Parents, what are colleges looking for in terms of ECs

<p>I'm trying to redo my resume, and I'm wondering that, as parents, if any of you guys have a more definitive answer to what colleges are looking for. I could as in the admissions forum, but I'd get five different answers that way instead.</p>

<p>At this point, I really do have a general sense. But I recently had a disagreement with a friend as to what to have on my resume. She got into a top college, so she wasn't completely off the mark with whatever she did, but I wasn't completely trusting what she said, since neither of us work in admissions. What I've originally heard is that colleges don't just want to see participation in activities, they want to see achievement too. My friend must've heard differently, because she insisted that my resume was focusing too much on the difficulty of what my achievements were and told me to focus on the effort in general. She also insisted that I put down my traveling experiences (which I feel like is just more indicative of having the money to do so) as well as this academic-oriented but non-competitive summer program that I went to. (It was one of those summer camps universities hold to raise money, although the ACT requirement was fairly high. I guess it'd be similar to CTY.)</p>

<p>Obviously, this what I write down isn't going to greatly change what happens now, but I'd really like some last-minute classification on the topic. Thanks.</p>

<p>Are you passionate about your ECs?
Is there an interest you have sustained and explored since childhood?
" Forget" achievement- what would you spend your time doing anyway- even if no one paid attention to it?</p>

<p>@emeraldkity4: I have a lot of interests, but I haven't been able to work them into doing anything really worth mentioning. And a lot of them are really inane. I would roll my eyes if someone tried to put those type of things down as things worth mentioning on their resume.</p>

<p>If it is a true interest- don't worry about how it sounds to other people.
For instance, both my kids got into all the colleges they applied to.
They didn't really have a lot of awards- but a strong interest for both was their volunteer work with ponies at the local zoo. They began when they were 12 & 14 yrs old & continued year round through high school graduation.</p>

<p>@emeraldkity4: It's great that your kids were able to work their interests into something that can help other people (and animals!). But I seriously haven't been able to put my interests into anything of the sort. I'm really interested in reading about current events and politics, but pseudo-intellectual slackers who also enjoy doing that are a dime a dozen, I swear. I suppose that if colleges do really look at these things, I'd like help in knowing how to present it.</p>

<p>Can you present theme in your ECs? For example, are they related to one area such as arts, service, etc.? I don't know if achievement always matters. My son, for example, was able to group his activities into theater and music. He also did French camps in the summer including a 3 week stay in Switzerland with a family. He studied French through AP so he as able to show an interest in this even though he didn't win any kind of awards or anything. His activities reflected his interests and passions. </p>

<p>My other son loved doing outdoor activities. Pretty much the only thing on his resume related to Scouts culminating in getting his Eagle. He spend his summers at camps that allowed him to pursue his passion. He didn't have anything else on his resume other than music lessons all through high school. His essay was about being in a thunderstorm while backpacking at 11,000 ft. above sea level. Both sons were accepted to top schools with nice scholarships. </p>

<p>I think schools want to see that you have interests, whatever they are, rather than just a collection of clubs or activities that you seem to be involved in just to put them on your resume. Find connections in your activities and tie them together either on your resume or in your essay.</p>

<p>@shennie: I really do have lots of interests, but I'm not sure how to show them in a way that doesn't seem inane. As for my essays, I wrote about quiz bowl for my short EC essay and writing a novel for my main essay, and I'm not sure if colleges take reading a couple of books about economics as a substitute for a real activity. For example, I'm interested in Japanese, and I've know a lot about the language for someone who hasn't taken a class, but anyone who has taken one would know substantially more than me.</p>

<p>For reference, here is a list of the activities I put on my application:</p>

<ul>
<li>Debate </li>
<li>Quiz Bowl</li>
<li>Model UN</li>
<li>Math team</li>
</ul>

<p>As someone noted, it does sound like a category of clubs people join for college, but I've put a lot of effort into all of them. (Maybe except for math team, lol)</p>

<p>It depends on what tier of colleges you have in mind. For the top, aim to cover 3 areas: what you do to pursue your personal interests or future plans, what you do for your "group" and what's simply good, giving involvment in the local community. </p>

<p>The personal can be legit interests you've pursued that adcoms will appreciate (years of music lessons, ways you pursued your writing, the STEM who works research or volunteers at a hospital, or similar work related to the proposed major.) Your "group" is both your hs and any association you have with your religious organization or family culture; participation can be hs clubs/performance, sports, teaching asst, some local orchestra, work through your church, etc. And the last category is volunteering- anything from mentoring to a vol project or the more involved sorts of community service or community activities. Yes, there can be crossover. </p>

