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What are the best ways to stand out in college applications without burning myself out from too many extracurricular activities?

I’m trying to get inti an Ivy and i want to be different from my peers. I’m leading a few clubs and I’m a member in many more, but i’m afraid its not enough. What can I do?

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Ka’s Answer

You didn't mention the number of clubs you're involved in, but I'd suggest focusing on those that bring you the most joy. Ivy League institutions are on the hunt for well-balanced leaders who exhibit strong passion in specific areas. These unique passions, or "spikes," help differentiate candidates from the crowd. They're in search of future alumni who have the potential to make a significant impact on the world. So, if you have a unique interest, they'll be interested in what you've accomplished, any initiatives you've spearheaded, or any projects you've undertaken that have positively affected a large group of people.

If your role in a club is limited to being a member without any leadership responsibilities, it might be best to let it go.
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Karin’s Answer

Hi Shannon,

I would suggest to "diversify" your activities a bit more. If you are leading clubs, that's awsome. Make sure you can name some initiative that made a real impact and you have the "leadership" box checked.

What else are you interested in? What degree are you hoping to get? Try to find some internships or volunteer opportunities in the field that you want to study. So, if you are going to be a doctor, see if you can volunteer at a hospital. If you are going to be an environmental scientist, volunteer in some environmental initiative. If you want to be a computer scientist, get some training in coding and so on.

And remember, there is life outside the ivies!

Good luck!

KP
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Daniel’s Answer

Hi Shannon,

Taking initiative and getting involved in extracurriculars is a great way to get college recognition. From my perspective, my brother went to an Ivy league school and we were both involved in many extracurriculars so I understand the stress! I would say to make sure you are involved in several different clubs but make sure to focus in on a couple that you are very passionate about. My brother and I both started a big Special Olympics event at our school and ran the event for 3 years together. We both had been involved in unified sports and helping people with intellectual disabilities so we showed dedication to a specific interest and colleges are able to see that we have been involved in something for many years and eventually coordinated a large event related to our interest. So, I would say to keep being involved in extracurriculars and do not overwhelm yourself, but make sure to focus in on a couple of interests and try to take a lead role to show schools that you are very passionate about it and want to make a difference. Good luck and I hope this advice can help!
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Martha’s Answer

Hi, Shannon - what a poignant question, and I agree with Deborah's advice. As an Ivy Leaguer and mother of an Ivy Leaguer, I would like to add:

- Ivy League schools - and other excellent institutions - look for the whole package, meaning top grades in challenging courses; demonstration of commitment, achievement, and growth in at least one extra-curricular; intellectual curiosity; leadership; critical thinking, and the ability to express yourself. You don't need a long list of extra-curricular's.
- Admission officers have the difficult task of "building a community" every year and that aspect changes. For example, they may need a violinist for the orchestra one year, but a saxophonist the next year. You can't know in advance those specific needs so don't try to guess. Similarly, you can't know what they are seeing in thousands of applications so don't worry about being "different." Aim to demonstrate the qualities I mentioned above because you can control that.
- Knowing that the competition for the Ivy League is so intense, identify other schools that offer similar programs and take those applications seriously. That means visit the campuses, attend information programs and tours, do research on their websites, and work hard on supplemental essays. Schools can sniff out when students aren't really interested and will either waitlist them or sometimes outright decline them.

Have faith that you can have a meaningful and enjoyable college experience at many places. Good luck!
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Houcine’s Answer

Hello, again Shannon,
To stand out in college applications without overwhelming yourself, focus on quality over quantity in your extracurricular activities. Instead of joining numerous clubs, emphasize leadership roles in a select few where you can make a meaningful impact. Consider pursuing unique and meaningful projects within these clubs to showcase your initiative and creativity. Additionally, channel your passion into a specific area, whether it's community service, a particular subject, or an extracurricular aligned with your career goals. Admissions committees value depth of involvement and impact more than sheer quantity. Beyond activities, highlight any significant accomplishments, awards, or personal projects that reflect your dedication and uniqueness. Lastly, maintain a balance that allows you to excel academically and prioritize your well-being. Demonstrating genuine passion and a clear narrative of your interests and achievements will make you a standout applicant.
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Deborah’s Answer

It's fantastic that you're taking the lead in clubs and participating in various activities! Quality over quantity can make a significant difference in college applications. Consider diving deeper into a couple of passions you have—perhaps initiate a project related to your interests or clubs you lead. Leadership roles are essential, but showcasing your impact and dedication within those roles through specific accomplishments or initiatives will make you stand out. Additionally, focusing on meaningful community engagement, volunteer work, or pursuing a unique hobby or skill can also set you apart. Remember, colleges value authenticity and commitment, so channel your energy into a few select activities where you can make a substantial impact and grow personally. This approach will not only distinguish you but also prevent burnout, allowing you to excel and enjoy your experience.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the advice! Shannon
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