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)

An Innovative Approach to Developing Your Spike

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


What’s Covered:



While you may have some idea of what interests you, it’s not always easy to figure out what exact activities to pursue as extracurriculars. You may also have a lot of ideas of what you want to do, but you’re not quite sure how to narrow it all down into a particular “spike,” which is a demonstrated focus on a topic or field that helps you stand out as an applicant. This article will help guide you through different options that could work for you, and will show you how to take initiative and gain leadership abilities in your chosen field.


Finding Your Niche in Community Service


If you’re passionate about helping other people, you can center your extracurricular spike on community service


Demonstrating that you care about your community will always look good to an admissions office. It’s important to take on more than just a couple of volunteer roles if you want to display a coherent spike, though. Many students volunteer, and express their interest in giving back to others.


Volunteering at a local food bank, a local children’s hospital, at Relay for Life, or at the Red Cross are all good options for young people looking to get involved in the community. Because a lot of students perform these roles, you might want to figure out what more can serve to differentiate you. 


To show that your desire to help other people is more than a mere interest, try to find your specific niche. What’s the field that you want to pursue? 


Maybe you want to become a doctor, and so you begin volunteering at a hospital. You can use this role to start recruiting other volunteers, or to fundraise for the local medical facilities. If you’re a woman, or a member of another underrepresented group, and you’re working to be an engineer, you can look to organizations who wish to raise awareness about diversity in the field. You could even seek out a mentor in some company to help you with this goal.


In what you do in the community, it’s important to show your leadership abilities, and to tie your work to your other principal interests. This will demonstrate your commitment to what you do, and will show that this extracurricular activity is more than just a passing hobby.


Gaining Work Experience


If you’re already set on the career you want to pursue, an excellent way to show your interest would be to pursue an internship. You could also try to shadow someone working in the field.


Sometimes this is as easy as reaching out to an employee on LinkedIn and asking if they would be willing to let you shadow them for a time. You could also try to find the administrative contact for a company you’d be interested in working for, and send them a message to express your goals.


There are some groups and organizations that offer formal internships. If you’re interested in mechanical or aerospace engineering, there are many companies that do provide small internships or similar programs to interested high school students. Perhaps the most esteemed is NASA, but these positions are very competitive.


Even shadowing an employee at a company you’d dream of working for would impress an admissions officer. It will show that you’re serious about what you want to pursue, and have already taken steps to realize your ambitions. This can help to solidify your passions into a real extracurricular spike


Pursuing Creative Passions


Sometimes, you may be pretty confident in your intended choice of career, but you also have a creative passion that doesn’t quite fit into your main interests. This can be a great asset to building an extracurricular spike that demonstrates your diverse points of focus.


It can sometimes be difficult, however, to show all that you’ve accomplished in a creative field, especially if you do artistic work outside of a group or organization. Playing music in a band, or doing yarn work or some other artistic medium, can be an interesting thing to add to a college application.


It may help you to build a portfolio of the work you’ve done, so that admissions officers can see exactly what you’ve created. Especially if you’re interested in something like computer science, creating a website that demonstrates your artistic skills and coding abilities would be very impressive.


If you’re just looking to showcase your accomplishments, you could also start a YouTube or video channel, or start writing a blog. These would show that you’re both dedicated to your craft and eager to share this knowledge with other people.


Using your creative pursuits to fundraise for an organization would also show your abilities, your dedication to a specific goal, and your desire to give back to the community. Selling your artwork or organizing a concert would be very impressive, and would contribute a great deal to your intended extracurricular spike.


It’s always good to have different passions. It can be challenging to convey all that you’re interested in to a college admissions office, but organizing your different pursuits into specialized extracurricular spikes can help to represent you well as an applicant, and can also help you realize exactly what you want to focus on going forward.