Overheard in Committee: Extracurriculars

We Admit It! It’s been a long, and very productive, week. The recent gorgeous weather has been a nice added bonus. Committee meetings have been taking place every day, during which we have discussed some truly phenomenal applicants. We know how much our readers enjoy getting a glimpse into these discussions, so without further ado, here is this week’s installment of Overheard in Committee.

Overheard in Committee: “What’s going on in the EC box?”

EC’s, or extracurricular activities, are one of the main components of a college application, along with academic rigor, academic performance, standardized testing, letters of recommendation and essays. This particular applicant had a few activities listed in their extracurricular box, including some nice volunteer service. They made no mention, however, of their involvement with Student Government or with their Class Council. Then, upon reading their Guidance Counselor’s recommendation letter, we learned that they were both the President of Student Government and one of the Directors of their Class Council. This seemed a bit odd. Why hadn’t the student listed these involvements? Was this a simple oversight on their part? Was this a reflection of the fact that they were not passionate about these activities? Why didn’t the student highlight involvements that clearly demonstrate their ability to lead others?

The members of our admission committee are a wonderfully creative bunch, but you don’t want us getting creative when explaining why you didn’t highlight some of your significant accomplishments. Take pride in all you’ve done, and make sure that you are highlighting your involvements that best reflect your strengths outside of the classroom.We know that it can feel a bit odd bragging about yourself, but your college application is a proper time to do just that.

Having taught high school before moving to admission, I know that there are various rumors thrown around when it comes to extracurricular activities and college applications. I want to take a moment to dispel some of those rumors:

  • Colleges absolutely care about extracurricular activities when making an admission decision. If schools made admission decisions solely based on the classes you took and the grades and test scores you received they would be dull and uninspiring places. We want to fill our student body with individuals representing a wide array of interests, backgrounds and ambitions. A good way for us to gauge your interests and ambitions is to see how you spend your free time.
  • We do not operate with a hierarchy of activities. This is to say that we do not view certain activities as being better than others. Student government is not better than athletics; the performing arts do not take priority over being on the robotics team. Whatever you like to pursue outside the classroom is great. We simply like to see dedication, leadership and growth in these activities.
  • There is no right or set time for students to start activities in order to build their resumes, and no amount of activities that you must list on your W&M application in order to be competitive for admission. The most important thing is to find activities that you are enthusiastic about, and then to spend a meaningful amount of time pursuing them. You may find some of these activities as early as freshman year, while others you might not discover until senior year. This is perfectly fine and absolutely normal. You should simply focus your application on the activities that you enjoy the most, and that you feel best exhibit all that you have to contribute to our campus community.

Should you have any other questions about extracurricular activities feel free to comment below. We will post another Overheard in Committee blog post early next week as our deliberations continue. We look forward to discussing more great students in the days to come.

Brad Harlan
Assistant Dean of Admission

Categories: Admission, Faculty & Staff Blogs Tags: , ,
  1. Angela Hollander
    • Admit It!

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