What you choose to do outside the classroom, and the passion with which you pursue it, tells the colleges a lot about the potential impact you are likely to make on their campuses. As you think about how you want to spend your time outside the classroom, here are some pointers to keep in mind:
1. Start with what you already know and like.
Think about what you like, and ask yourself, "What else could I do in this area?" For example, if your passion is sports, there are a lot of ways to get involved. Join a team at your school. Be the manager of the baseball team. Write the sports column for the school newspaper. Be the announcer at the basketball games. Take pictures of sports for the yearbook. No matter what you like to do, if you commit yourself to it, the colleges will be impressed.
2. Don't be a "joiner."
Don't sign up for every club on campus to try and make the colleges
think you were involved. A long list of activities alone isn't going
to impress the colleges as much as a substantial commitment will. Pick
the things you really enjoy instead of padding your resume.
3. Always try to make an impact.
When you graduate from high school, what
legacy will you leave behind in your involvements? It might be
something big, like the fact that you founded an organization that
raised $12,000 for Juvenile Diabetes. It might be something small,
like the fact that even though you rarely played, you still got the
Coach's Award on the soccer team because of your dedication. Whatever
you do, find a way to make contributions in your own way. Colleges
like the students who make an impact wherever they are.
4. Never ask, "Would (insert activity here) look good?"
Every time one of our Collegewise students asks us this, we make that
student go run a lap around our offices. OK, not really, but that
question is like fingernails on the blackboard for us, and for the
colleges. Instead, ask yourself, "Am I really interested in this, and
does is seem like something to which I could commit to substantially?"
If the answer is "yes," you're probably on the right track.
5. Never quit an activity you enjoy just because you aren't succeeding.
If you love being on the soccer team even though you spend most of your time on the bench, don't
quit! Colleges understand that you're not going to be great at
everything you do. Besides, it takes just as much fortitude to stick
with something that's challenging as it does to continue in an activity
where everybody is always telling you how great you are.
Conversely, if you don't like an activity, get out! If you hate every
second of wrestling and you got beaten so badly at the last match that
your liver fell out, stop. Don’t wrestle anymore. Find something else
that you enjoy where you won’t be slammed into a mat quite so often.