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How Summer and Extracurricular Activities Fit Into the College Admissions Process [Video]

Stephanie Meade shares information on extracurriculars and summer activities impacting college admissions.

The full transcript is below if you are searching for a few details but is limited by the software that creates it. Look for the Q&A at the end.

Stephanie Meade  00:04

Welcome, welcome everyone. This is college admissions grown and flown. And I am Stephanie Meade, one of your experts in the group. 

And I am very happy to be talking with you about deepening involvement in extracurriculars and summer activities. 

As I said, my name is Stephanie Mead, I am a certified educational planner and educational consultant, which means I do college counseling in private practice, and have been before that I did test prep, and I’ve been involved with students and parents are in the process of preparing to go to college for over 30 years. 

And I have done that in a lot of different contexts and work with kids across a lot of different schools. So I have a lot of different scenarios to draw from. So again, welcome to those of you who here are here live. 

And those of you who are watching this on playback later, Chuck talk about extracurricular and summer activities. So I’m very excited to talk about this topic, because I think it’s one of the things around which I hear the greatest number of myths, the most misunderstanding and a lot of anxiety. 

And I My goal is that by the end of this webinar, you’re going to have enough depth of understanding about how extracurriculars work, that you will know the answers to all of your questions, or you will be empowered to figure out the answers to all of your questions. So that is my that is my lofty goal for tonight. 

So how I’m going to do that I’m going to tackle the myths as I go along. I’m going to explain how extracurriculars fit into the college process, including how students share them and how admissions considers them. And as I said, I’m going to spend time on this context piece so that you know how to make your own decisions. And this is also why I wanted to talk about both summer and extracurricular activities together. Because there are big picture ideas and themes that can help you make decisions about both of them, because they’re basically the same. And as I go along, I’m going to share a lot of stories and examples to inspire you and get your wheels turning. So let’s start with a definition of extracurricular activities. And the reason I think this is necessary is that students often come to me with an idea and parents to sometimes that extracurriculars are a sort of short list of activities that count, which is what they usually say. And I encourage students to think about it much more broadly. Because it is basically anything outside of their coursework, their homework, things like test prep, and things like you know, taking a shower and brushing their teeth. 

So basically, anything that they do that is not in those categories is an extracurricular activity. They may or may not be those may or may not be things we end up sharing with colleges. But I want to think about that broadly. Because sometimes I’ll have a conversation with a student and they’re sharing with their extracurricular activities are giving me the what they think are the list of approved things. And then in passing, they’ll mention something super interesting that they do. And they say, Oh, I just do that for fun. I didn’t think colleges would care about that. So colleges potentially can care about everything. Because extracurriculars among other things are used to help understand who the student is broadly. So that’s the definition. It’s just really anything that students do. So here’s how they fit into the college process. First, I’m going to share how students actually share information about their extracurricular activity, because I think knowing what that actually looks like on the application is helpful. So most applications have a section in which students will report their activities, the common application, which is an application that goes to that hundreds of schools in the United States except, so that’s probably one your students are going to use has 10 slots for activities. And you may think that sounds like a lot. 

But if you think about the fact that that’s going to cover every extracurricular thing that they’ve done from ninth to 12th, grade, and summers, you realize it’s not that much, which is already instructive, because it’s starting to tell you that maybe it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality, which we’re going to talk about a lot. There are schools that allow even fewer activities to be reported. I know of one that allows six I know of one that allows for and then there are some such as the University of California application where you can do, I think up to 20. But there’s a very specific reason that the University of California allows that That’s not to suggest that students should have that many. And the way they are reported on the common app in particular, the students don’t have a lot of room to talk about them. It’s usually sort of two to 300 characters total, including the name of the activity and a description and what the student did. So within that piece of the activities reporting there is an opportunity for a lot of detail. Students may share more detail within some of the essays that they write for colleges either within their main essay, which we call the personal statement. There are some essay prompts where colleges specifically ask students to talk about an extracurricular activity or an employment experience. Or students can talk about activities as ways to make other points in other kinds of essays. Such as you know why they were interested in an academic field, they may reflect on a activity they did that helped them learn about that. So those are the ways that colleges learn about the activities, I guess one more way is, is it might be something that a teacher or counselor, letter of recommendation might reference, if especially if a student has particularly deep involvement in a school based extracurricular activity. So that’s how it’s going to be reported. So how do the colleges use it? And this is, again, where I think we have a lot of misunderstanding. I often hear stories about how an extracurricular activity supposedly got a student into college. And I’m going to tell you that in most cases, that is not going to be true. There are exceptions, obviously recruited athletes, that that that’s kind of what that is all about. There may have been a boost in admissions because of their participation in that activity. And perhaps artists who are applying to programs that require portfolios or reservoir at excuse me, auditions, will, you know, maybe partly boosted in the admissions process based on their activities, and once in a blue moon. And I think it’s maybe happened once in my career, a student might have activities that are so so extraordinary, that they can, they can count for a lot more than they ordinarily do. But these are outliers in the vast majority of cases, that is not going to be how students get into college on the strength of their extracurriculars. So I’m going to generalize a little bit about how the process works. And this is always a little bit risky, because we have 3004 year colleges in this country, and they are not monolithic. And they have all different kinds of populations and priorities and ways of making decisions. So at the risk of of overgeneralizing, here’s how I think about the role of extracurriculars in the admissions process. So the first thing that colleges are generally going to consider, or the thing that they’re going to give the most importance to, is academics. And that’s because usually, the number one concern of that admissions office, is whether or not the student can do the work at the college. That’s what they’re trying to assess. If we admit the student, will they be academically successful. So that usually has primary importance. Once that determination has been made, that the student is academically appropriate for the institution, then all the other things come into play. So that’s extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, and you know, essays and all that kind of stuff. So it’s generally secondary to academic considerations. 