<p>Think hard about what you've omitted, assuming it doesn't count. It's not all about "passion." As someone once pointed out, you could be passionate about Wii- and that's not going to impress an adult adcom. When you make your list, include a job you held, longer term volunteer projects at school, look for examples of responsibilities you held and leadership you showed. (How you describe is important. Somehow make yourself look like the sort of kid who'll be interested in- and engaged in- campus activities and willing to play a role.) You don't have to have a title such as president or vp-- did you mentor math club or debate rookies? Any peer tutoring? Sing in chorus, act in a play, work a recycling project- think about it. Ever enter your writing in a contest or see it published?</p>

<p>Some kids don't have this balance, but one or two things they did focus on make up for that. If you're nervous, just take time to go back over what you have done and see how you can show you are a lively, engaged sort, able to get involved. Good luck.</p>

<p>I know top colleges have all the perfect applicants. They are looking for someone that stands out from all the other perfect candidates. You dont have to achieve in all those activities but make your essay interesting and personal. perhaps talk about howMUN helped you in life to see things from other's perspectives, have you applied this in volunteer work or community service? Did it inspire you to read more on global issues to further this interest, and is that what you hope to study at their school ? and why their school would help you do that. So perhaps from a resume standpoint this doesnt help you, but from a perspective on how to present yourself it might. Whatever makes you unique is what they want to see.</p>

<p>I don't seem anything at all wrong with mentioning achievements in ECs, if you happen to have some.</p>

<p>Having achieved something in connection with an EC is one form of evidence of your commitment to it. If you qualified for all-state band, for example, that's evidence of the degree of your commitment to playing the trombone. </p>

<p>But maybe you could tweak your explanations a bit to emphasize your interest and commitment (I prefer this word to "passion," which sounds idiotic to me) rather than focusing exclusively on the results. For example, "One of my longstanding interests is playing the trombone. During high school, I have had the chance to play with my school's wind ensemble and marching band, as well as in X and Y outside organizations and the all-state honors band" might make a better impression than "Of the 85 people who tried out for the trombone slots in the all-state honors band, I was one of three who qualified."</p>

<p>D2 grouped her ECs into varius categoris because she had too many. Ballet was her main EC, it was on top, listed her achievements - youngest person to be selected for..., danced for 15 years. Volunteer work - listed each organization and position held. Newspaper - editor in chief. MUN - the role she played and honors she received. D2 loves to read, so she listed it as one of her ECs, then books she has read. She grouped piano, photography, violin together.</p>

<p>D2 did a summer program at a college, she listed it under courses taken at an University, without credit. </p>

<p>If you have achievemetns in any of those ECs, list them, if you have achievement then it meant you have put in the effort, but it is not necessary true the other way around.</p>

<p>You could list language as an EC or reading. If you like music (DJ, composing), that could be listed as an EC too.</p>

<p>chaosakita, some kids do have broad interests and it certainly isn't the end of the world.</p>

<p>My younger son's school activities were orchestra, the literary magazine and Science Olympiad. He was just a cog in the orchestra and mag. He'd won medals and was one (of server) co-presidents of SO. He wrote about things he did outside of school (making origami earrings and doing some historical related work for the neighborhood association.) None of this had anything to do with International Relations his prospective major. (He didn't do Model UN because he didn't like the kids involved.) He didn't submit a separate resume, but did some grouping of activities.</p>

<p>In general I think lists aren't terribly helpful, but if you've done something for four years it shows commitment. I don't think you need to invent responsibilities if there weren't any. I'd definitely put down the academic summer program. Put it where it seems most logical. </p>

<p>I'd say what my younger son did was ask himself - what do I want the college to know about me, and then make sure that they found that out somewhere either via an essay, a teacher recommendation, an EC list etc. So one essay showed his arty side, another showed him thinking like a historian, his Why ___ College showed his sense of humor, the weird optional essays generally showed either creativity or quirkiness. I think by the end of his application admissions officers had a pretty good idea of what he was like.</p>

<p>"In general I think lists aren't terribly helpful, but if you've done something for four years it shows commitment."</p>

