Extracurriculars are integral to your application, as they help to illustrate your motivation, talent, and passion. Here are some excellent options to not only help shape your narrative, but to also help impact the lives of others.
These are all options that you can both explicitly include on your application and also reference within your various admissions essays.
**These are just ideas; there are plenty of options out there!
Tutor at Your Current College
Tutoring at your current school is a great way for you to become an involved member of your student community. You will benefit in many ways: you will increase your knowledge as an up & coming subject matter expert, earn an hourly wage, and gain potential access to new letters of recommendation (see more below in Jake’s personal testimony), and all the while, you will acquire that warm & fuzzy feeling of being there for those that are in need of help. Tutoring is a win/win. While you are benefitting from those ideals above, other students are prospering from your assistance and enthusiasm in a given subject.
I (Jake) served as an accounting tutor at my community college for two semesters. I tutored in the general tutoring center, and I was also embedded within a class in order to primarily answer students’ questions throughout daily group activities. My experience as a tutor was phenomenal. Not only did I get to actually help other students, but I strongly benefitted from the experience. It was my way of showing school involvement, and I also grew professional relationships with the director of the tutoring center and the professor that taught the class in which I was embedded, who both wrote letters of recommendation on my behalf. (See our Letters of Recommendation page for more information.) Similarly, I found a hidden benefit in that whenever I needed help with a subject, I could easily ask one of the other tutors in the tutoring center for some quick assistance.
Volunteer as an Ambassador for Programs like Warrior Scholar Project and Service to School
First, you’re going to have to participate in the programs yourself. Second, you’re going to want to associate yourselves with these organizations, because they are just that beneficial. As an ambassador, your responsibilities will be minimal, but they’ll ultimately aim to steer recruitment at whichever college or unit you’re at right now. By representing these programs, you will positively impact other student veterans and yet again, potentially gain access to letters of recommendation that speak to your contributions to your student-veteran community at large. For specific information on these organizations, see our Free Veteran Programs page, and see below for Marcus’ experience as a WSP ambassador himself.
I (Marcus) highly recommend a WSP ambassadorship for several reasons… It looks fantastic on an application; whether it’s for undergrad or grad schools, universities love to see your affiliation with a non-profit organization. Additionally, it feels great to show people the way to academic success. Helping others should make you warm and fuzzy on the inside; if not, you might be a sociopath. I should also mention the networking opportunities, if you’re into that, are pretty abundant. When you go to an event representing WSP, you’re meeting other people like yourself— ambitious, and hopefully friendly. Finally, it’s a fantastic way to return the favor to WSP for all of the advantages they give you with their program.
When it comes to the responsibilities of a WSP Ambassador, I’ll be honest and say there isn’t a whole lot. Every now and again (a few months), I’ll get an email from someone at WSP asking if I can attend a local event. So far, I’ve participated in a WSP Alumni Q&A and helped at the WSP booth when they came to Camp Pendleton. Overall, not a whole lot of commitment for a mutually beneficial arrangement between yourself and one of the best veteran programs out there.
Volunteer in Youth Sports (Coach, Referee, etc.)
Come on, helping kids at any age play sports and gain that spirit of competition… what’s to lose? Coaching, refereeing, or general help at local Little League, AYSO, or High School sports teams is a great way to involve yourself within the local community. The kids often love the mentorship from the “Army Guy” (younger kids will probably call you that no matter if you’re a Marine, Sailor, etc.), parents often appreciate you lightening their work load, and you will once again feel good about helping the next generation. Not to mention, it’s a great way to soak up some Vitamin D. See Jake’s coaching experience below!
I (Jake) personally volunteered as a baseball coach at my former high school twice a week, helping my old head coach run team practice. It was a great way to revisit the feeling of being on a team, even if it were just a couple days a week. Coincidentally, on my very first day of practice, two Hueys, Marine helicopters that I worked on and flew in for my entire enlistment, flew right overhead. I’m not a religious person, but I remember thinking “ok, roger that.”
Helping out at these practices was pretty darn cool. First off, the kids were way better than I ever was (but I’d never tell them that). Second, it just felt good to give back. When it came time to apply for transfer, I ended up receiving a letter of recommendation from the head baseball coach, who could speak to my growth as a person from a high school player to now older volunteer. Truthfully, I did not take the position with the intention of receiving a letter of recommendation, but I’m glad that everything worked out (Go Breakers!).
Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
It’s kind of cliche, but it’s that way for a reason— everybody does it. Giving up your time to help the local cats and doggos can pay dividends. Here’s the thing though— don’t volunteer unless you’re passionate about helping animals.
As much as I (Marcus) want to recommend this to everyone looking to improve their college applications, the admissions officers will see right through your feeble thirty or so hours at the local shelter. They understand that prospective students do this kind of community service with the sole motivation of improving their app.
Contrary to popular belief, more extracurriculars does not mean a better application; in fact, it can indicate the exact opposite. It can show admissions officers your disingenuousness (whether you are or aren’t is irrelevant). Because you spread yourself out into so many different facets, they can’t determine what you’re passionate about, so they assume you aren’t passionate about anything (except upgrading your app). Therefore it is best to select a few things you really do care about and focus on them while you rake in the A’s at school. This is key to a great application.