Extra-curricular activities that can boost your application to international universities

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BY S.M. TAHMID

Any student who is considering studying abroad, is very familiar with the need for extracurricular activities. It is what makes you stand out from the thousands, perhaps not by a lot but there is no denying that they are actually important. But, exactly how do the universities evaluate them, and what criteria do you need to fill up in that part of your achievements?

This is a question that seems to have different schools of thoughts, one in particular being that the institutions are looking for the jacks of all trades – they go off to cover as many activities as possible, and how well they can carry out each of these activities. Typically exploring different talented activities are seen as extracurricular activities such as art, music, dance, sports etc. But most of the admissions experts will assert that competitions and winning in different events are more important. But which, if any, is right?

The answer is actually very simple. All institutions are looking to know the person behind the application – which, is not truly reflected by your grades alone. This is what extracurricular activities reflect – your unique talents, passion, and drive. The jack of all trades is the worst approach here in that standard – it shows that you lack the passion and drive altogether, and that plainly you are just trying things out – or just fulfilling a criteria. The other two approaches are more or less on the spot.

According to various admissions committee, the things they are looking for are leadership, passion to achieve some recognition, and the drive to make something new. So if you are the founder or an active member of a club, have been volunteering for any organization or charity on a regular basis, or have been awarded for talent in the arts or science, it will help the committee see that you are the kind of person who is not just a student buried in the books but you have gone out there, and proven yourself.

That being said, there are no shortcuts to this or any checklists to fulfill. Just find your passion, look for opportunities, and expand on them – not because it will improve your image or your chances, but because it will help you become a better person. But as always, having recognition is important if you are going to include them in your application. Hence:

– If it is the arts you are pursuing, try to take part in competitions.
– Be a part of societies, and actively take part in them. If you founded one, even better – but make sure it gets recognized, perhaps featured in the media for the efforts.
– Volunteer for good causes. Not just that one time, be at the call for any emergencies.
– Do not try to get involved in too many things. It just shows, and causes, you to lose focus and not achieve anything.

It is not guaranteed that following this will get you the bulletproof application – no such thing exists! But it will lend credibility to your actions and, enrich your life significantly. Remember that being the jack of all trades brings the different sides of the coin, but a master of none.

S.M. Tahmid is a Content Specialist for GradInsights, the research service of the career consulting firm GradConnect. He is a part of the essay editing and counselling team and can be reached at tahmid@grad-connect.com.

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