There is so much pressure on high school students, especially those with the desire to go to highly sought-after university. Getting good grades is great and it’s always a big accomplishment to make the honor roll. However, those A’s and B’s may not be good enough to compete at admissions time. The key to cracking the admission code may lie in extra curricular activities.
Advanced placement classes aside, colleges want to also know what kind of person you are, what your interests are and how you have planned for the future. Participating in the many extracurricular activities available on and off campus may be a factor that separates your teen from the rest. But, that’s also part of the problem. With so many choices, how do you know you’re investing your time in the right activities?
While teens should seek extracurricular activities they truly enjoy and support their desired college major, certain talents and skills could not only bring admission counselors to you, but make the deal even sweeter with a scholarship offer.
Here are eight extracurricular activities that could get you into a first choice school and a scholarship to boot.
1. Play a unique instrument
Taking up the violin, piano or guitar is great. But, a lot of people play those instruments. Those same musicians will also be competing for a spot in their college orchestra, marching band, jazz band or wind ensemble. Not to mention landing a spot in a major performing groups after college graduation will be even slimmer if you play a common instrument.
Auditioning and landing a spot in a performing arts group looks great on the college application, not to mention those groups get to travel and compete in competitions. Musicians that are in high demand for high school and college performing arts groups include those who play difficult-to-master instruments. This includes the harp, tuba, french horn or piccolo. Other instruments that are not commonly played include the viola, timpani, and oboe.
Think you have the skill to perform along with your high school’s orchestra or brass ensemble? With that said, keep in mind that learning to master an instrument is a true investment of time and hard work. So this is an activity that cannot be introduced sophomore year. However, the earlier a child is introduced to an instrument, the longer they have to fine tune their skills.
2. Go varsity for an uncommon sport
Rocking a Letterman jacket with the rest of the baseball, basketball or football team is part of the coveted jock culture. But if the jock life isn’t your teen’s thing, they can also experience the glory of high school sports without the jock stigma.
Does your teen’s high school have a fencing, wrestling, swim or golf team? Perfect that butterfly stroke and go try out. As with music, sports is also a discipline that requires dedication and and an investment of time. The earlier a child begins to train in a sport, the better. Local parks, gymnasiums and sports chapters are good places to start youth sports training.
3. Be a teen tech entrepreneur
Does your teen like to build websites from scratch, create apps, or code their own video games? Encourage them to start their own small business.
The title of “teen entrepreneurs,” especially those with the aspiration to be the next Bill Gates or Jack Dorsey, serves well during college application time. It could even land your teen a good paying job straight out of high school.
Whether going off to college or directly into the work force, learning a coding language makes one a highly desirable commodity. If your local high school does not offer coding classes or after school programs, there are weekend programs like Hack for L.A., that encourages teens to code in the name of civil service. Also, check Eventbrite and Meetup for hack events and local meetups.
4. Hold office in student government
Get ready for pep rallies, planning prom, graduation preparation and being the voice of an entire student body.
Participating in student government displays leadership skills and community involvement, being traits that college admissions counselors are always on the lookout for. Those in student government have to wear many hats, such as marketing, public relations, and debate. However, official titles are few and far between and highly sought after in the admission game.
For some schools, anyone can run as a class officer. Only student body officers have to spend at least a year in student government. If your teen feels they can truly make a difference on campus and honestly convey the needs and wants of their fellow classmates, DIY “Vote for Me” badges may be in the future.
5. There’s a competition for that.
If your teen has a hobby, chances are there is a competition for that. From writing short stories, to spelling, to memorizing facts and dates, to giving speeches, to playing chess, teens taking their interests on the competition circuit reap more than just those coveted medals.
Joining competition groups, like an Academic Decathlon, not only looks great on college applications, but allows you teen to meet new friends and work in a group environment. Also, a college letter of recommendation from the Academic Decathlon coach can go a long way.
To find competitions, and scholarship competitions for seniors, an initial online search is a must. However, check with teachers that sponsor clubs, your student affairs office or counselor and the library for information on local competitions.
6. Have you traveled abroad? Or speak another language?
If your teen has the chance to travel through community programs or school invitations, let them. For students with an interest in politics, international affairs or languages, traveling abroad makes for unique experiences that will make your admission application shine.
Having experiences overseas and being bilingual is a highly sought-after skill in the job market. And the same goes for colleges. Multilingual students are sought to be the face of the college campus. Being fluent in multiple languages could land you a spot, giving campus tours at your desired college or representing your school overseas through language based clubs and associations.
7. Take an interest in math, science, or medicine
Calling all future engineers, medical professionals, physicists, chemists, lab professionals and architects. Waking up at dawn to do math competitions on the weekends is not for the weak. But, the payoff in the end can be worth it.
In 2013, Bloomberg View reported that more and more college students do not choose science and math related majors. Students, many who enter college without picking a major, end up pursuing “easier” majors, even though those majors come with fewer job prospects.
With so many math and science halls sitting vacant, much as been done to encourage students to pursue science and math related majors. Along with the last two presidents allocating funds to math and science based curriculum, U.S. News reported that major companies such as Exxon Mobile, Google, Coca-Cola, Siemens and Intel offer are among the most competitive undergrad scholarships.
8. Volunteer for a local cause.
Is your teen passionate about the environment, animal welfare, marriage equality or homeless rights? Channeling a passion into volunteer work can be a very rewarding experience.
Non-profits always need help. And being a volunteer means getting to work alongside respected community leaders, and having the opportunity to work in many departments. From the front desk, to marketing, to fundraising, to working hands on, clock those hours in order to qualify for a number of community service scholarships.