"Many ECs" = Kiss of Death?

<p>In more than four admission seasons here on College Confidential, one of the details I notice most frequently in the self-reported stats of disappointed applicants is a statement like "I had a lot of ECs." I'm beginning to think that almost the most dangerous thing that an applicant can do when applying to a superselective college is to do a lot of different extracurricular activities, rather than doing just a few and doing those well. What do you think?</p>

<p>The problem with 'lots of ECs' is that it dilutes the impact of the ECs that really say something about who you are as a person. It also justifiably raises the question in an Adcom's mind about the quality of the participation in each EC. Few people have the ability to do well acadmically and contribute meaningfully to more than 3-4 ECs at a time. Continuity also matters because its hard to take on meaningful reponsibility if you only participated in something for a year. (Not impossible, but hard.) So an applicant who lists 10 ECs undermines their application by including a lot of 'throwaway' ECs where they did little and demonstrate nothing about themselves except that they are overanxious to please.</p>

<p>I've always been told that you should focus on a few that you enjoy doing and trying to gain leadership in them, rather than doing tons and not having leadership</p>

<p>I wonder why not everyone is getting the message. I'm struck by how many disappointed applicants say they did "lots of ECs" as if that should be a reason that they should get into a really hard to get into college.</p>

<p>I agree completly</p>

im so intimated by the numerous lines that i feel the need to fill out completely on the common app
but i only have a handful of ECs which i am very dedicated to</p>

<p>no problem, like I said: do what intrests you and you will enjoy doing and gain leadership</p>

<p>What if you have leadership positions in many activities? For me, I have actual leadership positions in several (+5) activities and I care about all of them very deeply. I've planned big events, lead many people towards goals, and fund raised for many causes.</p>

<p>The problem is, I'm the type of person who loves to lead, and has a lot (and I mean -a lot-) of interests. From singing opera, to publishing scientific papers, to creating a few companies, and even fund raising for social and environmental causes. And yes, I've kept up a fairly decent average. Are we - the philomaths, and polymaths - stilted by what makes us, well, us during admissions?</p>

<p>Yeah, I did too many thing in high school. I should've joined just a couple of [unique] activities that I evidently dedicated myself to. Oh well.</p>

<p>Flip, if you can demonstrate that you've really -done- something in each of your groups, that's fine. </p>

<p>Personally, I think that when it comes to ECs the idea should be quality over quantity. Mine didn't follow any cohesive thread (Debate, Quiz Bowl, and 2 Varsity sports? What does that tell you besides the fact that my interests are schizophrenic?), but I was heavily involved in each and clearly enjoyed all of them. That's what matters, I think.</p>

<p>I am in a similar boat to Flip. I am in leadership positions or have done well in many ECs. For example, we were top 3 in state Knowledge Bowl with little practice, did well at Science Olympiad, qualified for and scored very highly on AIME, and various other things. However, I don't usually spend more than 1.5 hours per week maximum on them. How would this appear to an adcom, considering (if I may say so) the fact that I have state/sometimes national distinction?</p>

<p>Just for the record, I really enjoy my ECs. They are not filler; I care about them greatly. It's just that some (e.g. Boy Scouts) take more time than others, but my success isn't necessarily dependent on the time I spend on them.</p>

<p>Sometimes its just a matter of presentation. For example, if you sang in All-County Choir as well as in a nationally-ranked a capella group, performed a leading role in the school musical and arrange the music for your group, it might be listed as 'vocal performance' (that's the EC) on the common ap, with the list of achievements in that area on the line next to it. For Baelor, it might be 'academic competitions,' with the list of awards and leadership roles. It tells the Adcom that you have depth and breadth in a particular area.</p>

<p>If you really are one of those who participates in a wide variety of ECs and managed to deliver in all of them, that's great, but it does make it harder for the EC to get a sense of who you are just by glancing at the list. That doesn't mean you can't do it, through essays and recommendations, but its going to take a little more work for the Adcom.</p>

<p>Great post, as always, tokenadult.</p>

<p>I've said it a thousand times: focus on a few activities. No, they don't *necessarily *have to focus on one area, but they should show that you have commitment, leadership, initiative, etc. As always, it's the quality, not the quantity.</p>

<p>FWIW, I didn't have a bajillion ECs, but the few I did have (most of which were school-wide, though some additional ones on my own), I was passionate about, and I still got into HYPS. (Then again, I won't pretend to know their admissions, but my admissions officers did tell me they liked my ECs.)</p>

<p>Edit: I'll add that the essays are the best place to show the above qualities (commitment, etc.). You can demonstrate how you've contributed to your community and grown intellectually, or you can tie your activities together and show a "focus," emphasize your passion, etc.</p>

<p>Just aslong as you show focus in your ECs, it can only help. I had a lot but I only demonstrated focus on 4.</p>