If you ask anyone about how to get into Harvard, the one common advice you’ll get is that you have to be a straight A-student who also has excellent extra-curricular records on their resume. How important are extracurricular activities for Harvard applications? How and when should you pursue them? Read on to find out all about Harvard extracurricular requirements.
What is the Importance of Extracurricular Activities for College/ Graduate School Admissions?
Generally speaking, I’d say that Harvard does place a lot of importance on your extra curricular activities as a part of your application. It’s true that good levels of these make your application more “interesting”. “Extracurricular activities can form a vital part of your experience here at Harvard, creating unique opportunities for friendship and learning,” mentions the Harvard College website.
However, it depends on applicant to applicant and one can’t generalize these things. Usually, Harvard students are often well-rounded individuals. Most of the classmates I had at Harvard, whether in my grad school or others that I knew there, had some (or a lot of) extra curricular interests.
Lots of Harvard students also take up extra-curricular activities during their time there. I did too. There are countless clubs, sports teams, magazines, non-profit work and freelance jobs that everyone does. In fact, students even start their companies or create apps in their summer vacations.
Not all activities need to be extra-curricular to make your applications strong. Some of the interests my Harvard classmates were involved in, were deeply related to their area of study. For example, coding for Computer Science students and 3D modeling for Architecture Technology students, which they had pursued outside of their curriculum at college just owing to their personal interests.
What Extracurricular Activities Does Harvard Look for?
There are no particularly “best extracurricular activities for ivy league applications”. It could be anything from creative writing to swimming to theatrics to cooking to cinematography, as long as it shows some exceptional talent. The main idea is to show that you’re not just an average student who lacks passion, who got okay grades and wasted all their free time!
There’s no right or wrong type of extra curricular activity for Harvard. Just do what you enjoy. You don’t have to do extra curriculars just because you read somewhere or heard from someone that Harvard prefers certain types, such as only sports or athletics.
It can really be just about anything that’s productive. Analyze your strengths – what makes you unique? Do you like to study more, or are you good at sports? Or do you have creative interests? Are you more of an outdoorsy person, or do you like indoor activities? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Instead of trying too hard to change yourself, just find out what you truly enjoy and where your real strengths lie. Embrace your personality and let your extracurriculars build your unique identity.
Tips for Extracurricular Activities for Harvard Application
Here are some important things to keep in mind regarding extracurricular activities to get into Harvard:
1. It’s best to build your extra curricular activities upon your true interests. Do what you love, so that you can do it well. It’s never to late or too early to start.
2. Don’t let your talent go to waste. Be proactive and try to take your hobbies to the next level. For example, if you like quizzes, sign up for state or national level competitions. If you like to paint, put up an exhibition. If you like coding, build an app or game. Think creatively about how you can really make it big with your personal interests.
3. Show leadership in your areas of interest. For example, if you love dance or theater, start a club in your school. If you love a particular sport, try to be your team’s captain. If you’re employed, take the initiative to start after-hours yoga for your office. If you love fashion, organize a charity fashion show at your college. It’ll give you great experience and you may even get a great story to add to your application essay!
4. Non-profit work is also a great idea to get involved in if you love helping people. You could join a school for underprivileged kids to teach them in your free time, or go to an old age home to spend time with the lonely.
5. Don’t let your extra curricular activities affect your studies or office work too much. Keep your study/work time separate from your free time that you devote to your extra curriculars.
6. Summer internships are a great way to dip your foot into a career before you take it up. It’ll also help you get experience and build new skills. Additionally, if your employer is impressed, he or she may even give you a letter of recommendation.
7. Never think of any experience as bad experience. Everything you do makes you unique and adds to your personality.
8. Don’t get bogged down by advice. Some people may say that you have to travel or take extra classes, or spend too much money to build your resume with extra curriculars. But the truth is that you can do whatever is within your reach.
9. Don’t do things just to build your resume to get into Harvard, since admissions officers can see through these things. Instead, work on your passions. Take up extra curriculars that you actually enjoy or are good at. Do it for yourself. This will ensure that whether you get into Harvard or not, you will have utilized your time well, building great skills that will help you make a career.
10. Never waste your free time at school/college or after office, take up a productive hobby or learn a new skill. But in the end, don’t be too hard on yourself.
Is There a Chance to Get Accepted to Harvard with No Extracurricular Activities?
Harvard College admissions website also mentions that extra-curricular activities do make student applications attractive, but are not necessary. They look at the application as a whole to see what makes you an exceptional applicant. In some cases that factor may be extra-curricular, in others, it may be academics.
“Some students distinguish themselves for admission with their unusual academic promise through experience or achievements in study or research. Other students present compelling cases because they are more “well-rounded,” having contributed in many different ways to their schools or communities. Still other successful applicants are “well-lopsided” with demonstrated excellence in one particular endeavor. Some students bring perspectives formed by unusual personal circumstances or experiences. Like many colleges, we seek to admit dynamic, talented, and diverse students who will contribute significantly to the education of their classmates,” they mention.
So, I’d say that yes, you can certainly get accepted into Harvard without extra-curriculars on your resume, if your academic achievements explain your lack of extra-curricular interests. For example, does your GPA explain that you spent all your time studying and thus, had no time leftover for extra-curriculars? Or did you take up a part-time job in your area of study? See what justifies your time spent at school/college/workplace.
Do You Need to Do Academic Clubs to Get In?
Ideally, your extra curricular activities need to be at an exceptional level to make your application look attractive to the admissions office. So just saying that you like to draw or you learned to code won’t be enough. Sometimes, academic clubs are a good way of showing your level of excellence in an activity.
However, do understand that just because you were a part of an academic club isn’t interesting enough. You need to show how proactive you were in developing your hobby.
Are There Any Particular Activities That are Considered Most Prestigious Extracurriculars?
These days, coding, non-profits, athletics, startups are the It-extracurriculars. However, I wouldn’t say that any particular activities are considered more “prestigious” than others. The trendy hobbies can get cliched very quickly. And Harvard looks for unique experiences that make them different from their classmates of similar backgrounds. So just do what you’re truly interested in as that’s what makes you uniquely you!
How to Know if You Have Enough Extracurriculars for Harvard?
The truth is that extracurriculars, although important, cannot guarantee you a spot in Harvard. You’re being judged against other applicants, so no one can know for sure whether your application is good enough. However, your job is to give it your best shot and know that it’s not the end of the world if you’re not accepted. That’s why I say that you don’t wanna take up extra curricular just for your Harvard application. Make sure what you spend your time doing is worth it, that you won’t regret doing it if you don’t get accepted by Harvard.
Don’t spend all your time taking up too many activities. An important thing to note is that your resume shouldn’t look like you did everything. Too many activities are just as bad as not having any. It shows you lack focus and doesn’t show your unique personality or exceptionalism. Make sure your extra curriculars, along with the other parts of your application, paint a very good picture of you. It should show who you truly are, and that you have a strong liking for certain things, or a knack for certain activities.
What Extracurriculars Did I Have on My Own Harvard Application?
Before I applied to Harvard, I already had a few extra-curricular activities I was involved in. I love creative writing, and arts. So I made magazines as a child – every year! I was also the Managing Editor of my college magazine. I had also put up an exhibition+sale of glass paintings outside college, and had participated in college exhibitions too. My creative writing and academic works had been published in city newspaper and also in national magazines. I had also completed freelance interior design projects. That’s about it for the major activities I listed.
Hope my guide on extracurricular activities for Harvard applications was helpful. I know these tips can be overwhelming. So if you’re trying to figure our which activities to pursue, come back and re-read this article in a few weeks. That’ll help you get another fresh perspective!
All the best!