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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How Can You Improve Your Extracurriculars During the Summer Before 12th Grade?

College admissions are more and more often referred to as a holistic process. This means that it isn’t just your grades, test scores, and achievements that matter. Who you are as a person is also considered, and how you present yourself on your application will determine how the admissions committee views you. Extracurriculars are an important part of this, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’re nearing 12th grade and need to improve you extracurriculars over the summer so that you can submit a top college application, you won’t want to miss this post.


Why Are Extracurriculars Important?


Extracurriculars are important in two unique ways on your college applications, and you should consider both of them equally.


First, they are a chance to highlight your personal qualities. What you do during your free time says a lot about who you are as a person, so choosing activities that better yourself or your community in some way is a great choice. Extracurriculars can also show your dedication, your ability to take initiative, and your leadership skills. Sticking with the same activities for an extended period proves that you are able to commit yourself and follow through. Creating new projects, fundraisers, or your own school club shows that you can create opportunities where none existed before. Becoming a leader, through either a formal election or through informal opportunities to take charge, will show that you are as happy leading as you are participating in group efforts.  


The second reason that extracurriculars matter on your application is because they are an opportunity to reinforce your areas of interest and highlight areas of strength. If you excel in certain areas, whether they are academic in nature or not, you can probably pursue them at a deeper level through extracurriculars. This helps to highlight areas of specialty that might relate to a college major or future career path. It also provides the chance to earn additional recognition, honors, or awards that you can showcase on your applications.


What Can You Do to Boost Your Extracurricular Profile Over the Summer?


If you’re nearing 12th grade and starting to think that maybe you haven’t done enough with your extracurriculars, it’s not time to panic yet. There are still a few key things you can do this summer to ensure that your existing extracurriculars shine on your college applications in the fall. Here are our top four ways to give those extracurriculars a boost at the last minute:


Form a Summer Program or Club to Get a Head Start on Next Year


One of the simplest ways to establish leadership skills and show initiative is to form a summer club that continues to pursue this extracurricular over the summer. This can pretty much apply to any existing club or activity that you pursue with others. In the school band? Great, form a summer ensemble that practices that performs. Robotics club? Perfect, meet at the local library to learn a new coding program or ask permission to use your school’s robots during the summer. Varsity soccer? Lead summer skills sessions for returning players. This model can be applied to almost anything and it’s an easy and fun way to boost your extracurriculars over the summer.


Create a Community Service Project Related to Your Favorite Extracurricular


This idea works better for some activities than others, but with a little creativity you can almost always think of a way to give back through your extracurriculars. For example, if you are on the lit mag, host a weekly creative writing group for kids in your area. If you enjoy computer science, offer skill share sessions at a local retirement community, where members of your computer club help residents to set up and use email accounts or photo sharing apps. Giving back through your extracurriculars shows not only your own commitment to pursing this activity, but also your willingness to spend time and energy to share it with others.  

Put Together a Showcase or Exhibition


If your extracurriculars are primarily in the visual or performing arts, organizing a summer showcase can be a great way to highlight your craft and your leadership skills at the same time. Get some other student artists together to make a real event of it. You could even charge admissions or sell your art, and then donate the proceeds to a local art nonprofit. That’s what we call a true win-win!


Get a Job Related to Your Extracurriculars


For many students, time is limited during the summer due to summer jobs. If you need to get a summer job, try to get one that is somehow related to one of your extracurriculars. If you’re an athlete, coach at the local youth sports camps. If you’re an artist, look into work at a museum or gallery. If science is your thing, look for a research position or even a job cleaning the lab. Jobs that might seem like an otherwise boring proposition can be spun into relevant and even desirable work if you frame them correctly and maximize the opportunity. For example, a student interested in economics and business who gets a job scooping ice cream might ask to help with bookkeeping or learn more about how the owner chooses how much consumables to purchase each quarter.


How Will Extracurriculars Show Up On Your Application?


Your extracurriculars will be evident in a few different places on your application. Most obviously, they will be included in your activities list, but this is usually a fairly superficial glance into them as it generally just includes a title and the length of commitment. You will have more opportunity to share about them in your list of honors and achievements, but even here the content is in list format.


Your best opportunities for sharing about extracurriculars are through your essays and your letters of recommendation. It might seem difficult at first to seamlessly weave these into your essay, but with a little bit of planning, you’ll find ways that they can seem like natural additions.


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.