The more ex­tracur­ric­u­lars, the bet­ter.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

Last year, Wil­liam Hurst, writ­ing in In­side Higher Ed, called on schools to end the “ex­tracur­ric­u­lar arms race,” not­ing that “many Amer­i­can high schools push their stu­dents to ex­cel in as many ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties as they can, of­ten be­cause they think this helps those stu­dents gain ad­mis­sion to top col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.” Col­lege coun­sel­ing ser­vices such as Nav­i­ga­tio and Syno­cate, mean­while, di­rect stu­dents to try out lots of ex­tracur­ric­u­lars and to list out­side-the-box ac­tiv­i­ties on their ré­sumés to help them build up their ap­pli­ca­tions.

This is an out­dated way of ap­proach­ing col­lege ad­mis­sions. When col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties were thought to be seek­ing “well-rounded” stu­dents, ap­pli­cants with long lists of cur­ric­u­lar and ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties stood out as great can­di­dates thanks to their broad in­ter­ests. Stu­dents were ex­pected to en­gage in sports, cook­ing clubs, de­bate and, of course, com­mu­nity ser­vice that sounded more mean­ing­ful than it re­ally was. But about a decade ago, schools changed their fo­cus from well-rounded stu­dents to those with hy­per-de­vel­oped in­ter­est in one or two sub­jects, which be­came ap­par­ent to me in the way ad­mis­sions coun­selors an­swered my ques­tions about ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

Nowa­days, schools look for both kinds of stu­dents as they at­tempt, each year, to cre­ate an in­ter­est­ing, di­verse, high-per­form­ing fresh­man class. That may in­clude an ap­pli­cant ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about the vi­ola and an­other who plays ev­ery sport and is a mem­ber of a dozen clubs. The best way to im­press ad­mis­sions coun­selors, as al­ways, is to au­then­ti­cally pur­sue what in­ter­ests you.

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