Are extracurriculars important to admissions?

By Courtney Kaplar ’16

When most high school students begin considering the college application process, they are typically reminded that it is not only grade point average and SAT/ACT scores that matter, but extracurricular activities as well. In many high school students, this perception enforced by guidance counselors, parents and teachers alike, leads to resume building, or the piling up of extracurriculars in order to impress college admissions officers.

Although, according to the article “Colleges Most Interested in Applicants’ Grades, Course Rigor” by Caralee Adams, most college admissions officers examine, in order of importance, “students’ grades, the strength of their high school curriculum, scores on standardized admission exams and overall grade point averages.”  This information was recorded by The 2013 State of College Admissions report, released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

While this information was gathered just last year, it appears that when the National Association for College Admission Counseling conducted a similar study in 2009, it was revealed that college admissions officers prioritized even then the same factors (grades, rigor in high school curriculum, standardized test scores, etc.).  In fact, in the 2009 study, college admissions officers are said to have included the college essay, teacher and counselor recommendations, class rank and the student’s demonstrated interest as the next most important factors in admission decisions.

Does this mean that colleges and universities only accept applicants based on grades and test scores?  Certainly not.  As Rajah Sehkar mentions in his article “Examine Your Extracurricular Activities,” extracurriculars alone will not get you accepted into college, but they do “let college admissions officers make a connection with you as a real person...not just a couple numbers.”  Therefore, applicants with notable extracurricular activities will have an edge over applicants without them, even if they have similar test scores and grades.

It is also significant to note that extracurricular activities throughout college may have an impact on gaining admission to graduate school.  An article in the U.S. News and World Report declares that, similar to undergraduate circumstances, extracurricular activities can help applicants increase chances of acceptance to graduate school by giving them an edge over those who have not been involved in any nonacademic activities.

Therefore, even though the data from numerous studies regarding the importance of extracurriculars has shown that college admissions officers do not necessarily regard nonacademic activities as highly important, the fact that extracurriculars have the ability to give an applicant some competitiveness over others demonstrates their importance in the admissions process and encourages the idea of a ‘well-rounded student.’


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