Extracurriculars: A crucial part in the college admissions race

Micah Swann-Tarrant (9), right, poses with a friend at the Girls on a Run, a 5k run program, back in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Micah Swann-Tarrant.)

Finally, your mouse hovers over the submit button and you click. Days later, you receive an email from your college of choice confirming the completion of your application.

UPA’s Seminar curriculum prompts students to begin contemplating college options as early as seventh grade. Due to COVID-19, many college admissions offices have decided to cease considering SAT and ACT scores to fully evaluate a student’s academic performance, instead placing a greater emphasis on extracurriculars in college applications. Extracurriculars are often seen as a valuable way for students to express their academic journey by sharing where their time has gone outside of required academics.

The Post University Blog, maintained by the University of Connecticut, states that in extracurriculars, colleges look for student’s commitment to their interests, a healthy relationship with their communities and their abilities as a leader.

Freshman Micah Swann-Tarrant planned her high school extracurriculars based on her authentic interests, such as fine arts like dance, fashion designing and singing.

Swann-Tarrant also is interested in programs that teach her about her African American culture and heritage, which she hopes to broaden her understanding of in the future. One plan that she has begun is joining the Greene Scholars, a program meant to teach people of color about college readiness as well as STEM.

“[My main point would be] staying true to who you are, your story, your interests, your background, staying solid and not switching [your application] up to sound like the perfect student,” Swann-Tarrant said.

Senior Emily Bravo, who applied and got accepted into the University of Utah, chose her extracurriculars based on a mental health struggle she noticed in her community. She joined Revive—an youth-led organization that provides early intervention focused on improving mental health. Bravo started in late 2020 after hearing about it from an Instagram advertisement.

Isabella Bronner, a senior on the waitlist for Santa Clara University, represented not only her interests but also her passions in her extracurricular activities. Bronner has been playing guitar for two years, and her passion for music has only increased since.

“I think colleges are going to be looking for people that are resilient because I myself have overcome life challenges that have really impacted me,” Bronner said. “Colleges should look for people who don’t give up and don’t let little things get them down.”

Bronner is also the current secretary of the Animal Care Team Club at UPA, with the 2020-21 school year being her second year. Her choice in club demonstrates her chosen career as a veterinarian.

Students work to fill in their college applications in groups. (Photo courtesy of Mark Coplan’s Berkeley Public School Photos and licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.)

The IESD—Interaction Educational Systems Design—did a survey in 2018 for x2VOL—a platform for service tracking that allows students to share the impact their community service has made—involving submissions from 264 U.S. college admissions officers. x2VOL is also used by UPA students to record and verify their volunteer hours.

53% of the respondents from college admissions officers said that community service can be a deciding factor in the process of admission for students of equal qualification. Partaking in extracurricular activities, specifically community service, shows that students share values with their schools.

“All the University of California schools now are test blind [until the fall of 2023]; they can’t use SAT scores,” high school counselor Dot Westerhoff said. “Everything is focused on the application. The story is told through the extracurriculars that students participate in.