So even though extracurriculars won’t get somebody into school, generally not having any at all could hinder their chances of getting in. And that’s because the colleges use those extracurriculars for a bunch of things. As I already mentioned, it sort of to get a sense of the student, they’re trying as hard as they can to find the whole real three dimensional person in that application that they’re reading. And what they’ve done by choice gives them a lot of answers about that. They also want to see how busy the students are and where their time goes. Because when those activities are reported in those activity charts, almost always, they’re reported as hours per week and weeks per year. So colleges know how much time the student has spent on a given activity. And will note their the time that is spent outside of academics, which can help them see that perhaps the student is achieving academically at a very high level in spite of being very busy, or perhaps they have fewer activities, and they’ve prioritized their academics, or perhaps even great depth in extracurricular activities might explain some weaker aspects of the transcript. 

So they’re looking at that just to sort of see the whole picture. Also, they’re trying to get a sense of what this student might contribute to the campus. So what they’ve contributed to their various communities when they were in high school is going to offer insight into that. And they may also use the extracurriculars to see how the students activities outside of the classroom connect to their academic interest that how much of this is a factor varies widely across schools, but also even across the fields of study. I think this may come into play most often with things like engineering, computer science and other STEM fields, where colleges are really looking to see that students understand what they are getting themselves into if they say they want to apply into engineering because so many kids are good at math and science and told to do engineering and and students and colleges want to make sure that students are likely to stick with that. So They may also look at the extracurriculars as a way to connect the student where the students time and energy has gone to the academic interests that they say that they have. So that’s sort of how they fit in the process

Stephanie Meade  10:13

and how colleges are going to use that, which I hope is already starting to shed light on how you might think about extracurricular activities. Okay, so now we know how they’re going to use. Let’s talk about what matters with extracurriculars. And this may surprise you. colleges don’t, I mean, with exceptions of what I just said about things like engineering, generally speaking, colleges do not care at all, what students do, they also generally don’t care how many activities students do. Also, no program or activity is necessarily better than another or valued more than another. So all of these things are beliefs that a lot of the families that I encounter hold, there are certain extracurriculars that have more value, that there are certain types of activities that colleges are looking for. And that is really, for the most part not true. And that is because what colleges care about is why the student is doing the activity. 

What did the student learn? And how do they reflect on those experiences? How did they engage with the world? So it’s the why, and the how much more than the what, and the how many? 

So super, super important. So you know, for example, there’s a belief out there that every student should do community service, and no question community service can look really positive in terms of a student’s willingness to contribute to the community around them. However, if the student has, it’s what’s more interesting is why the student has engaged in that service, you know, if they have engaged with a particular, you know, medical organization, because a family member is dealing with a medical condition, that’s going to make sense, as opposed to something that they just picked, because they thought they needed to do service. They also tend to care more about depth than breadth. So I’ve heard many college admissions, people say, we would we are fine with a small number of activities, two, three, maybe even one, if it’s something that the student is pursuing, with great depth, commitment, engagement, energy, and, and love. And that surprises people, because there’s a belief that students need to be well rounded in order to apply to college. And that’s not necessarily the case, they certainly can be a well rounded student can be an appealing candidate. But college is also like what they call 20 candidates at the pointy being the opposite of well rounded. And what they mean by that is somebody who’s got sort of a single pointed interest with great depth. And what they tell us is what they’re trying to build as a well rounded class, not necessarily trying to fill a class with well rounded students. So the why the what you learned and the depth. 

