Teaching as an Extracurricular ― A Real Student’s Story
This article is a first-person account from Shravya Kakulamarri, a Rice University student and CollegeVine livestreamer, mentor, and contributor. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
Exploring Different Subjects
Very early on in high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. In ninth and 10th grade, I was still exploring anything and everything. Not in terms of classes—since we had so much structure, I didn’t get to branch out there. But in extracurriculars, I was able to dabble.
So, in 10th grade, I did something called the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Reach Internship, which was a program where we would go to local middle schools and teach them coding. I thought I was interested in computer science then or something engineering-related. It was a fun activity. I taught middle schoolers how to do Scratching and coding, but it made me realize I didn’t want to do that in the future.
Some of these activities aren’t related to my medical goals, but they were still fine to put on my Common App. You don’t have to relate everything to your plans—it all shows admissions officers your trajectory and that you’ve explored different subjects but have now narrowed down (to at least some degree) what career path you ultimately want to pursue in the future. You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do until later on in college.
I like exploring things. One of my favorite activities was being a tutor at the local library. There was a program there called Study Zone where they offered tutoring free of charge. It ran for a one- to two-hour period every week when students could drop by. They were always looking for tutors but required them to be age 16 or older.
I found out about them when I was in ninth grade. I was taking advanced math classes, and I had a background in science, so I thought I could tutor those subjects. I emailed them and said I had done some teaching on the side, and even though I didn’t meet the age requirement, I was able to get into the orientation. After that, I worked with them through my senior year.
I’ve always liked teaching people, and I loved helping kids from all grade levels learn about math, science, or reading and writing. Often, the kids were from underprivileged backgrounds, so I liked that the program was completely free. Since I’d be there on a weekly basis, I had students that would come consistently every week. It made me so happy—I’d get to develop meaningful relationships with them, and that was rewarding.
As you can see, people will sometimes bend the rules for you if you show a lot of enthusiasm for the work and you’re genuinely interested.
If you want to teach or tutor, just reach out to the right people. My local science museum in Seattle ran a program called Science Educator in Training. We helped teach and lead some of the summer camps for elementary students about any topic we were interested in. I chose to sign up for one about the medical profession.
Through that, I was able to teach elementary school students about veterinarians and doctors. I even helped them perform some very low-key dissections—I think they were on chicken legs.
I mentioned all this on my Common App as well as a few more activities in teaching. I also taught at summer camp, which I thought was fun. I was a teacher’s assistant at local elementary schools, which I started doing in middle school and continued through high school. I had maintained contact with a lot of my elementary school teachers, and my high school ended an hour earlier than the local elementary school, so I was able to go over there and help them grade papers, assist English as a Second Language (ESL) students, and tutor some students in math after school.
For anything that needed an additional set of hands, I was there. Often, I ended up leading small groups when the teacher split the students into group activities. All this was possible because I’d nurtured those connections.