Brad join a lot of things or be a leader in a few?  Will colleges verify that Caitlin actually was a member of the Watchung Hills HS Left-Handed Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien or Justin was on the David Brearley Curling Society?

The answers are: kinda like sprinkles or gummy bears, definitely “yes”, probably the latter ( but it depends), probably not and probably not.

I can’t tell you that you get 2 points for being 1st trombone or 5 points for your fundraiser for the United Way.  But I can tell you this.  These activities matter, in terms of College Admission AND Collegiate Success.  And not just will they help you “get in”, but they will help you “stay in”.

  • Colleges DO look at them, and here’s why.

1) Ability to work in a team – College assignments are often collaborative and involvement in extra-curricular activities provides evidence that you can work as a team.

2) Time Management – Although this aspect sometimes seems to be brought to the level of the sublime, the ability to juggle extra-curricular activities while still succeeding in the classroom indicates that you will be able to handle the looser, but more demanding time structure of college.

3) Interest in a Profession – A high school extra-curricular activity can build a resume, refine an interest in a field of study and/or long term career, and show a commitment to the major to which you are applying.

4) Leadership Skills – When an admissions counselor sees an organizational  title, it gives some indication of level of involvement, respect of peers and commitment to take on responsibility.  Of course, the size of the club does matter. (i.e. – SGA President great, President of the Dexy’s Midnight Runners Fan Club – not so much)

5) Provide Insight into the Applicant – Extra-curricular activities provide some insight as to who the applicant is.  It is that much harder to deny admission to someone you know than to a faceless applicant folder.  Extra-Curricular activities allow you to be “real” to the admission counselor, committee and/or Dean.

  • They can help in the admission process, in other ways:

6) Possible Letter of Recommendation sources – Club advisors are often more familiar with a student than a classroom teacher.  In such cases, they can write more insightful, more meaningful letters of recommendation.

7) Ability to complete tasks independently – The College Application process involves getting applications out on time, obtaining letters of recommendation, writing strong, relevant essays in a timely manner and more.  Active participation in extra-curricular activities can provide the type of skills needed to succeed in managing your College Application experience.

  • Extra-Curricular Activities can help you persist to college graduation, too.

8) Ability to appreciate the “whole experience”, inside and outside of the classroom. – Maybe the biggest change when you get to college is that most of the experience is NOT in the classroom.  Those students who were already active in HS extra-curricular activities have a leg up.

9) Social skills and team building skills.  (That’s why admission folks like those traits.  They translate directly to the college experience.) – So much of the college experience is dependent on group interaction, shared responsibility and communication skills.  The HS extra-curricular experience is great preparation for that.

  • As important as all of these, and maybe the best reason to join and participate in clubs and organizations:

10) Enjoyment. You get to be involved in something you love doing.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.