Now I’m going to address some of the buzzwords that are out there around extracurricular activities. And the three that I hear the most are passion, commitment, and leadership. So take those one at a time. So I think this is somewhat true that this is important. But I think let’s again, think about the passion. My personal belief is a big word, especially for teenagers, I have had so many students just overwhelmed that the thought that they need to come up with or articulate a passion when they’re 1415 1617 years old, most adults can’t even do that. So I think that’s way too high of a bar. And but I think what it means is interest, you know, that people, the kids are doing activities, because they’re interested in them not because they think they’re going to look so interest, curiosity to me, that’s really what we mean by passion. Second word commitment. So yes, it’s nice to see that students stick with things. But this doesn’t mean they are sentenced to complete anything they’ve ever tried in their lives, because high school is supposed to be a time of experimentation and exploration and discovery in terms of what they want. So and on the other hand, nobody is going to learn a lot about a student who has done a million activities for, you know, an hour each. So that’s sort of the opposite of commitment. So yes, at least some activities that they’ve stuck with, shows that that ability to commit to things, but again, that doesn’t mean you have to stick with everything forever. I probably every year I have one or two juniors crying in my office because they have done something for all their life all their life, it’s usually a sport and they are just kind of over it and overwhelmed and exhausted and they want to quit it and they feel like their chances of getting into college are dashed if they quit it. I usually support them in that decision if that’s what they want to do, and it always works out more than fine in the college process. So commitment Yes, but not too The exclusion of all other considerations. 

And finally, leadership. Yes, leadership is definitely something that colleges want to see. But not everybody has to be a leader. Not everybody’s cut out for it. But more importantly, leadership can look a lot of different ways. It’s not just the traditional student, body president, newspaper editor, team captain, you know, first chair, violin, whatever kind of traditional leadership roles you might think of, it can be something that comes up in a teacher recommendation about how the student exhibits quiet leadership in the classroom, it can come through a student decided deciding to do a project or start an activity on their own or take initiative within something else that they’re doing. So don’t worry about that too much. Yes, if opportunities for leadership make themselves available, and they’re a fit for the student, by all means encourage them. But again, leadership can look like a lot of different things. And then other qualities that the colleges might be looking for. Beyond those buzzwords are drive and self motivation. Again, why are students doing things, the ability to collaborate, and that’s one of the reasons some colleges like to see athletics, even if students are not planning to compete in colleges, because they’ve had to develop teamwork skills, at least in team sports, responsibility, problem solving, ability, independence, the depth, developing some skills deeply making an impact. All those are kinds of things that might be qualities that are nice to see in activities. All right. So I’ve told you all the reasons why not to do certain extracurricular activities, not because they look good, and not because you’re trying to capture these buzzwords, and not because you think they’re on some checklists. 

So let’s talk about the reasons that might actually motivate the choices that make a bit more sense. So I might what I always say to students, that when we start this process, when they’re they’re trying to figure out what counts and what they should do, I, I express it pretty broadly, I say, anything that you can do that helps you learn about yourself, and the world might be a worthy way to spend your time. You know, so yes, that can be exploring or deepening an academic interest. It can be exploring career ideas, but it can also be following curiosity and interests of almost any kind. Because you never know where that’s going to lead you. I think students today more than ever feel this pressure to somehow sit in their rooms, maybe look at the internet on social media, and somehow magically decide what they’re passionate about and what they want to do forever and ever. And it doesn’t work that way. They just have to try stuff. So just a little spark of curiosity, I think is enough of a reason to motivate an extracurricular activity. Or if it’s not curate curiosity, if there you can’t identify something you’ve always wanted to know more about what just sounds fun. What could you do? What would you do if you could spend your time doing anything? Sometimes if kids are stuck with this, I’ll ask that. I’ll say what if you could spend this summer or this weekend doing absolutely anything you wanted to? You weren’t worried about love for college? You weren’t worried about what your parents thought away? Friends sloth, what would you do? And sometimes I get the most surprising answers that lead to really wonderful explorations. But if even if a kid says something like, I’d spend the whole summer at the beach every day, there might be something to explore there. Why are they fascinated by the ocean and sea creatures and cool rocks and shells? Okay, what might they do with that? Is there something they can do with marine biology? Are they there? Because they are they feel alive? Were in the when they are in the outdoors? Right? What can they do with that? Is it a social thing for them with their friends? Okay, what can I do about that? Is there a club? Is there an organization is there something they can get the group together to do and do a beach cleanup, so even something that feels superficial? If it sounds fun, you can often find something.

