It sometimes seems to people like me who work with college students everyday, that everybody knows students should be involved in activities and organizations outside of class. I was recently reminded that this is not as obvious to everyone. Therefore, I write this column on getting involved.
When I review applications for awards or scholarships (and for that matter, employment), I look for more than just quantity of extracurricular activities. I’m looking for substance, and I’m looking for depth. I’m looking for someone with good grades (and test scores if it’s a high school student) and a good number of activities, but “good” can be relative. Not so great grades or not too many involvements can be overcome by truly important accomplishments or real impact made through them. I have to say here, that some are much more “black and white” on this than I am, preferring higher GPA’s and more activities. I do know, though, that I’m not alone in my thinking.
I too am looking for a strong resume, but I’m looking for more than just a list on paper. I’m looking for hard work, leadership skills, caring about the world outside oneself, and I like the students whose resumes tell you something about them by what they commit their time to. Sometimes, you can tell a lot about a student by how they’ve been involved in their organizations. For example, someone whose involvements include positions like treasurer, finance chair and budget committee, is obviously someone with interest and/or ability in dealing with money. But you can also tell the person has the trust of their peers and isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty by doing some work. In addition, I’m looking to see what a person actually accomplished through their involvements. It’s one thing to be president of an organization, and it’s an entirely different thing to grow its membership, implement new programming, or to surpass previous fundraising goals.
I’m looking for someone who accomplishes a lot. Not just someone who’s involved in a lot!
Through their involvements, students should seek to show broad interests and abilities, plus an increase in depth or responsibility over time. Membership in an organization, followed by a committee head’s spot, and then an officer position shows commitment and growth. In addition, one-dimensional involvement such as ONLY showing membership, involvement and awards in an area like sports or art, has a reduced value outside that arena. Even something as simple and benign as participating in intramural sports can show a commitment to health and the ability to work with others toward a goal.
When an interview is part of the selection process, all these activities are that much more valuable still. They give the student something to talk about and an example of how their interests and abilities are translated into action. Choose your opportunities, and get involved.
Another way students can make an impressive addition to their resume is to study abroad. Read a nice article here about the study abroad experience and locating housing while you're there.
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