Extracurricular Activities and College Admissions Part 2

Posted by Alan Zhang

July 30, 2019 at 8:00 AM

College Extracurriculars Admissions

Welcome to Extracurricular Activities and Colleges Part 2

As you might remember from our last post (and if you don’t check it out HERE), grades and SAT scores are only one aspect of your college application. Another big part is what you do outside of the classroom, what you do in your free time - your extracurriculars. So, let’s jump right into it and start part 2 of this!

Large, Competitive Public Universities

Big state flagship schools like UC Berkeley, University of Virginia, or University of Michigan receive tens of thousands of applications each cycle. Due to their great reputations, applicants are not only from local areas, but from all across the country and even the world. The sheer number of people applying means that these schools must make their selection processes much more selective.

To give an example, the University of Florida (which would count as a “large, non-competitive public university” from part one) receives nearly 30,000 applications annually, and they accept around 50%. However, nearly 200,000 students applied to UC Berkeley and only 17.5% were admitted. With so many high quality applicants vying for such a small number of spots, competitive public universities must evaluate qualitative criteria like extracirruclar activities with greater depth.

In order to gain acceptance into these internationally-renowned public university like UMich or UNC, you’re going to need nice grades and test scores as well as significant extracurricular involvement. I know it sounds tough, and it is, but think of how many other people are applying! Typically, students admitted to these schools are involved in a number of extracurriculars and tend to hold some sort of leadership role in them.

However, while extracurriculars have more weight for large, competitive public schools, they still do not weigh it as much as their smaller private school counterparts. These big guys (I’m referring to these large, competitive public schools - I just wanted to switch it up a bit) have literally hundreds of thousands of applications to sift through, and so it’s necessary that admissions committees use some sort of process to determine if an applicant is even worth looking deeper into. And this often takes the form of standardized test scores and grades. So while extracurricular activities certainly matter, you’re going to need to pass a basic benchmark first.

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Large, Competitive Schools Admissions at a Glance:

  • Generally more holistic than large, less-competitive schools
  • Tend to consider factors beyond grades and standardized test scores, but still rely on these measures to sort through applicants in order to determine who to look into further
  • Sometimes do not accept as many letters of recommendation and other supplemental materials compared to private colleges

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Posted by Alan Zhang

Alan scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT in high school and is currently studying Economics at The University of Chicago