Originally Posted: Dec 8, 2020
Last Updated: Feb 3, 2021
The uncertainty and confusion of the ongoing pandemic has led to many questions regarding what college preparation and readiness will look like this year and beyond. Apart from maneuvering existential crises, AP course loads, and virtual learning, students and their families are concerned about the future of college applications—especially the elements that in a typical year required in-person interaction, like extracurriculars. Colleges are most interested in extracurriculars that give back to society, hone transferable skills, and let students explore their interests. Now, it’s more crucial than ever for prospective college students, parents, and educators to be armed with relevant information to better facilitate and help those students find the best approach to make their extracurriculars truly stand out. Here are the best ways for students to prep for college and safely engage in extracurricular activities during the pandemic.
Extracurriculars that give back
Since social distancing is still the best practice, students should make the most out of virtual volunteering opportunities. Volunteer Match remains one of the largest volunteering networks for nonprofits and volunteers to connect and collaborate with each other. Students can also explore the social issues they’re passionate about and do their part. Organizations such as the Borgen Project are encouraging students to reach out to Congress members by email or letter about key legislation concerning global poverty. Students can also use this time to impart their own talents and skills; for instance, organizations like TeensGive are recruiting volunteers across the country to help reach and engage with communities on a needs-based basis.
Extracurriculars that build transferable skills
Developing transferrable skills is crucial for college success as well as for future internships and jobs that may utilize skills and applications like Python, coding, web design, and more. Dominic Harvey, Director of the UK IT jobs site CWJobs, calls online education platforms “modern masterpieces of world literature” given what they’ve done in revolutionizing education. Online learning platforms such as Edx and Coursera offer strong foundational courses on some of these topics and skills as well as certificates of completion, which are always good to have to boost your résumés or a college essay. On the foreign language front, Duolingo and Italki are great ways to begin learning a language from scratch; Italki even offers students the opportunity to take one-on-one classes based on your language level.
Extracurriculars that foster passion and pursuit
If you’re unsure of what you want to take up, start by curating a list of clubs that are still offered safely at your high school that also match your interests and pursuits. Now is also a great time to have your parents share their own professional wisdom and introduce you to the platforms such as LinkedIn so you can begin building your own professional profile and connections. In an article from Inside Higher Ed, college counselor and consultant Susan Chan Shifflett suggests using this time to “stand out” and “think out of the box.” Admission officers are now looking for new and dynamic qualities that can help ascertain a student’s resourcefulness.
One of the best ways for students to continue to diversify their skills and knowledge base is by engaging in their areas of interest. During this time, there are a variety of colleges offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). You can also try looking into other academic and skill-developing platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, and Academic Earth. E-learning platform Myntor is miles ahead in preparing students for both the unpredictability of high school, online learning, and extracurricular activities. Myntor students pass AP Calculus five times faster than those at a traditional school and work on projects like modeling for COVID-19, robotic exoskeletons, and heart failure.
Overall, traditional college planning advice may not be applicable for a lot of things right now, or for helping students prepare for the coming years. But you can still pursue immersive and enriching extracurriculars during this time for self-growth and a stronger college application by adapting your approach accordingly with the changing times.
For more important information you need about the ongoing pandemic, please visit our COVID-19 student resources page.