How to Audit Your Child's Extracurriculars

Before we get too far into the new school year, I encourage you to perform an extracurricular activity audit with your 8th, 9th, or 10th-grader. Sounds like a blast, right?

This will either reinforce that you're on the right path, or open your eyes to a world you never knew existed.

Extracurricular activities are a critical component in the college admissions process - especially for very or most-selective colleges (Top 75).

Admissions Screen #1

There are 3 primary factors that determine whether or not your child will pass through the first admissions screen:

  1. GPA
  2. Rigor of course work (number of AP, Honors, IB classes)
  3. SAT or ACT score

As you move up the selectivity scale, the holes in the screen get smaller and smaller.

Admissions Screen #2

Once your child gets through Admissions Screen #1, admissions officers will then review their extracurricular activities:

  • sports
  • clubs
  • theater
  • music
  • family support (child or elder care)
  • job
  • summer experiences
  • internships
  • shadowing
  • volunteer...
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Is your Child Well-Rounded or Angular?

 

Back in the day, highly-selective schools were impressed by the proverbial "well-rounded student" who seemed capable of doing just about anything - from sports, to academics, to community service.

"Old School" Well-Rounded Student:

  • 4.0 GPA
  • National Honor Society
  • Soccer player (2 years)
  • Piano (3 years)
  • Vice President of Spanish Club (Junior Year)
  • Soup Kitchen volunteer (various)

College Admissions Officers used to assemble their incoming classes by selecting many of these "well-rounded" applicants. 

Campuses eventually became havens for lots of students who were good at lots of things.

Today, things are different.

In fact, many schools today are not as impressed by generic "well-rounded" students and have turned their attention to more "angular" students.

Angular Students

Angular students take a deep dive into one (or two) core activities  -  often at the exclusion of others - to become world-class in their field. 

"Modern Day" Angular Student:

  • 4.4 GPA
  • ...
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What are Non-Traditional Teen Activities?

Assume a group a college applicants have similar:

  1. GPAs
  2. standardized test scores
  3. and high school course loads

but participate in different "Extracurricular Activities" that could be categorized as Typical or Non-Typical Teen Activities.


TTA (Typical Teen Activities)

  • VP, Spanish Club
  • President, Student Government
  • Corresponding Secretary, Recycling Club
  • Jazz Ensemble member
  • Mathletes Competitor
  • Captain, Soccer Team
  • Chess Club Member
  • Book Club participant
  • School Tour Guide
  • Sales Clerk, Forever 21

NTTA (Non-Typical Teen Activities)

  • Founder, SlimeFest (World's Largest Slimemaking Convention)
  • Skateboard Artist and Instagram Influencer (250K followers)
  • Founder, Bird Scooter Services (maintenance, repair, charging)
  • Subject Matter Expert, 19th Century Military Leaders
  • Professional Nerf Gun Collector (350+ different Nerf weapons)
  • Khan Academy Expert (completed 750 unique learning modules)
  • TEDx Speaker (topic: the demise of local newspapers)
  • Airsoft Military Simulation World Games...
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Blow-Your-Mind Extracurricular Activities

As applications are reviewed by college admissions officers, they must survive several "screens" to make it to the end. The more selective the school - the less porous the screens.  This week, we address the first two screens in the process.

Screen #1

  1. GPA
  2. Standardized Test Scores (SAT or ACT)
  3. Rigor of coursework

Outcomes on these three criteria will dictate the "selectivity" of colleges to consider. 

Screen #2

When (and if) a student gets through Screen #1, the more selective schools dig deeper.

Next stop: Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular Activities include anything that happens outside the classroom:

  • Sports teams
  • Debate Team
  • Part-time work
  • Elder or childcare responsibilities
  • Summer experiences
  • Volunteer work
  • Theater
  • Travel

On the Common Application, there is room for 10 such Activities. The activities should be listed in the order of importance to the student. Space is limited (50 characters for the position and organization name and 150 characters for the...

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21 High School Clubs to Consider

As your child moves through high school, participation in after-school "clubs" can be a transformational experience - or a colossal waste of time.

Now would be a great time to sit down with your child to discuss how to think about after-school opportunities.

How After-School Clubs Can Help

High school clubs can benefit students in many ways:

  • provide an affinity group to make and cultivate friendships
  • provide a signal to colleges about what you are interested in
  • provide a path to leadership within an organization
  • provide a low-risk way to "test" a fledgling interest in a topic
  • provide a structure to start your own club

In the context of college admissions, "Clubs" are considered Extracurricular Activities because they happen "outside of the classroom".  Other Extracurricular Activities include sports, jobs, music, theater, child care responsibilities, etc.

