Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

Whether it is because there weren’t a lot of opportunities at your school, you had absolutely no time, or some other reason, when you finally start filling out the CommonApp, you might find yourself with a lot of empty spots. Those ten extracurriculars spots make it seems as though you should have exactly ten extracurriculars–and that anything less is shameful.

But that’s not the case. A common saying applies both to life and college applications: quality over quantity.

So you only have two extracurriculars? Well, if you devoted yourself one hundred percent (or even if you didn’t), you can make it work for you.

The most important thing is to not let yourself get freaked out by the empty spots. It’s easy to look at them and think “Oh my god, I didn’t do enough. I need to find something to fill those spots.” But don’t. Don’t suddenly join eight other extracurriculars your senior year just to fill spots. Not only will you be doing something you might not enjoy, you’ll be using up time you can devote to more important things–like school and the extracurriculars you do love–and college admissions officers may be able to see right through your sudden senior involvement.

So what do you do? Since it’s not necessary (and probably not wise) to fill up all the spots, how do you make it clear to college admissions officers that you weren’t just goofing off all through high school?

Make Your Dedication Clear

There’s a spot to dictate how many hours you spent on an extracurricular, so make it clear that if you only did two extracurriculars because you only had no time for other that that is what happened. If you dedicated hours upon hours to a particular club, admissions officers will see that and understand why you were not involved in other activities. And if you had any leadership positions or received any awards, make that clear as well. Then, they will see that you were truly dedicated to your few extracurriculars–not only with your time, but with all of your heart.

Divide Them Up

This tactic is something I did, but only works with certain types of extracurriculars. In high school, I was extremely involved with band, but that was one of only three or four extracurriculars I did. The thing was, however, I did multiple things within band: marching band, symphonic band, pep band, pit orchestra, an orchestra not affiliated with my school, and a yearly solo and ensemble competition. At first, I though I had to put all of that under one spot entitled “Band.” However, I then realized that all of those activities could be considered separate extracurriculars.

Instead of listing them all under one, I divided them up. I listed each one separately, and by doing that was able to be more specific about my dedication to each one and what role I played in them. Doing this not only flushed out my extracurricular section, it also made it clear that I didn’t have a large variety because I was extremely dedicated to band.

However, as I mentioned earlier, this strategy cannot be applied to all extracurriculars. If an extracurricular can naturally be divided, do it. But if it cannot, don’t push it.

Think About Your Classes

Is there one class that you put a lot of work into outside of class? I’m not talking about a class where you have a lot of homework, but a class where you put in extra effort outside of class–such as yearbook, band, choir, or a film class. These sorts of classes can sometimes be considered both academic and extracurricular, especially if you put in a lot of work outside of class or they are framed in a way where there are leadership positions. If you are unsure, talk to a guidance or college counselor about whether or not you would be able to reframe it as both academic and extracurricular.

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  1. Christina Wright on March 13, 2015

    Not a bad last-minute fix. And I agree that quality trumps quantity. I encourage the students I work with to look for unusual extracurricular opportunities in areas that genuinely interest them, rather than join school clubs. Start early, think creatively, and don’t be afraid to take chances.

    Start something, create something, contact someone you admire. Forget being well-rounded, and follow your true passions. It’s possible to get into a school you love by doing what you love!

  2. Ati on March 13, 2015

    Annie, this is life-saving advice! Hopefully, I’ll see where I can implement it when I start applying for colleges.

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