Stephanie Meade  19:02

It’s also completely fine to do activities that help your family. Within the common app, there’s a drop down of activity categories, and one of them is family responsibilities. So I just want to be very clear that it’s completely legitimate and interesting to colleges, if students are working because they need to support their families or save money for college, if they are working in a family business, if they have to look after younger siblings if they have other responsibilities, that also counts and shows all kinds of qualities about the student. So again, but the one the one thing that should never motivate the choice that extracurricular is I thought it would look good for college. That’s my least favorite thing to hear. Okay, so let me take you through what I’m calling sort of the lifecycle of developing extracurricular interests and activities. And this is something that you could start with pretty young children, even middle school that can take them all all the way through college application process. So as I’ve already said, oh, and I want to say that this that, as you’re supporting your child and thinking about deepening and developing extracurricular activities, as much as possible should come from the student and be driven by the student. I’ve seen some very sad situations in which extra curricular activities have been chosen by mom or dad, because they think they look good for college the student has no interest in it has participated in the most superficial way has not engaged with it has nothing to say about it. And meanwhile, that precious time could have spent on something that was genuinely interesting to them. 

So this, you want this to come from the student as much as possible because it takes energy to commit to things. And if there is some genuine curiosity or interest or drive, it’s just a lot easier to find the energy to follow through. So start by as I’ve already sort of touched on, just brainstorming about what sounds fun, and you know, the basic rules of brainstorming. You know, there’s no such thing as a bad idea. The point is to get as many out there as possible, no limitations, just anything, ask the student, what they’re curious about what their what they want to know more about what sounds fun to them, just anything, anything, anything, don’t put any kind of damper on that or let them do it on their own or whatever. Because again, their excitement is going to be key to propel them forward. So once you brainstormed a giant list of things just that the student is interested in curious about or the sound fun, then from that you can help them do sort of a second level of brainstorming, which is what are all the possible activities that could be connected to those interests as specific as possible. And I’m going to give you a bunch of examples of this in a in a few minutes. And then number three is once you’ve sort of identified a big list of possible activities to engage with to connect to the interests, do some research, it’s step three. So what’s already out there, you know, what is available in the school, what is available in the community, who do you know, that is doing something similar, who in your network of family and friends is, is perhaps already involved in something like this, because the student may be able to join something rather than creating something out of whole cloth. So I have a family I’m working with right now, for example, and the student has a particular health condition, and she has an ambition to do something around this, you know, to, you know, I’m not well, we don’t know what yet. And she and her mom, were feeling very daunted by trying to figure out where to start, because they were they were thinking, well, we need to start a foundation or a charity or something like that. And of course, that was stopping them in their tracks. And it hadn’t even occurred to them to start by doing research around this particular medical condition, to see what other groups are out there already doing things. And I’m sure they are going to find that. And so you could start with something like that by volunteering with an existing group. And then seeing what your interests are maybe looking for leadership positions within that group, or bringing a chapter of that group to your school or you know, going out on your own with that idea. So start by what’s already what already exists. So then start with kind of some low stakes trial runs on things. And also maybe try more than one thing, especially with younger kids, ninth and 10th graders, maybe even eighth graders, you know, if they have interest, encourage them to sign up for a few different clubs and see which ones stick. Sometimes they’ll stick based on interest, sometimes they’ll stick because the group of kids in that is more more of a fit for the student. But some just get out there. Like I said, instead of trying to make decisions from from your bedroom on the internet, get out there and try some stuff. 

And stick with a long enough to make a decision but try some stuff. And then after you do this for a while, you may get to the point where you then need to kind of narrow things down. Partly because students tend to get busier as they get further along into high school. And also as they deepen their involvement in these extracurricular activities, they start to take up more time, and it starts to become impossible for them to do them all. And they have to choose. So for example, I have a junior that I’m working with right now who has been on the wrestling team and loves wrestling. But he has wanted to be an aerospace engineer since he was a little kid. And I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s going to end up doing. And he just can no longer wrestle and do the activities that are related to his what he wants to do and what he’s interested in doing related to engineering. So he had to make the tough decision to to drop wrestling in order to make room for this and he spoke with this counselor who said he was going to explain that in her letter of recommendation. So that narrowing down may have to happen at some point and that really can happen with athletes because as athletes get more serious, especially if they’re participating in club as well as school it can start to crowd out other things. And then finally, look for ways to deepen that involvement to increase that impact. So what does that look like? I am going to give you a bunch of examples of what that might might look like how to deepen involvement. And this is, again, not just to get your wheels turning, and I’m going to break this down kind of into categories. So let’s start with ideas for deepening involvement in academics. So even though it’s academic, it can still be extra curricular meaning outside the curriculum of the school. So one way to deepen academics is to do summer programs on college campuses. And I want to talk about this for a few minutes, because there have already been a couple of questions about this in the Facebook group. And this is always something I get a lot of questions about. So programs, summer programs on college campuses are by no means absolutely necessary or required, I have plenty of students who have never done them who have gotten into fantastic school. So I want to remove that piece of pressure right away. The prices for these programs can range widely. If you can find something local where the kid can stay at home, sometimes they’re quite affordable, all the way up to ridiculously expensive. But the purpose for doing them is again, for the student to either really pursue something they’re already quite curious about, or to help them clarify and develop their interests. So I’ll give you an example of a kid who who did this. He did. He was an athlete, he played basketball and his first career ambition was to be a professional basketball player. And when he started to realize he was not going to be tall enough for that, he started to think about what else he could do. So the summer, I think it was after ninth grade, he did a program on a college campus that was