As you may know, there is room for 10 Extracurricular Activities on the Common Application. Especially at the more...

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You made my son do what?

Would you want your son to experience this?

On a cool Friday afternoon in San Diego, CA, 36 high school lacrosse players (9th - 12th) were leisurely stretching out on a well-manicured grassy knoll 300 yards from the Pacific Ocean.

This was the group's final day of tryouts for the JV and Varsity lacrosse team. The participants were told to show up with a t-shirt and running shoes and to be prepared for a 3-hour workout.

Halfway through their stretching routine, two other former Navy SEAL Instructors and I emerged from of our cars and walked over to greet them. This was no ordinary greeting.

Here's how the next four hours unfolded for the group:


Activity: Introduction and (Dis)orientation

With bullhorn in hand, we told the group that the original plan had changed. The 3-hour workout had been extended to a 24-hour Hell Night where they would be tested with a series of mental and physical challenges that would last until the next day. This was not true, but we had to get the athletes...

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How to Be Strategic About your Teen's Summers

 

How teens spend their summers has become an increasingly important piece of the college admissions puzzle. Objective measures like GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and transcripts can quickly become lifeless numbers in a sea of sameness. (Yup, another 4.0 GPA, check).

Admissions officers are being forced to look elsewhere to find what differentiates students from each other. They often turn to letters of recommendation, alumni interviews, and, of course, summer experiences. 

Let's start with the tactics, then we'll move into strategy.

Here are some options to consider for the summer:

Volunteer Work (FT or PT):

Volunteer work is easy to find, affordable, and can be full-time, part-time, or project-based. Not only does volunteer work show that you care about someone other than yourself, but it also allows a teen to gain real-world experience in a field or industry they enjoy. 

Paid Work (FT or PT):

Colleges love to see applicants who have worked at a paying job - of any kind. Sometimes,...

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How Teens Can Optimize Their Summer

Please don't underestimate the power of the summer.  It's a magical time for teens that can either be optimized or squandered.

Yes, colleges like to see your child engaged in interesting and productive pursuits during the summer, but that's only half the story.

The summer is also the time for your child to find out more about themselves. What do they like? What do they hate? What is it like to make money? What is it like to do manual labor? What is it like to work in a cubicle? What is it like to find a job?

These are invaluable experiences that teens need to live through to make better decisions in the years ahead.

I call summer activities "Summer Quests" because your child should be searching for something. Here are some things worthy of their search:

  • work experience
  • passion
  • education
  • travel experiences
  • fun and adventure
  • money
  • exposure

What interests your child?

The first place for your child to start when considering their summer plans is what they are interested in. If...

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10 Reasons to Become an Eagle Scout

My days are spent speaking with high school students across the country about their lives. In particular, about their interests, college admissions strategies, and life ambitions.  It's my passion.

After reviewing (and editing) hundreds of stellar college applications, resumes, personal statements, and college essays, there is one designation that captures the essence of what colleges are looking for in their prospective students - an Eagle Scout.

My job as college counselor and mentor becomes much easier when I'm working with an Eagle Scout. I know what it takes to make it through the program and it is not difficult to help Scouts express these attributes within their college applications.

Some people believe that colleges give disproportionate credit to Eagle Scouts in the admissions process. I beg to differ - and the 10 items below provide more than enough evidence as to why admissions officers sit up straighter in their chairs when reading the applications of Eagle Scouts.

...
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4 Tips To Finish the Summer Strong

By now, a lot of the summer "busy-ness" is winding down. After all, school starts in a few weeks for most of us.

I wanted to review a few things that you can do with your kids to get them back into a learning mindset. If you've been following me "live" every day on Facebook, you may have heard me discuss some of these issues in recent weeks.

(1) Math Brain
With few exceptions, most parents (unless they are PrepWell Parents) report that their kids have not done one ounce of "math work" this summer.  I don't like this one bit.  It's important that students keep up some level of engagement with math so that they are not starting next year from ground zero. Teachers confess that the first 3-4 months of the school year is spent reviewing last year's material in order to get kids' brains back in order.

Solution: Encourage your child to create a Khan Academy account (if they don't have one already) and work through the modules until they have achieved 100% mastery of last year's...

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