Gone are the days when grades were all that mattered. Today, schools, colleges and even employers are looking at applicants holistically. They prefer students who have gone above and beyond academics and demonstrated additional interest in a subject about which they are passionate. Along with this, they want students who have showcased additional abilities such as leadership and teamwork. This is why identifying and helping your child develop interests and hobbies early on is important.
How can I encourage my child to build on their interests?
When thinking about an activity for your child, it is best to keep their interest in mind. Your child is likely to already be engaged in some extracurricular activities such as playing a musical instrument or participating in a sport. They can either continue to explore these extracurricular activities or spend time exposing themselves to new activities. Once your child identifies a few activities, they should pick two and build on those over the next few years. It is important to remember that the reasons for choosing an extracurricular activity are often more important than the specifics of what it entails. For example, if your child is interested in computer science and is personally affected by people suffering from autism, then they can create a medical device to track when the person needs to take their medication. This would create a bigger impact as compared to working on a project where there is no personal connection.
Are activities important in the college admissions process?
When it comes to applying to US colleges, extracurricular activities play an important part in your child’s application. Apart from academic performance and test scores, admissions officers will look at the required activity section of the application, which outlines what your child has done outside the classroom. Colleges want to see that your child has dived in, not just wet their toes. Students need to articulate why they are involved in a particular extracurricular activity and what they have gotten out of it. A great way to do this is to combine different interests in a manner that can add value to your child’s profile as well as their community.
How can I make an activity meaningful?
Combining an academic interest with a personal passion can lay the groundwork for meaningful extracurricular activities. For example, if a student is passionate about music and computer science, they could combine the two and take up music coding. Alternatively, someone who enjoys baking can have a bake sale to raise money for a charity. Doing this will help build and reinforce leadership, organisational and interpersonal skills while enabling them to process and learn from new experiences.
Your child can also merge various interests together to generate creative ideas. If they want to dabble in entrepreneurship but are also dog-lover they could develop an app for dog owners. It can identify other dog owners in your area, organises and lists dog events, and provide a database for pet stores and vets. This can be taken further by allowing users to post reviews on pet food and toy brands. The direction in which they take the idea is up to your child; they will benefit as long as it genuinely relates to their interests.
Another example of combining interests is from one of our students whose father is an ophthalmic surgeon. Due to this, he has always been concerned with the problems of people with visual impairment. Academically he enjoyed science, which he used to create a device to sense colour. His idea was to improve the quality of life for the blind by giving them an awareness of colour. In this case, the student’s background played a big part in his reason for creating the project and this is exactly what colleges want to see – who the person is and what is their story.
No matter what your child’s interest is, the way they approach it is important. Students sometimes think that there is a fixed checklist they need to tick off in order to paint a holistic picture of themselves. However, the fact is that they can demonstrate any interest, as long as it is authentic and it can demonstrate their growth.
If you feel your child can use some guidance, consider a mentorship programme. To learn more about how you can support your child academically, read this blog post. For more information, get in touch with us.