When applying to a professional school, many applications require an autobiographical sketch of your extra-curriculars or activities that you participate in. It allows the admissions committee to assess those “soft skills” such as interpersonal, leadership, and collaborative skills that are not captured in your GPA or standardized test. Whenever I’ve spoken to undergraduate students, this area seems to be the one that they are the most apprehensive about. What activities are they looking for? How do I stand out? From my experience there appears to be one key aspect to engaging in extra-curriculars, and that is passion.
It may sound cliché, but it is incredibly important to enjoy the activities that you take part in. If you are involved with a club that you are passionate about, you are more inspired to take on an active role and implement ideas to make the club excel. This will demonstrate to any committee your motivation, drive and dedication with something you feel is important. Ultimately, this will demonstrate a lot about your attitude and your work ethic as well.
Now you may be thinking…how do I find what I’m passionate about?
Simple. Follow what interests you. Admissions committees do not discriminate on the interest of the activity or club. Often times, it is our interests that makes us stand out. In addition, if you are going to dedicate your time to something, it might as well be something that you enjoy. This will also demonstrate to the admissions committee your genuine interests.
Lastly, I sometimes hear students fret that they “haven’t done enough”, as in, they feel compelled to join so many activities in order to make it look like they have a substantive application. I would like to emphasize that what is really important is finding the right balance. It’s really quality over quantity. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin so that your active involvement between clubs becomes limited. Again, it is important to ensure that you demonstrate your dedication to the activity, and taking on too much can hinder this – often times, admissions committees can pick up on this.
Ultimately, one cannot know exactly what admissions committees are looking for – but you can never go wrong with just being yourself!