Stephanie Meade  26:38

sports and entertainment management or something like that. Well, at the end of that, he realized he was much more interested in the entertainment side than the sports side. So the following summer, he did a program on a college campus that was a film program. And it was one of these programs where the kids, you know, work together for a few weeks and make a film. And it’s really fun, and it’s really busy. He enjoyed that. But he realized that the pace of film takes a long time to make a film was not right for him. He wanted to do something more fast paced, he thought he wanted to do television. So the following summer wasn’t an academic program, he did an internship, a real internship with a production company and even got a production credit. And then when he came time for him to apply to college, he knew that he wanted to apply into communications, he ended up getting into a school with a very strong communications program, and he is now working in his chosen field. So that is a great example, those first two summers of academic programs really helped him clarify his interest. So that is a good reason to do summer programs. 

Frankly, another good reason to do summer programs on a college campus is completely non academic. I think sometimes kids just really benefit from having a campus experience, especially kids who are nervous about going away. nervous about making friends staying in the dorms sharing bathroom eating dining hall, they almost always just have a complete blast and come back a lot more confident about the college process. So those are some good reasons to do campus programs. And of course, as I mentioned at the top colleges really do prioritize academics and assessing the application. So anything academic is always a plus. But I want to clarify why not to do programs on a campus, they are usually not no, they’re pretty much always not tied to increasing the odds of admissions at a particular college. So in other words, doing the summer program at Columbia does not increase your odds of admission at Columbia. Almost every rep I’ve ever heard talk about this has said that. And the summer programs are to be very blunt summer programs on college campuses are moneymakers. They’re great cash flow situations for these schools and colleges. And very often they are not taught by the faculty at that college. They may not even be taught by college instructors at all. Sometimes it’s high school teachers, sometimes it’s professionals in the field if it’s a career based thing. So there’s there’s very little connection generally between doing a program on a summer of a summer program on a college campus and admissions to that campus. I mean, I have heard occasionally, and these are really outliers, where a student has done a program that was taught by a faculty member, that faculty member took an interest in them and may have reached out to admissions. But that is rare. Because of everything I just described, it’s unlikely that they’re going to even encounter a professor. And it is definitely not the reason to do a summer program. So I just wanted to be clear about that. Okay, but back to other things that they can do to deepen their involvement in academic things. They can do coursework that’s independent on all these online things like Coursera they can learn another language through Duolingo. 

Even YouTube, I had a student take an engineering intro course on YouTube to help him clarify whether or not he was interested in engineering and he even put it in his application. So these explorations do not have to involve any expense or travel or anything. I have had students do independent study with teachers. This, of course, is going to depend a lot on the high school and the teachers, where they took an interest in a particular aspect of a topic that the teacher was teaching, and approach them about working together on some kind of an independent study, they can deepen their academic interests, even through some of their volunteer opportunities. So I, for example, I have a student right now, who is very interested in environmental issues, and is almost certainly going to apply into environmental sciences or environmental studies. And she had done volunteering with an organization here in Southern California called heal the bay. I think it’s maybe other places too, and had mostly just done like beach cleanups with them. Well, she decided to figure out how to deepen her involvement. And she just started emailing people in this organization and other organizations, even though she wasn’t even involved in saying, I’m really interested in this, I think it’s one I want to study in college, is there a way that I can get more deeply involved. And lo and behold, they emailed her right back, she is now involved in a research project that is a PhD thesis project for a UCLA student. And she is out there taking ocean water water samples, and participating in this academic research that she actually got through her involvement with a volunteer organization. Research you there, you know, research can be something that students can do. There are lots of ways to do this. My colleague, Christina Dooley did a webinar a couple months ago on activities, and she talked quite a bit about that. So you can go to that for more detail. But it can be done, you know, they can find local professors at local schools to do something. There are programs for you as programs where they can be mentored through research, but they can even do research sort of on their own. There are now all of these online crowdsourcing research opportunities. Zooniverse is one of them. There are others. That’s certainly what I can think of off the top of my head. And you can help just on the internet by doing all kinds of things like you could be help transcribing medieval manuscripts or help counting as endangered species of frogs in your part of the country. I mean, there’s just a million things that people can do on their own research and developing their academic interest that way.

