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You’ve heard it again and again: being involved is important. However, you didn’t realize quite how involved some other students are. At your small school, you’re one of the most involved students just by volunteering every weekend and being a part of one of the few clubs your school offers. If you come from a school with less opportunities, how can you possibly compare to someone who had numerous extracurriculars to choose from? Check out these tips.

Before senior year

The best way to handle this situation is to address it before you start filling out college applications. Though getting involved at your school is a little more difficult, it is not impossible, and you won’t have to think about how to frame your involvements; they’ll sound pretty awesome on their own.

1. Volunteer in the surrounding community

Okay, so you’ve exhausted most of the options at your school. However, there is surely some community service you could do in your community or a nearby community. Think of something you’re passionate about and seek out volunteer opportunities. There are various search engines dedicated to volunteer opportunities where you can search by area and interest.

2. Try something new

If your school has extremely limited opportunities, then this tip would not apply. However, say your school has yearbook, theatre and student government. You’re involved in student government, but you never considered joining theatre. You don’t like performing. However, this could really stand out on your college applications and teach you something new about yourself. If you don’t like acting, you could get involved in production, costume design or something else. Try something you assume you wouldn’t like.

3. Start something on your own

Start your own group about something you’re passionate about, whether it’s a feminist book club or a film or photography project. If your school has strict rules when it comes to starting clubs, you don’t have to meet at school. Meet at a library or coffee shop, tell everyone you know, send out invites on Facebook-though it’s not as easy, you can make it happen. And starting something yourself without resources from your school will be impressive too.

4. Seek opportunities online

With the rise of social media, many people complain about the negative impacts on relationships and communication. Social media and the web have their benefits too, though. There are many opportunities to get involved remotely. Whether it’s designing flyers for a non-profit, writing for a publication you like, or doing research, you can work from the comfort of your own home.

5. Build a website

If you’re interested in a more creative field, you can start a blog or site to post your artwork, photos, stories, poems-anything. Who knows? You could gain a big following.

During senior year

If you didn’t become aware of this issue until senior year, that’s not your fault, but it makes the college application process a little more challenging.

1. Emphasize your accomplishments

A lot of people were members of the National Honor Society or Yearbook, and many people will provide surface level explanations of those involvements. But if you emphasize what you did and how you benefited the group, you can really stand out. Was your yearbook theme idea selected? Did you coordinate a volunteer experience? Emphasize actions and skills, not just names of groups.

2. Explain your background

If you really feel as though the lack of opportunities in your area will negatively impact your application, provide some information about your background and your school. Especially if you’re applying out of state, the university is probably not going to know much about your high school.

3. Highlight how you overcame obstacles

Put a positive spin on your situation: “Despite this barrier, I accomplished ____”

4. Be honest

Don’t exaggerate your accomplishments (though don’t be too modest either). Be honest about what you did, and your application will sound much more authentic.

5. Don’t forget the small stuff

Maybe you volunteered at the animal shelter a few times. To you, this was just something you did for yourself and you don’t need to list it on applications. However, some people really do list all experiences on their applications. What doesn’t seem like a big deal to you might stand out to someone else. Don’t belittle your own experiences; just because you weren’t the president of five clubs and didn’t do community service abroad doesn’t mean that the work you did isn’t worth mentioning.

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the author

Paige Sheffield is a student at Central Michigan University. In addition to writing for The Prospect, she writes for her campus newspaper, You On Top Magazine, and more. She is also a TP Editorial Internship Co-coordinator. She loves poetry, coffee, statement jewelry, zumba, politics, and the Great Lakes. She is passionate about arts education and currently volunteers and interns with organizations that provide art-related programming to underserved populations. You can follow her on twitter @paige_sheff.

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