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Creating An Extracurricular Strategy

Stephen Friedfeld, PhD

Creating an extracurricular strategy

By Stephen Friedfeld, PhD


Families often ask us what the correct extracurricular strategy or path is for their student. However, the best route for one student may look very different from another student. The reality is there isn’t one way to create a unique profile. In fact the very idea of a singular path to a distinctive extracurricular experience is illogical.


College admission representatives regularly declare that they want students to “follow their passion.” But most students do not know what they are passionate about early in their high school career. The most successful students are generally those who do something that they are interested in, for an extended period of time. They may not be great at first, but it is something they enjoy doing, and they invest their time and energy into it. Eventually, they become more talented in that discipline and their interest becomes a passion.


It is impossible to predict or plan what a student’s extracurricular trajectory will look like year by year, because students’ interests evolve so much throughout each year. The best approach is for the student to get involved in a few things he or she enjoys. And students should not be afraid to drop activities they do not like (or are not very good at) – but if students drop an activity, they maybe want to try some other activity in its place. Further, students don’t need to tell colleges about every activity he or she tried and then dropped! Students only need to tell colleges about those activities that they stuck with for two, three or four years – obviously, those are the activities that are much more meaningful and enjoyable to the student.


How do you make the most of those activities that you enjoy and stay involved in for multiple school years? Students should try to think about how to make their experiences unique and help to evolve the organizations that they are a part of.


Admissions officers have read thousands of essays about debate, Spanish club, soccer and robotics. And there is nothing wrong with any of these organizations! In fact, please join them (if they are of interest to you). But on top of these more commonplace activities, try to be the type of applicant who studied rare insects in the desert, or established a partnership between her school and a local animal shelter, or created a documentary about homelessness in his city, or performed extensive research on the history of her town/school.




Stephen Friedfeld is the co-founder and COO of AcceptU. He received a BA from Cornell University, an MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and a Ph.D. from Rice University. Prior to founding AcceptU, Stephen was an Assistant Dean of admissions at Cornell for four years and an Associate Dean of graduate admissions at Princeton University for six years. Stephen is an IECA Associate Member.

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