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 Highlight Your Extracurricular 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:



In this article, we will share advice about how to highlight your extracurricular “spike,” which is a passion or expertise for a particular topic or interest that makes you stand out to prospective schools within your college applications. There are several tactics you can use to do this, including considering your application as a portfolio, leveraging your activity list, and making connections within your essays.


Consider Your Application as a Portfolio


When you complete your college applications, whether you are using a central application platform like the Common App or Coalition App, or a school or state-specific application like the University of California application, you will be providing colleges with a variety of different pieces of information about yourself. Colleges will use all of these pieces of information, from essays, to GPA and test scores, to your extracurricular profile, to evaluate your eligibility for admission.


As you work on your applications, keep in mind that all of these different components will be working together to tell your story – and used strategically, these components can really highlight your spike. One way to ensure that you are maximizing opportunities to demonstrate your spike through your application is to consider your application as a portfolio. Furthermore, you want to really think about how each component of that portfolio can be used to highlight your spike.


Maximize Your Activity List


Your activity list is a great starting point for demonstrating your accomplishments and involvement related to your spike. The more activities that you include that connect to your spike, the more apparent your spike will become to admissions officers as they read your application.


That said, most applications limit the amount of activities you can include and the space you have to write about your involvement. Because of this, the information that you provide about your activities must be short and succinct to fit within the application.


You may find that you don’t actually have enough space in this section to thoroughly discuss the specific qualities that you have developed, or the overarching theme between all of the extracurriculars you’ve pursued. This is normal, and is why highlighting your spike throughout all aspects of your application, not just your activity list, is so important. 


Connect the Dots with Your Essays


Draw Connections to Your Spike


College essays are great spaces for you to highlight your spike, and lay out an overarching theme for your application. While your primary focus within your essays may be to respond to prompts, write about important events in your life, and demonstrate your personal qualities, you will likely find you can easily draw connections to your spike within your essays, too.


For example, in Shravya’s case, as discussed in her livestream, community service was really important to her, and many of her high school activities were focused on public health education, or volunteer work with organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Medical Reserve. But in her Common App personal statement, she focused on one specific event, a leadership camp that she had gone to. She then outlined specific qualities that she saw in herself and her peers at that leadership camp, and discussed how they all shared an interest in community service and enacting change on a larger scale.


Shape the Story of Your Spike


As you approach your college essays, think about how you can use them to “connect the dots” between the different components of your application. Effective essays can set the stage for everything else that the admissions officers are going to read within your application, and can be used to shape the story of your spike. 


Returning to the example above, Shravya honed the theme of service and creating change through public health through her extracurricular activities list, as she had participated in over five community service activities during high school. However, Shravya didn’t stop there, and she was also able to leverage her personal statement to draw connections between her spike-related activities and to emphasize the importance of her spike to her values and future goals.