Guide to College Applications, Part VI: Extracurricular Activities

Without the proper guidance, college applications can be a crazy and confusing process. That’s why high school senior George Chen decided to share his dos and don’ts of applying to schools for APA students looking for a little help. Check back to see the later installments of this ongoing series, the 8Asians Guide to College Applications.

By George

In the previous post, I mentioned how some students who are “super geniuses” got rejected from the Ivies because they didn’t do any extracurricular activities. I would like that to be a warning for everyone to DO EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. Colleges do not want blocks who can read books all day, they want blocks who can read books AND do something with their lives.

Let’s be serious here, guys. Show some school spirit. Join Yearbook, Renaissance, ASB, or whatever the heck else your school offers in terms of community. Most private colleges want students who can interact together as a group. To make yourself competitive, pick something or try something that NOT every other Asian on the planet is involved in. Academic Decathlon and Science Olympiad are all well and good, but your grades will tell a story about your academics.

Extracurriculars are meant to show your OTHER side, so either find a new hobby or fake it. Personally, I’ve had a lot of engineering experience, so I milked it. I’ve also seen community service hours do wonders for people who otherwise would never have been accepted. There was a complete nut in my school who got into UCLA because he did 600 hours of community service. Try Kiwanis International or your school’s equivalent of community service. Is it boring? Yes. Is it a waste of time? Yes. Is it beneficial? YES!

Also, for SATs, don’t waste your life trying to get a 2400. Studying months and months on the exam is probably a big waste of time, and it’s that time that you could be spending making yourself look more unique. Instead of locking yourself in a room reading an SAT prep book, spend more time on activities outside of school that you like and can give you an edge. I know a student with a horrible SAT score but was accepted to Berkeley because she did an amazing thing out of the U.S.

If the SAT I isn’t your thing, I suggest taking the ACT. I spent an entire summer in an SAT prep class. It was a complete waste of time. Not only did it not increase my SAT score substantially, but I also ended up sending my ACT score instead. To note, I took the ACT WITHOUT STUDYING for it and ended up getting a score better than my SAT score. With that, try both the ACT and the SAT. Find one that you’re better at, and build off there. From what the UCLA admissions officers say, UCLA looks at the SAT I and ACT equally.

With that, anything can happen as long as you fully express who you are as a person and what you can provide for the school in your apps.

George Major Chen is a future Los Altos High School graduate who will be majoring in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in the class of 2015.

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