Lily Fang 4 min read Coronavirus

How is the Coronavirus Impacting High School Extracurricular Activities?

With schools and activities canceled across the country, many high schoolers are wondering how they can continue to build their extracurricular profile. If you’re stressed about all the missed opportunities to add impressive accomplishments to your activities list (not to mention the missed experiences and memories), you’re not alone.

 

Fortunately, there are still things you can do to improve your extracurriculars, even while you’re stuck at home. Additionally, remember that students in every community have been impacted, so colleges will be understanding if you weren’t able to complete activities due to the coronavirus. 

 

Here’s what you should know about canceled activities due to COVID-19, and what you can do to build your extracurricular profile during the pandemic.

 

Can I List Canceled Activities on the Common App?

 

If you were selected to participate in a prestigious summer program, competition, music group, or another opportunity that was canceled, you can still describe it in your activities list or additional information section. Simply share what you did to be selected, and explain it was canceled due to the pandemic. For instance, say you made all-state orchestra. In that case, you might write: “One of the top 8 violinists selected from 500 regional auditions to participate in all-state orchestra, which was unfortunately canceled due to COVID-19.”

 

This also applies if you worked on a project in a club you weren’t able to present, or anything you prepared for that couldn’t get “results” due to the coronavirus. Say you were part of Robotics Club, and all your competitions were canceled, but you still had spent hours building and programming a robot. You might say on your application: “Using Java, developed and implemented subsystems for a robot that shot balls using a limelight targeting system. Competitions canceled due to coronavirus.

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How to Improve Your Extracurricular Profile During Coronavirus

 

This is an optimal time to pursue self-driven projects if you’re worried about staying productive and building an impressive extracurricular profile. Self-driven projects are extremely valuable in that they demonstrate your skills and interests in an authentic way, and also show your initiative. 

 

Some examples of self-driven projects include:

 

  • Building a computer
  • Self-publishing a book
  • Training for a half or full marathon (and running an official one once it’s safe to do so)
  • Restoring a car or motorcycle
  • Learning to use Adobe Illustrate (or other software)

 

You can also create content in a field of interest, whether that means starting a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, or magazine. Casual social media feeds won’t count, unless they have a specific theme, such as Humans of New York, or an Instagram account with social psychology facts.

 

When it comes to creating content, your activity will be more impressive if you can frame it in an intellectual way. Say that you’re passionate about fashion, and want to start a YouTube channel on that topic; posting outfit lookbooks wouldn’t boost your college application, but investigating sustainable fashion issues and producing well-researched videos would reflect positively on you. Similarly, if you’re interested in film, and want to start a blog, it would be more impressive to discuss film theory than to publish movie reviews.

 

The more quantifiable your achievements are, the easier it is to demonstrate their value to admissions officers as well. This could mean writing a certain number of pages for a book, reaching a certain number of views or followers, or publishing a certain number of articles (though quality is always more important than quantity!).

 

For more information on self-driven projects, see our post How to Improve Your Extracurriculars Junior and Senior Year (just search “self-driven projects” to be brought to that section). Also see our post on extracurriculars you can do from home.

 

Understanding the Impact of Your Extracurriculars

 

Extracurriculars are almost as important as your academics in selective college admissions (top 100 schools). This is because nearly every student who applies to top schools has great grades and test scores, so extracurriculars are a way to set yourself apart.

 

You may be wondering how admissions officers evaluate extracurriculars. After all, aren’t they much more subjective than grades or test scores? While there is a lot of variability in extracurriculars, admissions officers are still able to use a streamlined system to compare the strength of different activities.

 

Many admissions offices use what’s called the four tiers of extracurriculars. In this system, each activity is assigned a tier based on how unique or impressive it is. For instance:

 

Tier 1 activities are extremely rare, and often awarded on a national level. This might mean placing in the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO), or being selected for a prestigious summer program like the Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP). 

 

Tier 2 activities are still impressive, but a little more common, and are about the equivalent of state-wide recognition or holding a major leadership role. Some examples are making all-state orchestra, being a top 10 runner in the state, or serving as student body president. 

 

Tier 3 activities are even more common, but still involve some leadership or distinction, such as being class treasurer or playing in a selective regional band. 

 

Tier 4 activities are those where you simply participated, and didn’t hold a leadership role. Tier 4 also includes volunteering and holding a job, unless you had special responsibilities.

 

If you’re wondering where exactly your activities fall and how they impact your chances of acceptance, you can get them evaluated using our free chancing engine. You can also see how other aspects of your profile stack up, from your coursework to test scores. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to learn how to improve your profile and get a jumpstart on your college strategy. It’s a great way to take a step back during these tough times and look at the bigger picture.

 

These are difficult times for everyone. At CollegeVine, we’re here to support you. COVID-19 is a constantly-changing situation, and we want to ensure you have access to the most up-to-date info in one place. Visit our Coronavirus Info Center to check for any new developments in college admissions during these unusual circumstances.

Lily Fang
Blog Editor at CollegeVine
Short bio
Lily Fang is 2018 grad of Amherst College with a degree in math and French. She has called three countries “home”: the U.S., France, and England. In her spare time, she trains for marathons and writes for her travel and running blog.