Wednesday, October 7, 2009

High School Extracurricular Activities Q & A

This is an email I received and responded to about high school extracurricular activities and their relation to college admissions. Hopefully this is helpful to some of you!

Hey Sohan,

Firstly, you said last time that depending upon my extracurricular activities, i have a legitimate chance of getting into Cornell. Now, to what level does Cornell require one to peruse these extracurricular activities? Could you tell me which ones you did so that i can get an idea of how long term or to what level the activity is meant to be?

Also, do you have to be proactive (i.e. continue doing activities) once you are accepted into Cornell? Since i am a bit concerned I might be spending a lot of time on activities rather than studies.

Last but not the least, how much weight age does Cornell give to SATs as compared to other qualifications?

My response:


I think that Cornell looks for people who are actively involved and genuinely interested in their extracurriculars. It looks great if you have leadership positions, or have had a big, relevant experience in an activity that you can either write about in your essays, speak about in your interview, or somehow else demonstrate. I wouldn't recommend just joining a bunch of clubs to have on your resume - I'm positive that they can see through that.

I played varsity soccer, tennis, and chess, was president of my chapter of FBLA, was secretary of the class, and was in National Honor Society. I was pretty involved in all these activities.. I think on the applications it asks you to estimate how much time / week or month you devote to each activity, which is pretty telling of your involvement.

Once you're accepted into Cornell, you can quit all your clubs if you wanted. The only that matters is that you keep up your grades to a certain extent. One kid from my school was accepted into a great university, but slacked off for the last half of the year, got a D in AP bio, and his admission was terminated. They don't check to see that you've continued participating in clubs, though.

I can't tell you exactly how much Cornell specifically weights the SAT, but I believe it is quite important. Aim for at least above a 2150, though one of my close friends here only got a 2000 and was accepted. However, he was very involved in his community and extracurriculars, and he took the most challenging courses his school offered.

In the end, just do extracurriculars that you truly enjoy - don't do them just for the sake of embellishing your resume. Have some good experiences that you can talk about in your application.