FAQ: Will personal interests (not tied to organized activities) strengthen my child’s application?

FAQOur eleventh-grade daughter has multiple interests outside of her schoolwork.  She pursues these interests independently and not through organized activities.  She practices yoga in our basement for two hours every day, for example, and has notebooks filled with short stories and poetry.  Will these personal interests help her when she applies to college or will admissions officers focus on her lack of participation in organized school clubs?

Your daughter should definitely list these activities on her application, including the amount of time that she invests in them weekly and the number of years she has pursued them.  Ask yourself two key questions when you look at your daughter’s activities to determine whether to advise her to alter her current routine:

  1. Do these pursuits reflect your daughter’s temperament and personality accurately?
  2. Do they reflect the level of involvement she plans to replicate in college?

If your answer to either of these questions is no, you may want to brainstorm with your daughter about ways in which she could supplement what she is currently doing.

Supplementing could mean building on the foundation that she has already laid.  Practicing yoga for two hours daily over several years might make your daughter qualified to teach a class at a local community center.  Her notebooks of short stories and poetry may contain material that the school literary magazine or a community newspaper wants to publish.  Sometimes the best way for a young person to add to what she is already doing can come through sharing her knowledge and expertise with others.

Selective colleges and universities value activities that young people pursue independent of any formal organization or affiliation, especially if the essays and letters of recommendation in the folder illustrate how these activities tell a story.  Do not push your daughter to add commitments to her schedule simply for the sake of her college application; a good brainstorming session, though, could lead to unexpected and interesting ideas that she welcomes and decides to pursue.