Reminiscing my high school days, I can only think back and say, “Damn! Those were the best days of my life!”. I was really living the best high school life there possibly could be.
Matter of fact, I don’t even remember spending too much time at home during that time, I was always outside doing something – for academics or for other things.
While I was in high school, I remember being part of various communities and focusing on my personal growth – all to take huge risks that could’ve failed massively. Looking back, every second of high school was a splendid experience.
Academics, grade 10 onwards is a huge stressor for young adults and parents alike. I remember the endless hours of school, then tuition, then homework – it was a never-ending cycle, and honestly, what kept me going, was everything but academics.
I used to tell my friends, “Padhai toh sab karte hai!” as a joke that everyone does this- what do you do differently?
Backbencher, Hey! that’s me.
Little did I think ahead, that in just 2-3 years I’d have to write college applications where the admissions board actually cared about what I did during those years.
Luckily for me, I was an extrovert who always wanted to savor every moment there is to live.
Managing Academics and Extracurricular Activities
I do have to give due credit to my parents too – They are very liberal in nature, and they encouraged me to try everything once.
- I learned how to ice skate
- I took Salsa dance classes with my mother
- Learned how to quill, and took art classes for kids in my community
- I conceptualized two charity events for my school
- I took up photography as a passion project and photographed Atif Aslam and even Dubai Fashion Week
- Got involved in community service for a few hours a week at my school assisting kindergarten teachers to manage their lectures
- I was chosen to go to the Global Young Leader’s Conference in New York by my school
- Traveled the world – from Paris to New York
- I did one internship at a close friend’s office
- I learned Tanjore painting on a 60*90cm canvas
All while studying.
We can get to that part later.
For me, and with my parent’s support – school was a time to learn, grow, experiment, fail, and pick myself back up again.
It’s only amazing how I did all of this while studying. Kudos to my mom for managing my schedule with everything happening outside school.
College Prep Journey
It only hit me in grade 11 or so that I now have to compete on a global scale to get admission at a reputed University in USA. (I did my A-levels, so 11+2, British syllabus)
The best and worst part – there is nothing that can prepare you for college applications since they change the questions every year.
I, just like every student went through the drill of the standardized testing – SAT/TOEFL/IELTS and so on and so forth. The process was rigorous
Do you know why only a certain percentage of students make it through the applications?
Any guesses why?
They only studied and had minimal out-of-school experiences.
College Admissions in 2022
In 2022, if you’re a parent reading this – encourage your youngster to go above and beyond just studies, Grades matter, but they aren’t the deciding force. Let them pursue activities outside school.
Even something like playing a sport teaches them communication and team management.
If you’re a student reading this – enjoy the few years of high school that you have, before you have to now be a fully grown adult in University – managing your own money, food, life, studies, and more.
Trust me, it’s harder than it looks, for parents and students.
The reason I say that students need to do more than just study in 2022 is that looking back, I account my success in getting into Northeastern University to everything I did outside school along with my grades.
Mind you, I was just an above-average student. A couple of A’s in subjects I like, B’s in a majority, and C’s in a few.
Let me tell you a story of how I approached my college applications.
College Application Journey
I was applying through the Commonapp for USA universities in 2010. There were two sections for applicants to fill out – the college essay, and college-specific questions. And, mind you, these questions weren’t easy to answer with the thought looming over your head that you’re competing with thousands of others for that seat.
Nervous jitters, and sleepless nights – Yep! Been there, done that.
Just like any high schooler would do, I went to my parents at home and my admissions counselor at school with a very blank face and a common question. “What do I write here?”
I remember what my counselor said, she said, be honest, and let them see the true you – these questions are to assess who you are and if you’ll add value to their ecosystem.
Demonstrating the Impact of Activities in College Applications
Just like any high schooler, that advice hit me like a brick in the face – where do I even begin?
So I started jotting down pointers I wanted to bring out. In case you need a refresh, scroll back up.
Yep, I actually started writing down everything I did and assigned an actionable outcome to that activity to show a skill set I learned or got better at.
Start with Making an Activity List
For example, and the biggest example, I conceptualized and organized a charity show for my school, annually, for two years. Here, I learned so much because of the experiences I was forced to go through within planning.
If I had to make a list, it would’ve been something like this
- Pitching the idea – I had to pitch my school Principal the idea of this show, with a 1-hour presentation, along with a vision, to even begin this process. This taught me logical thinking and public speaking.
- Building a team – this event needed at least 30 students on the team to be successful. I had made a list of things they can take charge of, set expectations, and then had weekly meetings with them. This taught me how persuasive writing and talking, as well as team management, along with some superior excel skills to manage everyone’s duties.
This list is never-ending, and this was an example.
Advice for High Schoolers and Parents
As a student, colleges are not just looking for the cream of the cream – I’m a testament to that. While I acknowledged my academics on the Commonapp, I talked so much about my experiences – good, bad, and ugly – that made me who I am today.
For me, these were the things that made me ME.
For you, it can be completely different
If you’re here, and you’re a parent – trust your kids to follow their passions. Content creation is also a real job in 2022, something that didn’t exist just about 20 years ago. Social media influencers are people like me, and your talented youngster.
Young adults, while this article does focus a lot on the outside-academics-portion. My advice to you would definitely be to find a balance. Something that works for you.
You need academics and more for college applications in 2022. You must follow your passions, and dreams – if you want to sing, go for it, and be the best at it. If you want to play football, go for it, be the best footballer there is. Your academics cannot take a hit between all of this.
My Two Cents
For parents and young adults – it’s not just me saying this. This Harvard article says that community service is a way to showcase skills such as commitment and dedication. Or, you can get an internship to dip your feet into the industry you’re dreaming of getting into and since internships are competitive, they show intellectual ability.
High school is a wonderful time if you make good use of it. Again, your academic performance will always be the prime focus, but that’s not the only focus; every youngster should focus on building themselves up to be a value-adding person to the University ecosystem they want to get into. Not only will all these extracurriculars help you grow as a person, but they will also get you ready for the years to come when you’re abroad.
Vanshika will be teaching the “Storytelling & Creative Writing” Module in the upcoming Liberal Arts Summer Program for Grade 8 – 12 Students. The 3-Week Online program includes Visual Arts, Mass Communication & Journalism, Storytelling, Creative Writing, Graphic Design, Academic Research, Entrepreneurship & Finance, College Essays, Liberal Arts College Admissions Guidance, and Electives around STEM subjects. If you are interested, feel free to Apply Here.