You know, and you know, another idea, you know, let’s say you have a writer, and they can, of course, do summer college programs and writing or creative writing, or whatever they’re interested in, but they got to also write for the school paper, submit to publications or contests. And there are tons of those for teens, they can start a blog, start their own online publication, I had a student who started her own online newspaper and got other students to write for it. So anyway, those are a few ideas about how to deepen involvement in academic extracurriculars. Now, I want to talk a little bit about careers, jobs and internships, because that’s another thing that parents often ask about and feel that students should be spending time on, particularly in the summer. First, I want to talk about jobs. And when I’m talking about jobs, I mean, job jobs. I mean, like scooping ice cream, bagging groceries, working at a carwash. These are great things for kids to do. If kids want to do them, if they want to make some pocket money, or they want to help with a family or they want to save money for college. Colleges really appreciate this, partly because not that many kids do that anymore. I often have parents say, Well, kids can’t even work anymore, because I have to be doing internships. I’m like, who’s it? You know, probably their neighbors. But jobs are great. Colleges love them. Because there are so many things that you can only learn in a job, you know, you will be held responsible and accountable by a job in ways that you will never be by your own family or by your teachers. You learn to work with the public, you learn to do things that you don’t want to do because you’re expected to do them. You learn to be a team player. There are all kinds of things you learned in these job jobs. And one other thing about doing work in high school, I learned this from my nephew, who during his last two summers of high school back to groceries, and I had mixed feelings about it. I was trying to get him to do some other things and do service and all this kind of stuff. But he wanted money for his car. So he bought groceries. Well, the summer after his freshman year he had some of his friends decided they wanted to stay where they were going to college and get jobs. So they all went out and got jobs and his friends were getting entry level jobs like dishwashers and restaurants. baristas, stuff like that. And my nephew gets like a $25 an hour vet tech job. And the reason was that he had work experience so that’s another thing.

Another reason that just having any kind of a job in high school can be helpful is that it’s going to be easier to get that first job. In your summers in college, if you have some work experience, which many of your classmates will not. So jobs are cool. In terms of internships, it is hard to get internships. for high school students, there are a lot of laws around this. That’s part of it. You know, they’re usually reserved for college students. Anyway, there are lots of reasons. And when I’ve had students do internships, they have usually gotten them through somebody that they knew. And that’s certainly fine. But please do not put pressure on yourself or your child to think they have to do an internship sometime in high school. Of course they can, but it’s not a must do. One of the things I recommend sometimes that students can do instead of an internship, if they have curiosity about particular careers is to do job shadows. I’m a big fan of them. And a job shadow is what it sounds like you follow somebody around at work, and it can be a week, or it can be an afternoon, whatever the person who’s offering the shadowing opportunity can offer where the student can really see what it’s like to be in that person’s shoes. I can’t tell you how valuable this is. I had a student who I met her pretty young because of some complicated academic circumstances. And so she was telling me since seventh grade that she wanted to be a lawyer. And every time she would her mom and I would look at each other and roll our eyes. So we finally figured out how to get her into a job shadow. She did it for one afternoon. And that was the last any of us ever heard of it. So it can be great for for for eliminating things as well. But

Stephanie Meade  36:35

job shadows can be all kinds of things. And I had a student do a whole bunch of them one summer. And she was kind of indiscriminate, she just took job shadows with anybody who would give her one. So she she shattered a jewelry maker, she shadowed a talk show host someone in finance just all over the place. And she started to figure out, you know, not only that most of those careers were not a fit for her. But she noticed a theme. Like she was always interested in the communication side of things like she was interested in a live social media feeds that were going out with a talk show host, she helped the jewelry maker with her, you know, with her website with her marketing materials, I think she redid the website at the finance company. So she started to see this through line of what she was interested in, by doing those job shadows. And if you can’t do them, this is something that a student of mine came up with during the pandemic, which you could certainly do now. She could do job shadows, and she did a series of interviews. And she decided to just interview as many professional women who would talk to her about what their jobs were and what their educational experiences where that led to that. And again, it really helped her narrow down or come up with new ideas about what she might study in college or or do later. I could go on and on about that. But I’m a big fan of that. Okay, now I want to give some examples of deepening involvement for activities that students might already be involved with. So for example, if a student is active in athletics, you know, and they’re playing for a team or teams, that’s great. They might be doing some of that in the summer, doing camps, whatever. But they can also look for things that they can do a for are related to that. They can do equipment drives, you know, because so many people have sports equipment that they’re not using in their basements in their garages that can be donated or can be sold for fundraising for a team. I have a family right now that is the kids really into bicycles or kind of bicycle shop and probably wants to be a mechanical engineer. And they’re thinking about doing a bicycle drive and try to get them to kids in parts of the city that don’t have access to bicycle.

