Getting admitted to an American university requires good qualifications on tests and grades as well as leadership and extracurricular activities. This is called “holistic evaluation”and is the core method of selecting applicants for admission. Extracurricular activities include club events at school, community events, athletics, music, arts, and more. Active participation in extracurriculars is a key component of distinguishing yourself from all the other smart applicants that can test well.
Beyond the application requirements, extracurricular activities during university are important for personal and professional development. Interacting with other students from America and around the world is a great way to broaden your perspective, increase your communication skills, and to build a network of friends that can span the globe. This network can also provide support for studies and help you out when you need it.
Not participating in extracurricular activities can be a mistake both for the university application and for university life. According to a recent doctoral dissertation, Samuel S. Kim analyzed 1,400 Korean students registered at 14 top American universities – Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Amherst College, Duke, Georgetown, Brown, Dartmouth, Pennsylvania and Princeton – between 1985 and 2007, 44% of Korean students in these schools drop out before their third year. According to a report in the Korea Times:
such a high dropout rate is largely attributable to Korean parents forcing their children to study rather than participate in extracurricular activities, an essential part of overseas education for foreign students to acclimate themselves to American society and get a good job in the long run.
According to the thesis, Korean students consume 75 percent of their time available for studying, while they allocate only 25 percent to extracurricular activities such as community service.
In contrast, American students and those from other countries tend to equally share their time for both study and other activities.
Kim’s comments seem to apply equally well to Turkish culture because so many high school students stop doing extracurricular activities as soon as they start attending dersani or preparing for the national university entrance exam. For those considering applying to a US university, this is a mistake. University applications generally only consider the activities and qualifications from 9th grade and later. If this track record of activities stops, there is little to show the admissions committee and chances of admission to top universities go down significantly.
If you are thinking to apply to university in the US, be active and participate in extracurricular activities. Be more involved and contribute to, or lead the activities yourself for even more benefit on your application, and in your life. If you are a parent, encourage your student to continue extracurricular involvement and make a commitment to eliminate other distractions that cause students stress or a lack of focus on getting into the best universities in America for them.