What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Think About Art or Music Extracurriculars

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Reuben Stern in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered: 



What is a Spike?


When we talk about the whole application, colleges really want to see that you have found your spike and developed it significantly. This means you have developed interests and accolades in some field more deeply than the rest. It’s like an inverted T – you might have some broad baseline, but then you have one or maybe two fields that you’ve pursued really strongly.


So in this case, having extracurricular activities in a particular art form really tells the college that you care about the subject. Taking classes that are related to that art form, or creating personal projects, go towards this goal.


Developing a Spike


The key to developing a spike is approaching the activity of your choosing from multiple angles to build up a diverse repertoire of experiences that will underscore your commitment to the activity across different areas of your life. For instance, if you’re pursuing the drums, you may practice and take lessons on your own. You might be a part of a local youth band, or participate in the marching or concert band course or extracurricular at your school. These types of activities demonstrate how you have built up expertise. 


Another type of activity you might pursue under an interest in arts or music, such as playing the drums, is a more creative endeavor. Rather than just getting good at playing other composers’ pieces, you might mess around creating music with your friends or even start a band with them. Maybe you do copious YouTube research and try to cover or spin off of your favorite artists’ pieces. This generative aspect lends another layer to your commitment to the drums and showcases the more creative skills you possess.


Finally, a service component is a great way to demonstrate strong extracurriculars in music and art. Beyond building up your expertise, performing, and making your own art, how do you share your love of the medium with others? This could look like performing at your local senior home or mentoring or tutoring younger students in your musical instrument or art form. It could be donating paintings to your local library or hosting virtual workshops teaching your favorite sculpting techniques. 


Aim to Showcase Long-Term Achievements


You should think about your extracurriculars related to the arts essentially as the following: practicing this art form in specific ways towards a long-term goal. This could mean working on a painting a week or learning a new piece on the piano once a month. Ideally, these long-term goals will translate into tangible outputs, and eventually this will give you something to show for your progress through practicing the skill of your choosing.


You may also want to pursue some sort of culmination, or final project, that takes a few months or longer to plan. This could be a graduation performance or submitting your work to a local gallery or online publication. At the end of the day, you want to continue building expertise in your chosen area of art and then demonstrate it via these types of public and polished endeavors.


How the Arts Supplement Factors in


At many colleges, the arts supplement is something that the actual admissions officers won’t look at, and they will instead send it directly to the professors in the department that handle that arts. Then the professors will decide on that aspect of your candidacy depending on if they want you to join their department. 


However, if you’re interested in going into the arts, the supplement itself isn’t always enough. You want to pursue extracurriculars and as many classes in your preferred  art form as you can. It may also help to write about this interest in your personal statement or your supplemental essays to really tell the story of your passion for the arts.