Dead Weight: 7 Extracurricular Activities that aren’t as Great as They Tell You

If you’re serious about Ivy League admissions, you must take a strategic approach to your student’s extracurricular involvement. With over 40,000 high schools around the world and over 3.5 million students applying to US colleges every year, you can bet the “outstanding,” “coveted,” “prestigious” club at your school is being replicated 40,000 times over at other high schools. Unfortunately, the popularity of many common activities makes it hard for even the best students to stand out and be unique in the eyes of Ivy League admissions officers. We have collected her the seven most popular activities that you should consider carefully before your student commits fully to them.

Model UN Model UN is fantastic for students seeking a future in diplomacy, public policy, or politics. However, it can be time consuming, travel intensive, and competitive. Before you devote all that time and energy to preparing and traveling, consider the extent to which Model UN supports your theme. Even then MUN suffers from its own success as most high schools have strong MUN teams and applications are replete with essays about MUN accomplishments.

Debate Joining the debate club is a great way to get used to public speaking and forming and delivering arguments. But much like Model UN, debate is time intensive and competitive. While it is true that award winning debaters can make compelling candidates for top colleges, if you’re not at that top level, your time is probably better spent on different ventures.

Community Service Community service for community service’s sake is a beautiful thing. Community service for the purpose of padding your resume in order to appear involved is transparent, expected, and to be honest, cliched. If you choose to build a community service project, it should be specific, genuinely-intentioned, and a significant investment with tangible benefits or results. Christmas carols at the retirement home or picking up waste on the side of the road should be services done from the heart and are better left off of your resume.

Download our free Success Stories PDF for 6 success stories (with full student profiles) of students who gained admissions to columbia, MIT Caltech dartmouth and more!

Internship/Work experience If the experience is related to your major of choice, it could be a good use of your time. If it is for the purpose of extra cash or simply for the experience of working, then it is not the wisest time investment and can often prove distracting to an otherwise diligent student.

Theater The performing arts are great for building confidence and blowing off steam but if you aren’t planning to go to college for the arts, then all those hours of rehearsal and theater class should be refocused.

Music As with theater, music takes many years of patience, practice, and diligence to become good. While music is a wonderful and enriching activity, it is not so helpful for getting into college for an unrelated field of study.

Journalism Are you going to school to be a journalist? If not, then you should forget about the school newspaper or yearbook. While journalism provides good exposure to different types of content, it is also time consuming and unrelated to most other majors.

Now, just to be clear, students involved in these activities are better off than students who have no activities. However, you’re involved in these clubs, your applications may be in danger of just fitting in with the crowd and not getting noticed.

In order for you to be noticed at big name Ivy League schools, you need to specialize your application with a theme, and choose appropriate, unique activities, such as writing a research paper, or founding an Amnesty International or DECA chapter at your school.

Download our free Success Stories PDF for 6 success stories (with full student profiles) of students who gained admissions to columbia, MIT Caltech dartmouth and more!