What Colleges Care About Beyond Your GPA and SAT Score

Ask any high school student, or their parents, what they consider the most important things to work on when applying for college and most of the time the answer is GPA and SAT scores. While your high school GPA and SAT scores are extremely important factors in getting into college, in many cases, there exists a 3rd factor; a factor can get you into your reach schools or get you rejected from target schools. That important 3rd factor is your extracurricular activities. It should be stated that different school systems weigh extracurriculars different than others. For example, UC’s put a lot of weight into an applicant’s extracurricular activities, while the Cal-State Schools (SDSU, Cal Poly, long beach, etc) essentially do not. Although if you intend on going to a Cal-State, you should still invest time into extracurricular activities in case you change your mind about your college destination.
I cannot emphasize how important these application builders are, as they act as a double edged sword: having many activities significantly helps you, while a lack of them significantly hurts you. Colleges want to accept unique well-rounded students. They prefer not to fill their student bodies with mundane cookie cutter students. They want their student body to be diverse and full of students that have experienced more of the world than exists outside the schoolroom. Extracurriculars demonstrate this to colleges. They show leadership skills, your personality, and other qualities not measured with test scores and grade averages. They can take a student with less than average grades, and transform him/her into an interesting and accomplished applicant. As I stated earlier, the reverse is true. Just as a lot of strong extracurricular activities can say a lot of about you, so can a lack of them. Having no strong extracurricular activities makes you appear dull, boring, and uninspired; especially when you consider the fact that many of the other applicants you are competing with have them.
The best part about extracurricular activities is that they are abundant and easy to get involved with. They range from holding positions in clubs and other organizations, to volunteer work, to sports outside of school, to community events, and in many cases to your own hobbies. Do you feel particularly strong about an issue, subject, or cause? Chances are there is an organization you can get involved with that addresses it. When preparing for college apps don’t get too obsessed with your GPA and test scores that you neglect the 3rd piece of the application pie: extracurricular activities.

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