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Articles / Applying to College / Extracurriculars: Should I Shoot Movies or Hoops?

July 5, 2017

Extracurriculars: Should I Shoot Movies or Hoops?

Question: I am now an incoming sophomore and I was wondering if you can give me some guidance. Ever since the sixth grade, I found enjoyment in spending the majority of my free time making videos and aspired to a career in film. To be specific, I mainly want a career in film editing.

I also play basketball and am pretty decent at it but I don't want to play in college. High school basketball has been quite the commitment from my point of view. I did fairly well, earning the defensive player of the year award, but after spending hours after school every single day and hours every summer day it was hard earned and used A LOT OF PRECIOUS TIME. It got in the way of academics A LOT and this meant hours away from continuing the exploring of film editing. And the biggest part is, I do not enjoy playing basketball. I'm only doing it for the possibly false belief that it will help me more on an application than going to film camps and practicing advanced editing.


The only thing that kept me going is knowing that extracurriculars are good on a college application. Which is where I want to hear your input because I don't know much about college or applications. My parents said that as long as there is some way I can find extracurriculars that would give good credit but still allowing time for academics and film, I could quit basketball.

My question is, exactly how important is playing basketball for a college application especially when you aren't planning for a scholarship/playing in college? How do the extracurriculars work on an application?

I want to be using my time wisely to work towards film, not basketball.

It's time to hang up your high-tops! If you don't love basketball, then there's no reason to stick with it. College admission officials expect applicants to pursue passions outside of the classroom, and they certainly view team sports as a productive use of time. But ... unless you're good enough to be recruited by a coach (and interested in continuing with basketball in college), then your admission aims will be much better served by focusing on your interest in film, and in editing in particular. (Note also that the vast majority of students who ARE interested in playing college basketball don't make it. Even Division III programs are looking for great players, and not just good ones. Thus most of the many high school students who envision a future in college ball—and who expect to use their basketball talent as an admission “hook" —are disappointed when the time comes.)

Granted, there are also a gazillion aspiring filmmakers among the ranks of today's high school students. So if you really want to catch an admission officer's eye, you need to start thinking about what will separate you from the masses. Perhaps consider creating an atypical genre of films to submit with your applications or develop your editing skills. Tons of teenagers claim they like making films but far fewer have editing skills beyond basic iMovie, which even "The Dean" has used occasionally despite being a technologically inept senior citizen.

So you can tell your parents that, because their hoop dreams are not yours, you can quit basketball without doing damage to your college admission odds and, indeed, with added focus on your film ambitions, you are likely to even boost your chances at your top-choice colleges—although without the appropriate grades and test scores, no acceptance will be a slam dunk!

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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