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)

Do You Actually Need an 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:



How a Spike Helps Your Application 


A lot of students ask themselves if they actually need a spike in their extracurriculars. If you are hoping to attend a top 20 university or a liberal arts college, a spike can help you maximize your chances of acceptance. 


Less competitive schools will usually accept a lot of well-rounded applicants, but elite schools want students who are experts in their field. This demonstrated expertise is their “spike,” or thing that makes them stand out as an applicant. They want students that have well-defined passions and have put a lot of thought into what they want to pursue as a career. 


A spike shows the college that a student has already had some form of success in their field, so they are likely to continue being successful. This is why elite schools prefer students with an extracurricular spike, as a successful student will leave the college and will most likely succeed in their careers. This will boost the college’s reputation and bring prestige to the school. 


Why Colleges Like Students with Spikes


When you think of a well-rounded applicant, you might think that this is what colleges are looking for. Colleges, however, do not want their entire class to be made up of primarily well-rounded individuals. A college is looking to be well-rounded as an overall class, but they want that by having individual students excel in different fields. 


Colleges are trying to fill specific roles in their student body. They need different types of students in their student body, ones who play the violin in the school orchestra, are the leader of the Muslim Student Association, etc. If a student has a certain spike in their application, this shows the admissions office where that student will fit into their campus community. Ultimately, colleges will look at a student’s application and try to find how that student will benefit them. 


A spike very clearly shows the college you’re applying to and which role you will fill among the student body. Colleges want to have a diverse student body with a bunch of interests, but they also want each student to have specific goals and interests. This dynamic will create a student body that is unique by having a whole well-rounded class, but not a class of well-rounded students.


Difficulties Faced by Well-Rounded Students


This isn’t to say that well-rounded students don’t have a chance. It’s simply going to be a little more difficult for well-rounded students to stand out because there are a bunch of well-rounded students. When you’re applying as a well-rounded student, you will come across a lot of people with similar academic and extracurricular backgrounds, so it will be hard to differentiate yourself from the crowd. This doesn’t mean you should change who you are and conform to what you think colleges want to see.


When it comes to the admission cycle, students are trying to figure out what college admissions officers would like to see most when they’re reading applications. Ideally, students shouldn’t change their application to fit this idea, but rather focus on their own passions. In your application, focus on demonstrating your own interest instead of showing what you think will make the admissions officers happy. 


Why You Shouldn’t Make Up a Spike


If you feel like you are a well-rounded student, that is completely fine. What you can try doing is developing a bunch of smaller spikes rather than a singular spike. Instead of trying to artificially produce one burning interest, think of a couple of things that you like and delve into those a little deeper in the amount of time you have left before your applications. That’s going to demonstrate to colleges that you do have different types of interests, but you aren’t making up a passion. 


When students try to artificially create a spike in their application, it often comes out looking very artificial. College admissions officers have read thousands of applications, so they know when a student isn’t being genuine. You don’t want to come across as a student who makes up a passion in hopes of being admitted. This is why it’s important to approach the college application spike in a more nuanced way. 


For more information about college spikes, check out our posts on what they are and how to find yours.