Curriculum Designer, Knovva Academy
A lot of things have changed in the past several months. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives from school to work and from leisure time to socializing with friends. Modern technology has allowed us to overcome many of these obstacles, but despite our perseverance, students around the world may still be anxious about their future, and specifically their ability to be competitive in their college applications.
Traditionally, students have access to a plethora of extracurricular activities to show off their talents, passions, and dedication outside of the classroom. Despite the pandemic, extracurricular activities have not disappeared completely, and students who can still tackle them will have great stories to tell on their applications.
But first, here are a few pieces of traditional advice that still apply to a student’s extracurriculars regardless of a pandemic.
First, be unique. When students only participate in traditional activities, like team sports, debate club, or band, they don’t stand out very much. College admissions offices see hundreds of applications, and many of them have the same old activities, which make students blend in. Encourage students to engage in something unique, like a lesser known sport, or a club that they developed on their own. Of course, you shouldn’t bar students from doing what they are passionate about just because you’re worried that it won’t be competitive for college. Passion is important for students, so find ways to make their extracurricular time stand out. Consider volunteer activities or fundraising that a club might be able to do, and make sure the students are part of those activities and emphasize them in their applications.
Second, don’t cram everything in. More does not equal better in this situation. Rather than giving one hour a week to five activities, students should devote their time to one activity that they are really passionate about. This shows genuine interest in that activity, as well as dedication, which colleges like to see in prospective students.
Now, what kind of activities can students engage in during a pandemic? Think about using the technology they have on hand to get creative. Some activities, like debate club, could be moved online. A student’s team can meet virtually to research their topics together, and then debate over the internet. Students could even live stream it for friends, family, and other debate enthusiasts to watch. A student who organizes this would stand out on a college application for their organizational and technological skills. Students may consider other clubs they can run online, either by starting a new one or by continuing one that existed before the pandemic.
Students can look into highly anticipated activities that have moved online and see how they can get involved. Virtual concerts, for example, bring live music to anyone with an internet connection. Students who are interested in running can organize individual races where runners compare times from their own courses. Even here at Knovva Academy, we are committed to giving students access to amazing global leadership experiences. While students look forward to our in-person summits with the Y7 each year, this year we made it virtual. Knovva Academy’s Global Youth Leadership Summit successfully met virtually with the Y7 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in June this year, with students all over the world able to watch and add their thoughts to the discussion. In many cases, students can still be involved in their usual events if they have been moved online.
Students can also dive deep into their own personal passions. Believe it or not, colleges are interested in students’ hobbies, especially if they are related to their intended areas of study, or if they have dedicated themselves to mastery of that hobby. Mastering an instrument, learning woodworking, or becoming fluent in a new language are all good starting points for students to consider. Again, lean towards something that is unique and interesting for each student, because their passion will show through something they are genuinely interested in.
Finally, students should consider new activities that weren’t available before and are now greatly needed. Some of these activities can be conducted online, and others can be conducted face-to-face with necessary precautions. Tutoring is a good example of an activity that allows students to better themselves, develop a work ethic, and help those in need. Online tutoring is a safe option for students interested in this activity.
Many people are getting more involved in gardening and food exchanges. Since people are reluctant to go grocery shopping any more than necessary, many of them are growing and making their own food. Students can get involved in these activities on their own, or start a community project of food exchanges between neighbors.
Volunteering is always needed, and during the pandemic, this need has grown. If a student feels it is safe to do so, they can volunteer to help people in need by delivering food or talking to the elderly in quarantine. Students can find out the needs of their community and meet those needs based on their skills and passions.
Keep in mind, colleges know that there is a pandemic going on, and there is no expectation for students to engage in the traditional activities that caught the attention of college admissions before. There are many opportunities out there, not just in spite of the pandemic, but also because of it.