So everybody gets these bicycles out of their garages that they’re not using. I had a student who was a lacrosse player who was really good at repairing and restringing lacrosse sticks. So he started a little business around that. Of course, a lot of students who are athletes find opportunities to assistant coach, maybe they go back and work with coaches they used to work with when they were younger, or at camps, or even start their own camps. I have a student who just started a little basketball training business. He was basically shooting baskets in a park and a mom came up to him and asked him if she would if he would coach her son. And he started doing that. And then it worked, start getting around and he has a little business, basketball coaching business. They can recover athletics for the school paper or the school radio station or TV station. They can make videos to teach certain skills, so on and off. So those are some ideas of what they can do with athletics. So artists ways they can deepen their activities besides just doing their art. I have I think two students right now who are dancers who have gone back to the studios they danced out when they were younger and asked if they can assist there and so they are assisting and being given increased responsibility. I am having a lot of fun with that. I have a painter who painted we have a campaign in our city where people can apply to paint the city electrical boxes, they have to have their design approved and all this kind of stuff. And it was a great experience for her because she had to go through all the hassle of what it’s like to deal with a city or, you know, the bureaucracy of city government to get it approved. And, you know, they approve her first design, and she had to redo it. So it was a lot of real world learning. And then at the end of it, she you know, there’s a one of our boxes, I drive by regularly. And again, like with athletes, they can look for opportunities to assist or teach at summer camps, or maybe with art instructors, they’ve worked with something like that. Artists also can look to how they can help out charities or companies with maybe their social media, maybe their website design or designing their marketing materials.

You can, there are places you can search on the internet for, you know, charities that need volunteers for help with those kinds of things. And those could even be done remotely. I have another artist who started a club at her school to paint murals on some of the exterior walls of the school if school was feeling a little drab, and they wanted to do that. And they made a proposal to the school the school said yes, and it’s now a club and they do that. So again, all the skills that came from getting you know, putting together a project proposal, getting it approved, working with the administration, running the club, all that kind of stuff. They can do camps for neighborhood kids, I’ve had kids do art camps, I had a kid do a neighborhood theater camp, this happened to be during COVID. In here in California, our lockdown was pretty hard. So people were pretty limited in what they could do. So she developed this little camp in the neighborhood, where during the summer, the kids wrote and rehearsed and put on a show for everybody in the neighborhood. And it was so much fun that she continued to do it after the pandemic was over. I think she did it for three summers. So anyway, those are some examples of how artists can deepen their activities. Kids who are really, for whom faith is important in their lives, they can look for, you know, how can they assist or help out at Sunday school or Hebrew school or vacation bible school or church camps or fundraisers, you know, that’s a place they like to spend a lot of time and energy. And then I’m going to finally give you some examples. For the few of you who are out there going, Yeah, but my kid isn’t interested in any of these things that people care about. So this is something I got from a colleague.

But here’s an example of a mom who came in it came and said, This is hopeless, the only thing my son is interested in is skateboarding. So what could that kid do? Okay, he could make videos, right, he can make videos about how to skate, how to be safe, how to do certain tricks, or skills, how to be a polite and courteous skater, that is possibly something that he can even turn into a series of instructional videos, and even make a little course and maybe put it on YouTube. He could, you know, create a petition, maybe to contact the city and find out how that’s involved to have a skate park built. This actually happened in a neighborhood I used to live in that there was a skate park built. And it was started by by petitions from kids who wanted a safe place to skate. Maybe he could make skateboards are repair old ones, or paint them and sell them, you could do a little business with it. If he was a little verbal, he could write the poems or stories or articles for the paper, or blog about it. He could start a skateboard camp for neighborhood children, he could volunteer at a community center to teach how to skateboard. And what you want to notice about all of these ideas. And all the ones I shared before is that they’re always related to something the student loves. And by leveraging their involvement in that activity, they can kind of go and go to a new level of independence, taking responsibility, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of doing things, the maturity and the growth that can come from that. I mean, I’m thinking of an example of a kid that’s really into remote controlled airplanes. He has been working for two years with the city to get this area as an approved place for them to fly their airplanes. And what he has learned and the skills he has had to develop to do that, even if this never happens are going to be incredible. You know, and I could go on, you know, I’ve had kids who don’t do anything but listen to music, one of whom started a little radio show at his school, introducing new artists, and then started writing about Add it for the student paper and, you know, got an entertainment section added to the the school’s TV station and talked about music. Somebody who doesn’t like to do anything but watch movies, they could start a club at school, where they meet with maybe an English teacher and discuss movies, they can write critiques of those, again, radio shows everything, the entertainment section, or the if the if the school has a TV station, they can write screenplays, and make their own movies they can put on a film festival at their school. So anyway, I could go on for hours and hours and hours. My goal here was just to throw out so many ideas to get your wheels turning about how students can deepen their involvement in extracurricular activities with those extracurriculars being tied to things that they are already interested in excited about, or at least curious about, and also to offer the context of how those extracurriculars are going to fit into the college process. And I hope that was helpful. 

