How can I, as a sophomore, create a spike/theme in my extracurriculars?

I’ve always favored more humanities based stuff, but I didn’t make my Mock Trial Tryouts :frowning:

I’m a sophomore right now. I’m a black female.

  1. Diverisity and Inclusion team (9th - Present) Co-President

  2. Black Student Union (9th - Present) and I’ve been guaranteed a leadership position next year because all the seniors are graduating and I’m really active in it)

  3. Internship with black District Assemblyman this summer

  4. Recently elected Black Orginization’s Fundraising chair (last fundraisimg chair, the orginization’s current president, had a fundraiser that raised 16k+ and I’m confident I’ll raise more) (6th - Present)

  5. First Violin in Youth Orchestra (6th - Present, most seniors make first chair or coconcertmaster)

  6. Part of a School Group that requires you to be nominated by the Guidance Counselors/Applied for school’s peer leader program

  7. Step Team (will probably make co captain by Senior Year) (10th)

  8. I don’t know if volunteering as a counselor at an orchestra camp counts


  1. State naacp silver award for essay

  2. State naacp bronze award for classical music

  3. Procrasinating for applying for presidential service gold medal because I have a lot of volunteer hours


I’m aiming for nationals/gold in the naacp award. I always learned that the scholastic art and writing has a critical essay category so I’m going to submit to that next year (probably about another issue that affects that black community). I feel like these are pretty good individually, but I don’t know if focusing on black issues is a theme/spike. I’m aiming for prestigious schools (legacy at Brown).

Do what you enjoy. Otherwise, it appears contrived.


Focusing on issues affecting Black Americans isn’t a spike - outstanding achievement in that or in any other area is a spike. It’s not a high school concentration or a major, and it’s not that you have to have a related theme running through your ECs. A spike is an extraordinary level of achievement, usually accomplished in some area that you’re really passionate about. Sending you a message - look for the green circle in the upper right hand corner of your screen.


Follow your interests naturally and develop them as best you can. You do not have to create a persona or narrative.

I noticed your violin performance talent, as first chair of the orchestra. Do you love to play? Are there other ways you can pursue music that you would enjoy? You can submit a music supplement (recording, music resume, music letters of recommendation) at many schools. And volunteering at a music camp can be included, yes.

The internship with the assemblyman sounds interesting. See what that leads to.

Don’t do too much. Sleep and down time are important too! Quality in a few may be better than quantity , or, at least, that leads to quality of life in the present :slight_smile:


How are you academic achievements? Also, how much school can you/your parents afford? Now I know that you have not asked those questions per se but they are more important IMO than ECs when starting out thinking about colleges. The reason is this. With the exception of the very elite schools, academic achievement will trump just about everything else, then comes affordability. Now, the very elite schools get high achievers and that’s when ECs start to become important to differentiate between candidates.

Now do not get me wrong, schools like to see some community engagement, leadership, volunteer work and such. But they also realize what can be realistically achieved by a teenager.

Your ECs all sound great. I would personally try to broaden the impact of your work to the ENTIRE community. Keep up the good work!

Do what you love….Love what you do. If you do that, it will be you!

You sound like an incredible young women. Have essay and GPA /stats to match and you will be competitive. Also have safeties and targets. Many, many excellent students didn’t get accepted to their dream schools. They will just have to be excellent somewhere else.

What are your academic interests? You mention humanities but not anything more specific. If your current extracurriculars don’t relate to your intended area of study, I would plan to explore an academic subject through a club or internship. If you’re interested in politics, public policy, and black issues you already have that covered through your current internship and black student union and organizing positions. In my daughter’s recent applications, supplemental essay questions regarding why you are interested in your intended field of study were common.

Junior year can be the most academically challenging year of high school especially if you will be taking a bunch of AP classes. You don’t need to have a leadership position in every organization. You need to be sure to budget enough time to excel academically while taking the most rigorous academic path at your high school.

Elite college admission rates are generally higher if you are able to apply early decision or the Ivy early action application option. If you’re interested in this route, it requires exploring colleges earlier in the process and a discussion with your parents to see if your family can afford college costs without merit aid. Elite colleges generally give only need based aid. Middle to upper middle class families are generally at highest risk of not being able to afford the expected cost of enrollment. Your parents can run the Estimated Price Calculator for a few elite colleges to see if they can afford elite college costs. Or, you may already know if you have a college fund that will cover it.

For a spike to be effective, here are the essential elements:

  1. All of the activities have to be linked together towards a common theme (ie scientific research, social justice, journalism, etc)

  2. The activities have to indicate achievement at the national (or preferably international) level of recognition. Recognition preferably from some type of independent organization. It can’t be something that requires payment for recognition (ie Who’s who).

  3. The spike has to be beyond the scope of normal activities for a high school teenager.

There are many things that can qualify as a spike. But in general, it has to be packaged and presented in a way that makes it crystal clear what your spike is. From reading the above, I see a mish mosh of different activities – I don’t see what is your spike. You have to make this very explicit for the admissions reader. I also agree that it has to be something that tugs at your heart. You really have to want to do it. Don’t do things simply to check a box.

Don’t worry about creating a spike. Please. Have a good list of colleges that you would like. Rather than trying to fit certain colleges, find colleges that fit you.

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