Undergraduate Admission Blog

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June 27, 2013

Building a College Application Resume

Trojan Marching Band

Trojan Marching Band

          If you’re applying to college, chances are you’ve heard lots of advice.  “Colleges like to see students do volunteer work.”  “Leadership positions are important.”  “You need to join lots of different organizations to look good for colleges.”

          This whole idea of doing certain activities solely for the purpose of “looking good for colleges” is not a theory I subscribe to.  At USC, it’s true that we are looking for students who are well-rounded; however it’s also true that we encourage students to pursue their interests.  When we evaluate an applicant’s activity list, we’re not looking for a specific number of involvements or even specific types.  We are much more interested in seeing an applicant follow their passions and show dedication over time to a few specific involvements rather than spreading themselves too thin.

          Whether you’re approaching your last year of high school or about to enter your first, I have a few quick suggestions for how to build your college application resume:

  • Find balance.  College admission counselors are aware of the demands and pressures of being a high school student.  Finding time to be involved in activities can be difficult to fit in after studying for classes and spending time with family and friends.  Try to find a manageable balance between all of your responsibilities that works for you.  If you have a difficult semester of challenging courses, don’t join 4 new organizations at the same time.  It may take some trial and error to figure out how to split your time between academics and extracurriculars, but it’s worth it if you’re able to do activities you enjoy and still get some sleep!
  • It’s about quality, not quantity.  A laundry list of activities is not going to be the make-it-or-break-it factor when it comes to getting into college.  The amount of activities doesn’t reveal much about who you are as a person, except that you spend a lot of time being involved with different things.  On the other hand, the quality of those involvements reveals much more about who you are, what your interests are, and what you spend your free time doing.  A student who has been dedicated to a few activities over their entire high school career likely has a better sense of what their interests are outside of class than the student who joins as many organizations as possible, regardless of whether or not they’re interested in those activities.  Similarly, colleges prefer to see students who show dedication and commitment, rather than trying a million different activities that are short-lived.
  • Pursue your passions, not someone else’s.  I hear from many high school students who think they absolutely have to do community service in order to get into college, or they have to be a leader of an organization in order to be successful.  In USC’s admission process, we look for different types of students with different interests and skill sets.  Many of our current undergraduates are involved in volunteer work, but there are other students who are not involved in service at all.  There are many reasons to be involved in extracurriculars, including having fun, improving your teamwork and leadership skills, and developing friendships.  Whatever your reasons are for joining activities, make sure they are your reasons and not because someone told you to do something to impress a college.

Want more suggestions for the activity summary?  Look at some of our past blog posts:

Last Minute Application Tips!

Activity Summary Tips

Summer Is Almost Here!

3 Comments

  1. Azmayeen Fayeque Rhythm says:

    Wow , this post is really awesome . It made me acknowledge the meaning of being truly passionate about something as well as a great review on the USC admission process .

    Thanks !

  2. Cain Rivera says:

    Hello, I would love to thank you for the advice given, it was much needed, the site isnt really unpdated much. but i want to join this college with a friend we have passion in what we believe in and want to go to school so we can have degrees to show for thank you.

  3. Tyler says:

    Very good article. Would have been very helpful during my college selection process. Liked the point about pursuing your own interests rather than someone else’s.

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