I am now going to turn to I think we have a few questions here. Um, all right. So Anne Marie, thank you for your kind words, 

Q: curious your about your thoughts on college programs for high school students, particularly the residential one or two week experiences.

Stephanie Meade  46:17

A: So I think I touched on that those residential experiences can be great for kids in terms of just getting that on campus experience, and especially if they haven’t had a lot of overnights away from home that can be really great for them. And everything I said before, if it helps them explore an interest or deepen an interest or, you know, purchase something they’re curious about. Great. 

Q: Sherry has a similar question is a noncredit. Online pre college summer course worth it somewhere a week longer? 

A: So to me that worth that is the important part of the question, right? So why this goes back to my sort of thesis of this webinar, which is, why is the student doing it? Right? So that’s what’s going to determine whether it’s worth it if the student is doing it, because they’re very interested in it, they want to learn something, they’re going to develop a new skill, it gives them something that they can reflect on later in their college applications, then great. But if it’s just to sort of plug a hole in the summer schedule, we think it looks good, and maybe it’s expensive, then maybe it’s not worth it. So whether or not it’s worth it comes back to the why and the how of the students involvement. 

Q: Andrea asks, Do colleges care more about summer aid P classes that will wait their GPA? Or just rigorous classes activities they enjoy? Or are related to their area of study that won’t wait their GPA? 

A: Wow, great question, Andrea. And I could probably spend an hour answering it. So there’s not really an obvious answer here. As I mentioned at the beginning, when colleges are looking at applications, usually the most important consideration is academic strength, which is different from the weight of their GPA, which I think is kind of what you’re getting at with this question. And I could give a whole webinar on GPA and transcripts and how to think about that. And I’ll just briefly say that colleges do not make decisions based on GPA. Now, sometimes the GPA within the high school can be important in terms of where the student ranks in the class. And yes, colleges do care about the position of the student in the class. So the GPA within the school in terms of where it places the student can be important. But colleges are not making admissions decisions just based based on GPAs. Because GPAs from different high schools are so different. So they are usually making either doing their own calculation or making their own judgment about the rigor of the coursework. So for example, a summer AP class may wait the GPA, but everybody knows that an AP class taken in the summer is not as rigorous as an AP class taken during the school year because you can’t possibly get to that much material. And it also is very hard to take the AP exam for that class in May after having taken it in the summer. So I know I’m not really answering your question. And that’s because it’s one of these it depends things and you know, it depends on the student. So if they are taking rigorous classes and engaging activities that they enjoy and are related to your area of study to reread from your question here, that is going to be looked on favorably, and depending on the circumstances, possibly more favorably that favorably than just stuffing in an AP class they don’t care about because it’s going to wait their GPA. I know that was not a very direct answer. I hope it was helpful. 

Q: Someone asks here would something like taking weekly group classes to train there probably be an activity that could be listed? 

A: Absolutely. Absolutely, you know, you’ll get when you get get to fill out the application and you start writing down every single thing that the student could do. And I have a couple of webinars I’ve done on how to do the activity section on the common app, you’ll decide what you want to include, you know, be since you have a limited amount of space, and you may or may not include something like this, but sure, as a weekly class, it’s responsive, you know, responsibility for a puppy. You know, it’s maybe the student gets interested in other things as a result of it. Absolutely. That could be listed. 

Q: Are you familiar with cosmos? I’m wondering if it’s considered for University of California admissions. 

A: So cosmos is a summer program here in California, that is usually stem oriented. And it is, it is considered a it is a hard program to get into. It has a good reputation. And University of California is certainly aware of it. When you asked if you wonder if it’s considered for the University of California admissions, I can tell you that University of California reads applications really holistically. They read the entire application. And actually, it’s usually read by at least two people, I have pretty good confidence that that is true. Both because I’ve talked to readers and because of some surprising results some of my students have had they really and because with the University of California, the nothing comes from the entire everything about the student is included in the application. There’s no There’s no letters of recommendation from teachers, there’s not even a transcript. So the University of California gives students a lot of space to talk about everything they’ve done and why. So yes, they’ll care about it. But again, as I mentioned earlier, why the student did it, what they got out of it and how they reflect on it is going to be what matters more than the fact that they just got into it and did it. 

And that is a great place to end this topic, because I think that kind of sums up how I want to encourage all of you to think about extracurricular activities. Thank you so much. Keep your questions coming in the group and I will see you soon.

Author Stephanie Meade

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