<p>This, imo, is what colleges want to see. My son was accepted at every school he applied to and had no awards and no leaderships positions in any, but he played in both the symphonic band and jazz band for four years, ran XC and track for four years and color guard for four years. Masterminds for two years, and he also had a part time job for two years. Colleges, imo, want someone who contributes and are active participants on a continual basis to their school's community and/or community they live in.</p>

<p>In total agreement with Emilybee.... Chaos, it sounds as if you have a pretty ravenous curiosity about the world-- reading tons about current events and politics, enjoying debate, quiz bowl, model UN..... The common app has the short essay about EC's-- is there a way you can draw this together, find a common thread that links these things? Energetic curiosity is a great thing to offer a school, particularly at your age. Many, many successful people can point to this kind of searching interest as the first step in a long life of achievement.</p>

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<p>I wrote my Common App EC essay about how quiz bowl. The essay had to be really short, but the point I tried to get across was that even though I had a lot of passion for the activity, I couldn't make it to the top level without having a dedicated support system, so I should be grateful for the support that let me be successful in other ares of my life.</p>

<p>That sounds great to me....</p>

<p>Tell something about your achievements.</p>

<p>For example, what kind of debate do you do? LD, policy, public forum, what? Be specific. Did you qualify for states? Did you qual for TOCs? Attend Nationals, CatNats, etc.? Even if you don't have a ton of awards, you might have some achievements--did you found the team, take it to a new level, etc.? At least put in things like "thus far, have attended 40 debate tournaments, won speaker award at X #" etc. </p>

<p>Math team. Do you have an AMC, AIME, etc. score? If so, include it. Again, include specific info re the competitions you attended. Did you make it to ARML, participate in any of the on-line contests, Mandelbrot, etc.? Even if you did not win, include the fact that you participated.</p>

<p>Talk about your reading interests and how they relate to your ECs.
Maybe you got interested in certain topics through ECs. Maybe certain topics lead you to ECs.</p>

<p>I agree that you should list the summer program you attended. </p>

<p>Remember, now is the time to toot your own horn. </p>

<p>And I've good reason to know that the combination of ECs you've listed are often of interest to colleges. Most people are math/science or English/social studies. Sounds like you are math/social studies. That will help stand out in the applicant pool a bit.</p>

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<p>Could you suggest a way to present this without sounding too overblown or pretentious?</p>

<p>I can't tell you exactly how to do it. Figuring that out is up to you. I CAN tell you that I know students who have done this successfully without coming across as the least bit pretentious. They used different approaches because they were different people. </p>

<p>You may be worrying too much about sounding overblown or pretentious. You DO want to avoid sounding arrogant or know it all. But, while your high school classmates might think you sound pretentious if you talked about the hours you spend reading "The Economist" or philosophy books or the hours you spent reading about the nation you represented at the Model UN conference and how you got so interested that you kept on studying the country for months after the conference, an admissions officer isn't going to think you are. </p>

<p>If you don't tell the admissions officer, how the heck will he find out?</p>

<p>See, unless you are a superstar, it's unlikely that you will be the most accomplished person in any field in the applicant stack. So, it can help to explain how participating in the EC changed you as a person.</p>

<p>See post #9 above--although we've said it differently, we're on the same page.</p>

<p>Quality, not quantity counts. Do not be shy about presenting yourself. If you were a leader in any EC, say so. If you won awards, say so. I agree that traveling is not an EC, but can form an awareness of the world that may come out in an essay. Some schools limit the number of activities you can report- you have to pick the top several. I have seen the infamous chances threads where students list a ton of activities that could be grouped into 3 or 4 coherent ones. You need to differentiate yourself from the thousands who also did EC's. Admissions committees will also know that not every HS offers the same opportunities. They will not expect every student to have had the chance via their HS team to compete in national competitions. But this is the time to brag. If you won all of your debates or won a prize in it, say so. Flesh out your nicely succinct list of activities with some pertinent details of any awards et al. If all you did for the math was to show up and participate- fine (my son did that and came in first many times, showing his natural ability), at least you did it, unlike 99% of the other students.</p>

<p>Your activities show who you are and abilities you have that aren't reflected in your classes or gpa. They also show you have enough time to seek out extra activites as well as do well in your classes. Presumably you did them for you and not your resume. You can't be pretentious by stating facts. Be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished. Schools expect the list of good stuff and you are their only source so be complete with major activites. </p>

<p>There- that's yet another repeat of the same message. Let the admissions committee decide if your activities are worth acceptance. If you don't tell them they have nothing.</p>