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Articles / Applying to College / Baby-Sitting Sister Seeks Advice on Extracurriculars

Sept. 18, 2008

Baby-Sitting Sister Seeks Advice on Extracurriculars

Question: I realize that extracurricular activities are practically an unwritten requirement to gain acceptance to a selective school. Well, what happens if you can't participate in after-school clubs? I can't drive yet, my parents work very late, and I have a little sister who needs to be watched after school! I also understand that extracurriculars don't necessarily have to be participation in a school organization, but I don't know what else I could do without leaving the house or taking my little sister along with me. What do you suggest?

Selective colleges are looking for students who use their free time in a worthwhile way, not only those who participate in organized activities, whether through school or elsewhere. Certainly, taking care of your sister will be viewed as "worthwhile" indeed, and admission officials will appreciate the commitment and responsibility it entails, if you explain your duties appropriately in your applications. (This might be via an essay, in a short-answer response on significant activities, in the "additional information" section that most applications offer, or even in a supplemental, unsolicited letter.)


Note, however, that selective colleges are also seeking students who "think outside the box." Although you may be confined to your home much of the time, there are still ways to create imaginative activities. For instance, you could start a blog on an area of interest, compose music or poetry, or contact your local newspaper about writing a weekly column on---what else--advice to teens who babysit! (Kind of a no-brainer, eh? :) )

Although your child-care will get high marks from admission officials, you will probably fare far better at decision time if you have some other, atypical activity on your resume, and there are plenty that you can do right from home, if you think hard enough.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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