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Choosing Extracurricular Activities: Do It For You, Not For Admissions
Milagros Costabel
Harvard 2025

In recent times, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the supposed best activities that can help you get into certain colleges, and industries - admissions consultancies - have been built around the perfect extracurriculars that they say are the golden ticket to getting into a prestigious university. But here are 3 reasons why choosing your extracurriculars based on what colleges might think is not only a terrible idea, but can actually hurt your chances of getting into your dream school.

1. They’re not authentic.

When I started thinking about applying to U.S. colleges less than a few months ago, I didn’t even know that extracurriculars were an important factor. All my life I did all the things I did - debating, volunteering and journalism - because they were things that fulfilled me as a person, were fun, and simply aligned with my values and the way I live my life. When you do an extracurricular activity for the sole purpose of impressing someone, and not for personal satisfaction, you run the risk - in addition to not enjoying the activity - of giving the wrong impression. Admissions officers know, because they see applicants all the time, to distinguish between people who do things because they enjoy them and those who have carefully planned a list of activities for the sole purpose of impressing. In the end, it’s not worth wasting years of your life doing something that won’t do any good to try to get into a place not because of who you are, but because of who you want them to think you are.

2. You generate less impact.

One of the main things that universities look for in their students is to see how they are going to contribute to the community in a positive way; this is one of the main reasons why they don’t just choose people with academic talent. This point, although very specific to social organizations and community service activities, can be extrapolated to everything. When you do an activity half-heartedly and with no intention of going further, in addition to not taking advantage of the activity and not learning from it as you should, you also do not generate a positive impact beyond what you think will help you stand out or excel. This is not only a disservice to the community, which is the most important thing, but also to you, because in your eagerness to impress you will always end up showing what is behind your actions. Your activities have to be your own and reflect your history and what you want to become - not what you think a person who doesn’t know you for more than a couple of essays might want.

3. It’s simply not worth it.

You’ll only go through high school once. It’s a unique stage where, in addition to studying, you have the incredible opportunity to discover yourself and your passions through activities that not only meet your interests, but actually make you happy doing them. Activities that (unlike work in adult life) are not a chore, but a source of enjoyment, joy, and friends. You will only have one such opportunity during these years of your life - and probably also when you enter college. Take advantage of it by doing something fulfilling. The rest will follow.