Be an Extracurricular Superstar – Part I

Take a wild guess in which factor of the college application process most Chinese students prove to be the most unimpressive? If you’re bright enough to pay attention to my headline up there, then you’ve got it – extracurricular activities. But don’t fret! Though most students’ extracurricular life tends to lean toward the bland side, it’s also one of the greatest opportunities a motivated Senior I or II student has to supercharge their applications.

In my opinion, if you want to determine whether a student can get accepted at a top international university, just ask them what they do outside of class. Gone are the days when good grades and test scores alone will get you into an Ivy League college. Now students must show excessive leadership ability and maturity to be competitive.

You’ll be surprised to learn that showing such qualities is not as demanding as you might think. Often students will hear this advice then go sign up for six different school clubs and ten events at the annual Sports Day competitions. This, however, is the opposite of what top schools are looking for.

Passion and devotion are the name of the game when it comes to extracurriculars. Being a member of five clubs is infinitely less impressive than joining one club, becoming the president, and making a huge commitment to using the club as an agent of positive change in the school and community.

Anybody can sign up for five clubs, but not everyone can found a new student literary circle for students from all Shenzhen high schools, hold monthly poetry readings, raise money for scholarships, and publish a magazine of student fiction.

Maybe that’s not the best route for you though. Maybe school and family demands are too heavy for you to spend 12 hours each week changing the world. Don’t worry! Elite colleges are now placing a huge emphasis another type of extracurricular activity, one that might be the key to getting you into Princeton – work experience.

Work experience is something that virtually NO Chinese students have listed on their applications. If they do have experience, it’s usually some cushy internship filing papers for their father’s investment firm. That kind of experience is actually a negative influence on your application. It shows that your daddy pulled some strings and that you can’t actually finish work on your own.

If you really want to show school’s that you know how to work, go out and find a job waiting tables at a restaurant this summer. Maybe work at Starbucks! Even better, start your own small business walking dogs in your local community. Far better than that, start a business or find a job that pertains to your future major. Even if it’s just cleaning test tubes, a job working for a local science research company will do far more for a future physics major’s applications than joining the student union.

Check out next weeks’ column for a more in-depth explanation of how you can use your time outside of class to create a real rockstar college applications.

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