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Plan and act today so you have no regrets tomorrow...
First and foremost, your grades need to come first! If your extracurricular activities are getting in the way of you getting the best grades you can realistically get, then take a serious look and decide what to keep and what to drop. Being the president of three clubs won’t help get you into a top school if your grades suffer as a result of your extracurricular activities.
Colleges want to see passion and commitment along with achievement. These qualities are signs of a person who can accomplish great things in life. You should find something that you are willing to sacrifice a lot of your resources in order to make it successful. Passion and commitment on useless things such as video gaming probably won’t do much good. If you like video games, go into computer programming or chess. And please don't mention that you are a big couch potato even if you are proud of it.
If you really have a special talent in fine arts, you can submit your work (e.g., a DVD of your performance or pictures of your art work) and maybe even get a recommendation letter from your extracurricular advisor (but this must not replace those from "academic" fields such as English or science). If your advisors' recommendation letters cannot be submitted online, ask them to mail them in.
Not all extracurricular activities are the same. Some take up lots of time and they
are simply not the best choices (e.g., marching band or cheerleading). Some are
considered to be "non-
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a "well-
If you have limited extracurricular activities because of family financial needs or a physical disability, make sure you explain that on your application or essay, or explain that to the interviewer. Family needs are not your fault, and oftentimes it may make you stand out from among comparable applicants. You can, in your essay or during the interview, discuss how the special circumstances help shape you in ways that are not likely to happen if your situation were not so unique.
Leadership positions are thought to be very critical for admissions to top universities
(assuming your grades are near top-
But leadership is a lot more than just holding an elected office. In fact, true leadership does not require having an elected office. It’s really about using your ability to influence others to achieve a shared objective. This means that motivating others and keeping them engaged is a major part of the effort. In some cases, you have to help resolve internal and external conflicts and issues. These all demonstrate your leadership skills.
Recently I wrote the following for a presentation I gave to a “leadership development” class.
There are many different definitions for "leadership." I personally prefer the definition
of "using one's influence and resources to achieve a public goal that's greater than
one's own self-
o Leadership is a state of mind, a personal commitment, and concrete actions to fulfill that commitment. Providing leadership does not require a leadership position. One can have influence and resources without having formal titles of leadership.
o One's influence comes from one's credibility, proven ability, past track record, presentation of the logic, and persuasion. This means that leadership is built on a solid foundation of one's background. Without it, one cannot effectively sustain his influence because he'll be challenged at the first sign of trouble.
o One's resources comes from his own and his ability to access those of his institutions, connections, and other entities. One does not have to be wealthy to have usable resources that can serve the greater goal.
o The "public goal that's greater than one's own self-
So, everyone can provide leadership. It's a matter of choice, not position.
A suggested video to watch: Rich Warren on a Life of Purpose
Work experience are great both for your college application and your personal development. You learn many things from your work experience – work ethic, responsibilities, interpersonal skills (both to deal with colleagues and customers), and the value of money. You will have a different appreciation for things once you realize how much work it takes to earn enough money to buy that iPad.
Would doing menial tasks actually hurt one's image? The answer should be NO, and here is why. The aforementioned lessons can be learned from almost all types of jobs. Students are never seen less favorably when they have jobs that are considered menial to adults. Yes, they can be more impressive if they have jobs that have major responsibilities or require advanced skills, but those jobs are hard to get, especially for high school students. Students also learn a lot from observing how adults do their jobs, even though they don't get to do those tasks themselves. Therefore, what you learned is probably more crucial than what you actually did.
Many parents do not allow their kids to work for a variety of legitimate reasons,
such as safety and wanting the kids to focus on schoolwork. Others may have reasons
that are more pride-
If your parents own a company, does it count if you work there? Well, the short answer is: "not as much." You just don't get the same level of demands you'd get from an outsider, and also you will be treated differently by your peers at work. I've heard of doctors trading their kids so they work at the other person's clinic. That is an improvement over working for your own parents, but still you may be treated more generously than you would at a total stranger's company. Take the challenge – work for a complete stranger and learn something.
Unpaid internships are also good, particularly if it's with a firm in a field that you are interested in exploring. Your internship may also become a springboard for a future job. Or maybe you learn enough about that field that you decide not to pursue it as your career. Either way, it's good for your career development.
How about volunteer work? Most volunteer works are fairly easy-
Your employer or supervisor can also write recommendation letters for you. Sometimes their letters can better illustrate your work ethic and personal characteristics than those from your teachers. They can always fax in their recommendations if theirs cannot be submitted online.
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