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The ‘intangible’ factors that’s key to college admissions

Many students in high school begin to worry about college admissions and making the cut. While a large percentage give importance to academics, the others do spend time on Extracurricular activities. Despite the importance that Extracurricular activities play in personality development and instilling certain important values in children, a lot of students are still apprehensive about its benefits.

Many children pursuing interests through middle school, give up their passion in high school to focus on studies.

a poster of a child playing chess
The important Extracurricular activities

The truth is Extra Curricular activities are a good guideline for admission officers to understand a student better.

Is it important to engage in many activities? Is sports the preferred Extra curricular activity? Which activities are more impressive than the others? These are dilemmas most parents are faced with.

Prestigious Institutions like Harvard give a lot of weightage to activities done outside of school.

This is not surprising because the beginnings of EA trickled from this Institution. EA became important as part of the school curriculum when a study conducted found that keeping children engaged in activities after school reduced behavioral problems. At first sport was the popular choice because of the rigorous discipline it demanded. But now EC has diverged into many different areas.

Many educational and child experts have seen that nurturing a skill/ engaging in an activity instilled a sense of accomplishment in a child. This induced a sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

The intangibles and how it helps in college admissions.

Extracurricular activities & Involvement

Students who showcase a high involvement in extracurricular activities make a better impression with their profiles.

Some of the key areas that would make a college application look good are when leadership is proven, when the student shows initiative and when there is community impact.

A common recurring theme that colleges generally look for are students who have depth, and not breadth of experience.  

A poster of a black piano with music notes coming out of it.  Text : Colleges would like to see children with focused passions.
Focused passion

This is preferred to students who are just good at many different things. This means that a bit of commitment to a few select activities is preferred to participation in many activities that have little or no significance.

A colourful poster of a group of happy children running in a field.  There are trees in the background
Focused passions

As parents we know that for 9th and 10th graders it’s important to start planning early in terms of college admissions. Planning a strategy on how to approach admissions and knowing what is key to make a student’s profile look worthy is important. Most students don’t realize the importance of Extracurricular activities. While admission executives are looking for a number of things in a student, like grades, tests scores, essays and extracurricular activities. EC is one of the most important ‘intangible’ factors that are important for students.

Therefore, it is critical that students approach their admission plan in a strategic manner. It is not only about impressing the admissions committees. It also helps students who do not appear impressive on paper.

A beautiful picture of a university.  A students enters. There are autumn leaves on a tree in the foreground
Ivy League

3 reasons why EC plays a critical role in the admission process

1. EC encourages children to be explorers, thus making them better candidates

When a child takes part in any EC activities it shows that they are enthusiastic about something. It also means they have interests that they spend time exploring and learning something new. These kinds of students also take the initiative to join a club or other initiatives that help nurturing their passion. Students who try to balance academics and non-academic activities develop skills like time management, organization and are known to work well under stress. These skills carry them throughout their student years. When students pick a passion to nurture, it also helps them rule out other activities that they tried experimenting with. Thus, they do not waste time on things that may not be suitable for them.

It is deemed important for students to explore their interests at an early stage so that they can later on choose which ones they are passionate about. This way, students can choose how to make an impact on their student record and the world.

A picture of a waterfall.  A youngster with hiking gear stares at it holding a camera in his hand.  He seems to be mesmerized.
Children must explore

2. It's a natural training ground for leadership

Most colleges are actively looking for candidates with good leadership skills. Students with good leadership skills tend to make a positive influence on campus. They also leave with a greater impact, often starting changes in the way things are done on campus. How will applicants with leadership skills be identified?

Admission officers look for candidates who have been active in non-academic pursuits that require leadership skills. It could translate to being President of a club, starting a marathon or leading a fundraising initiative.

Students engaged in EC activities need to plan their schedule carefully, often balancing different deadlines and multitasking. These skills hone leadership skills and prepare the student for challenges ahead. It also prepares the student for failure. A good leader is someone who understands how to accept failure and use it to get better.

A picture of two feet wearing smart shoes, staring at a caption on the ground which says 'passion led us here'
Passion led us here

3. Emotional Intelligence and Impact

When children engage in skill development activities at an early age, they learn to manage pressure and deal with mistakes better. When trying to nurture a passion or trying to achieve ability in a skill, a great amount of practice is required.

Students will have to go through the journey of trial and error. They become familiar with perseverance and hard work. These experiences help in honing Emotional Intelligence, making them stronger individuals.

These students are more capable than the others to face failures, accept mistakes and stay calm in challenging situations. They are also known to be able to think on their feet faster. Thus, making them more street smart than the others. These intangible factors are what makes a candidate stand apart from other candidates. Thereby, giving the candidate a good starting point in his career.

A picture of happy children playing together in a park.  Some of them sit on the steps of a slide. some lean on it. There is also a boy in a wheelchair
Emotional Intelligence

As part of its admission process, IIM conducts group discussions and personal interviews to shortlist candidates. A candidate with good EQ will definitely be able to outshine his peers. The candidate will be able to manage the stress of the group discussion and think calmly.

This behavioral approach to managing an important step in the selection process is critical to gaining admission in a prestigious university.

It a tex poster with a text : title is Harvard's Interviewer handbook.  In call out is Harvard still seeks candidates with a wide range of skills beyond academic achievement
Harvard Interviewer handbook


Even though a lot of universities give a lot of importance to academics, there are other factors that are taken into consideration while selecting a candidate. E.g., essays, group discussions and various competitive test scores. The overall personality of the candidate will definitely make an impact on the selection process.

Generally, a candidate with good communication skills, people skills and social skills have the advantage over the others in interviews and group discussions.

 Children who trained at an early age in nurturing a passion, will definitely make for more interesting candidates.  A candidate who will add to the diversity of the campus demographics. 

Learner Circle recognizes the critical role EC plays in the selection process for college admissions. This is why we have a dedicated mission to provide online classes to help children in their infinite learning journey. Come join us, we have a wide range of courses that will get any child hooked. Do not hesitate to check out our website for more information,

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