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The Dos and Don’ts of Joining New Extracurriculars Your Senior Year

With the start of senior year comes the excitement – and terror – of college applications season. Students’ eagerness to get an edge in the admissions process is often accompanied by last second resume additions. Students take on new projects, join new clubs, and compete on new teams in hopes that one more entry in the Activities section of the Common App will make all the difference. However, a couple of activities may not always have the desired effect on your application – and in some cases, can hurt you more than they can help. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the do’s and don’t’s of taking on new extracurriculars in your senior year.




Join an activity that’s consistent with your extracurricular profile. If you’ve been a debate champion the last three years of high school, joining an activity like mock trial your senior year can be a great opportunity to further demonstrating your public speaking and argumentation skills. If you’re able to rack up awards or accomplishments in that area, all the better. Concentrating your involvement in one general area not only helps you develop a specific skill set, but also shows colleges you’re focused on your goals for the future.




Join an activity just to add something to your resume. If you join an activity with no connection to your existing profile, admissions officers may perceive your participation as an attempt at resume-building rather than an indicator of genuine interest. Chances are you’ve made at least some efforts to develop a cohesive extracurricular profile – that is, participated in extracurriculars that demonstrate interest in a certain career field or subject – and adding an activity incongruous with that profile will either present an unflattering image to admissions committees, or have little impact. After all,  if you’ve developed your profile with the hope of studying a related field in college, why spend your time pursuing an activity that won’t help you accomplish that goal?


However, if it took you a couple years to find your niche and your extracurricular profile is more diverse, that’s fine too. The issue is not having extracurriculars in various subjects or fields – it’s adding on seemingly unfocused extracurriculars in your senior year that won’t add to your application in a substantial way.




Take on activities you can fit into your schedule. If you find you have some extra time that you’d like to fill up, or an extracurricular opportunity presents itself that would require a minimal time commitment but still make a valuable addition to your application, getting involved in new activities is a great idea. This is especially if you feel your application is still a little lacking; filling up free time with extracurriculars is a no-brainer.




Pile on extracurriculars to an already full schedule. If your schedule is already full-to-bursting, as is the case with many ambitious seniors, little can be gained by placing even more strain upon yourself. Adding more activities and responsibilities can only take away from your time and energy for everything else, which can lead to slipping grades, poorer performance on your athletic or academic teams, or procrastination on your college apps, none of which colleges will be very pleased to see. Know your limits, and don’t get so caught up in trying to build the best possible resume that you neglect your existing commitments.




Get involved in a major service or research project. Spearheading a major community service project or undertaking a significant research paper or project can be a great way to end your high school career. Large projects not only display leadership skills and initiative, two characteristics highly prized by admissions committees, they can also represent a culmination of the skills you’ve been developing throughout high school. For example, if you’ve played tennis all throughout high school, fundraising to found a free tennis class for underprivileged children your senior year  can display both the organizational skills of a project leader and the passion of a dedicated tennis player.




Get involved with lots of low-commitment extracurriculars to fill up space. The reason activities like large projects are so impressive to colleges is that they require a great degree of time, skill, and dedication to complete. Undertaking a significant project and seeing it through to the end requires students to be invested and passionate in a cause. On the other hand, a series of low-commitment extracurriculars, like membership 5 clubs but leadership positions in none, tells colleges you’re more interested in adding the activities to your resume than you are in putting in the time and effort. In short, we’ll restate the most important piece of advice regarding extracurriculars: quality over quantity.


Though a few short months may not seem like enough time to make a valuable contribution to your activities list, there are some instances in which adding extracurriculars in your senior year is a smart idea. However, this is only true for students who join extracurriculars they’re truly passionate about and in which they’re willing to invest time and energy. Otherwise, a slew of last-minute additions to your activities list will probably read more like a transparent attempt to pad your resume. Be smart in making additions to your schedule in your senior year, and don’t be afraid to scale back your involvement in existing activities if it’s best for your schedule. Even in the competitive world of college admissions, less is sometimes more!


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Anamaria Lopez
Managing Editor

Short Bio
Anamaria is an Economics major at Columbia University who's passionate about sharing her knowledge of admissions with students facing the applications process. When she's not writing for the CollegeVine blog, she's studying Russian literature and testing the limits of how much coffee one single person can consume in a day.