Students interested in attending an American university should know that admissions officers will base their decisions on more than just good grades and high test scores. They want to know how a student might enhance the university just by being there. A good indicator is an examination of personal interests, often illustrated by extracurricular activities.
That phrase -- extracurricular activities -- may seem unfamiliar to Indian students. Generally, it applies to things that students participate in outside of school that show interests, hobbies and future career plans. They should be proactive. (Going to the movies doesn't count, but making a documentary about a relevant issue does.)
This week on The Choice on India Ink, we talked to Micah Sieber, an admissions officer at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., about the types of extracurricular activities that American students often include on their college applications.
在本周的“印度实录精选”(The Choice on India Ink)博客专栏里，就美国学生经常会把哪类课外活动包含在大学申请当中，我们咨询了纽约州波基普西市的瓦萨学院(Vassar College)招生官员迈卡·西贝尔(Micah Sieber) 。
Service-Learning Initiatives or Charity Work
Colleges appreciate it when students are aware of the problems their own communities are experiencing.
"We admire students who are involved in service-learning initiatives," Mr. Sieber said. "In the same way that clubs and internships say something about who the student is, outreach work shows that students are interested in giving back to their communities and we value that."
"Students should engage in projects that they're passionate about," Mr. Sieber said. "It's more about their personal level of interest that matters, not really the issues they focus on. If we see that students really care about what they're doing and are actively involved, then that's all that matters."
Student Organizations and Clubs
A student's involvement in clubs and organizations gives an admissions officer a better sense of that student's interests and how the applicant interacts with peers in a nonacademic setting.
"We acknowledge all club involvement, everything counts in that sense," Mr. Sieber said. "We typically tend to prefer students who spent a significant amount of time involved in a few clubs over students who spread their time too thinly over many projects because it shows that they're really committed to the things they say they care about."
Having a special role in the organization -- like a club president or treasurer -- can make a difference, but it "doesn't take away from the value of your club experience if you're a general member," Mr. Sieber said.
Colleges appreciate an applicant who uses his or her free time proactively. Whether it's working on an advertising campaign at a formal internship, or sorting mail as an assistant for a family friend, internships can help admissions officers see how students apply skills and knowledge to a real world environment.
"It really doesn't matter specifically what students do," Mr. Sieber said. "When we consider internships, what we really want to see is that students have done something extra, that they're involved and are doing something related to what they're passionate about. There are no set requirements, so it's not as though we would favor one student over another based only on their job descriptions. We consider the student as an individual and look at everything."
Internship experience can also help when looking for a job during or after college. Students might even get paid.
Whether it's starting a blog, forming a company, making a movie, recording a song, or hosting a science fair, colleges value individual efforts because they show signs of leadership.
Consider Shiv Sakhuja, a computer-savvy student at the Modern School in New Delhi. When he was 14 years old, Shiv purchased his first Apple computer, a 2007 iMac, and soon became enamored of it. Before long, his friends and family started referring to him as "the Mac expert." As the Apple craze grew in India, he found himself answering questions and giving advice to other Mac users.
以希夫·萨库加(Shiv Sakhuja)为例，他是新德里现代学校(Modern School)的一位通晓电脑的学生。萨库加14岁时，购买了第一台苹果电脑，一台2007年款的iMac。很快，他就被这台电脑迷住了。不久之后，他的朋友和家人开始把他称作“Mac专家”。随着苹果电脑在印度越来越流行，他也开始为其他Mac用户答疑解惑，提供咨询。
In 2008, Shiv created controlyourmac.com, a Web site where he could post his answers in one place. The site has grown from simply providing information about Macs to reviewing all Apple products and software. It now receives around 1,200 visitors a day. Earlier this year, Shiv also created his own e-mail software, which is now a Mac application.
"I'm applying to schools in both the United States and India," he said. "But I think that talking about my site in my United States university essays will help me to express my personality better."
With so many students applying to the United States with strong G.P.A.'s and exam scores, the extras on your resumes and in your essays could help distinguish you from another student with a similar application. Whether it's an internship, club, or doing magic shows for birthday parties on weekends, invest some time doing the things you love. Your interests and hobbies, however quirky, may be what makes the difference.