How many extracurricular activities is the “right” amount, and which are the “right” ones? (2)

See previous posting.

What is Isabelle doing well? Speech and Debate is an excellent activity for a student who wants to go into Political Science, as it promotes public speaking skills and the development of sound, persuasive arguments–both of which are essential for navigating the changing field of public policy. As captain of her club volleyball team means, Isabelle is engaging in a form of leadership. Meanwhile, peer tutoring through the Math Club is an example of community service.

What can Isabelle do better? Ideally, she would have obtained a leadership position in Speech and Debate by this year to demonstrate a more intensive level of involvement in her major-related activity. As a general rule, students should strive to establish themselves as active, engaged members throughout 9th and 10th grade so that by 11th grade they will be well-positioned to successfully run for election to their club board(s). Considering that Political Science is a heavily impacted (competitive) major, Isabelle should find an opportunity to demonstrate strong individual initiative. An excellent option would be obtaining an internship with her local congressperson, which would also be a great way for Isabelle to gain an understanding of the most pertinent issues in her community. Oftentimes, governmental officials will make applications available to students on their websites. If not, a student can call the office directly to inquire.

It is important to note that Isabelle’s GPA is not highly competitive at this point; therefore, she needs to ensure that she is balancing her extracurricular involvement with her ability to fulfill her academic obligations. Isabelle is involved in numerous other activities in which her involvement does not extend beyond the basic requirements of membership. Consequently, she would benefit from reducing her commitments in some of these (or cutting some entirely) so that she can devote more time to her classes and to seeking assistance, e.g. through tutoring, if necessary. If your student is struggling, sit down and talk with them to figure out what they can handle, and what activities they would be willing to adjust. Be sure to let your student know that their interests are important to you and that you want to help them find a compromise.

So, let’s return to our initial question

Who is currently better prepared for college admissions? 

In this case, Christina has the advantage over Isabelle because she demonstrates more intensive major-related involvement. Though she is involved in fewer activities, the ones she has are meaningful, and it’s clear that she’s found a balance that enables her to be successful academically.

One final note — both students would benefit from additional SAT preparation to maximize their competitiveness (especially given the highly selective nature of their intended majors). However, the bulk of SAT preparation tends to be done over the summer, with “maintenance” prep if the student plans to take the test during the school year. This will be the subject of a future post, so stay tuned!

Finding the “right” activities is a complicated process, and often involves trial and error. It’s likely that your student will choose not to stick with a number of the activities they join as a freshman, and that’s perfectly fine — their activities should change as they mature and refine their interests/future directions. Exploration early on is essential, but by their sophomore year, students should begin narrowing down their involvements and intensifying those commitments. This will ensure that their college applications are filled with relevant, meaningful activities — and it will likely give them interesting material for college essays.


When it comes to extracurriculars, quality is more important than quantity!

At the Admission Masters,
we can help your student to identify extracurricular opportunities that will set them up for success, and to find a balance that works for them. Our experts are here to guide you through the process step by step! To get started, contact us today!

College Admission Consulting Group, ‘Admission Masters’
[LA, Irvine, Brea, San Marino, Seoul in Korea]

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