It’s December and chances are you’re working on one (or several) short extracurricular statements. First, a quick FAQ:
Q: Why do so many schools ask for these?
A: The Common App used to require students that students write a 1,000 character (approx. 150-word) extracurricular statement. When in 2013 the Common App dropped the requirement, many colleges kept it as a supplement.
Q: Do I really have to write it?
A: When students ask me this my usual response is: “Really? You’d rather not talk about that thing you’ve devoted hundreds of hours of your life to? Okay, good idea.” (I’m not actually that sarcastic, but that’s what I’m thinking.)
Q: Which extracurricular activity should I write about?
A: I write about that here.
Q: What should I say? How should I structure it?
A: Keep it simple.
a. What did you literally do? What were your actual tasks?
b. What did you learn?
With 150 words, there’s not a lot of room for much more. And while your main statement is more “show” than “tell,” this one will probably be more “tell.” Value content and information over style.
Here’s a great example:
Example 1: Journalism
VIOLENCE IN EGYPT ESCALATES. FINANCIAL CRISIS LEAVES EUROPE IN TURMOIL. My quest to become a journalist began by writing for the international column of my school newspaper, The Log. My specialty is international affairs; I’m the messenger who delivers news from different continents to the doorsteps of my community. Late-night editing, researching and re-writing is customary, but seeing my articles in print makes it all worthwhile. I’m the editor for this section, responsible for brainstorming ideas and catching mistakes. Each spell-check I make, each sentence I type out, and each article I polish will remain within the pages of The Log. Leading a heated after-school brainstorming session, watching my abstract thoughts materialize onscreen, holding the freshly printed articles in my hand—I write for this joyous process of creation. One day I’ll look back, knowing this is where I began developing the scrutiny, precision and rigor necessary to become a writer.
Three techniques you should steal:
1. Use active verbsto give a clear sense of what you’ve done:
Check out his active verbs: writing, delivering, editing, researching, re-writing, brainstorming, catching, polishing, leading, holding, knowing.
2. Tell us in one good clear sentence what the activity meant to you.
“I’m the messenger who delivers news from different continents to the doorsteps of my community.”
“I write for this joyous process of creation.”
“One day I’ll look back, knowing that this is where I began to develop the scrutiny, precision and rigor necessary to become a writer.”
Okay, that’s three sentences. But notice how all three are different. (And if you’re gonna do three, they have to be different.)
3. You can “show” a little, but not too much.
In the first line:
“VIOLENCE IN EGYPT ESCALATES. FINANCIAL CRISIS LEAVES EUROPE IN TURMOIL.”
“Leading a heated after-school brainstorming session, watching my abstract thoughts materialize onscreen, holding the freshly printed articles in my hand…”
The first one grabs our attention; the second paints a clear and dynamic picture. Keep ‘em short!
Example 2: Hospital Internship
When I applied to West Kendall Baptist Hospital, I was told they weren’t accepting applications from high schoolers. However, with a couple teacher recommendations, the administration gave me a shot at aiding the secretaries: I delivered papers, answered phone calls, and took in patients’ packages. Sadly, inadequate funding shut down large sections of the hospital and caused hundreds of employees--myself included--to lose their jobs. But then Miami Children’s Hospital announced openings for inpatient medical volunteers. Again, I faced denial, but then I got a chance to speak to the lead inpatient medical physician and cited my previous experience. While working at MCH, I delivered samples, took down visitor information, administered questionnaires, and organized records. I helped ease the work of the nurses and doctors, while delivering medicine and smiles to dozens of patients. I may not have directly saved any lives, but I’d like to think I helped.
Three more techniques you can steal:
4. Start with a “problem to be solved.”
Did you initially face an obstacle? In the first sentence say what it was, then in another sentence say how you worked through it. That’ll show grit. Note that this essay has not one, but two obstacles. And each time the writer worked through it in just one sentence. Brevity ftw.
5. Focus on specific impact. (Say whom you helped and how.)
Read the ending again:
“I helped ease the work of the nurses and doctors, while delivering medicine and smiles to dozens of patients. I may not have directly saved any lives, but I’d like to think I helped.”
This applies to fundraisers too (say how much you raised and for whom) and sports (who’d you impact and how?).
6. Write it long first, then cut it.
Both these students started with 250-300 word statements (get all the content on the page first). Then trim ruthlessly, cutting any repetitive or unnecessary words.
There are so many reasons to pursue a hobby or extracurricular activity. Hopefully, the first reason is that you enjoy doing a certain activity. But there is also college applications, social interactions and family traditions to consider.
Spending time playing volleyball, chess or the violin are not just fun ways to enrich your life, and maybe increase your chances of getting into college. Hobbies and interests are also a way to qualify for many scholarships for college.
Scholarships by hobby, interest or extracurricular activity are available from a variety of sources. Much like scholarships for specific college majors and fields of study, there might be more financial aid available for students involved in some of the more “popular” or “mainstream” activities, but there are still plenty of available scholarships for unique or unusual hobbies and interests.
The largest pool of scholarship money for special interests is sports scholarships. Most sports scholarships are distributed directly by specific universities who are looking for players for specific teams. These are not limited to the “big” sports like football and basketball. There are also scholarships for lacrosse players, bowlers and golfers which are offered both by universities and by organizations and foundations looking to promote a specific sport. In fact there are even scholarships for those who participate in sports behind the scenes, like the Evans Scholars Foundation Scholarship for golf caddies!
It is important to note that for many scholarships involving a special interest or hobby, application processes for these awards can be more creative than more straight-forward awards. For example, the Ball State University Letterman Communications scholarships awards creative students with up to $10,000 for creative pursuits related to telecommunications. Students create their own telecommunications project to apply for the scholarship, like videos, websites and other media presentations.
Sports and hobbies are the only things that can help you get non-academic scholarships. Students involved in activism and public service will also find many opportunities to apply for financial aid. There are also scholarships for student environmentalists, and young citizens working to create a better planet.
With all of these different types of scholarships available, the listings found in this section of the site should offer something for just about everyone!
There are pages in this section featuring scholarships for people who have many different hobbies and interests, including:
Our editors are continually uncovering scholarships specific to hobbies and interests. Keep checking back and view our latest scholarship postings. We add new scholarships many times per week.
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