Help ... New School in Grade 11 Means Limited Leadership Roles

Question: I am a junior in high school and switched into my current school just this year. I have no extracurricular experience at my new school, especially because a lot of them began the spring before. Now I'm lacking a lot of leadership roles to put on my app. Will this affect my chances when applying to my reaches, and how can I remedy it?

While there is no sure-fire way to make up the extracurricular ground that you lost due to your school transfer, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Get involved in school clubs now, as a junior. This could position you for leadership roles next year.
  1. If you aren't doing so already, put effort into hobbies or interests outside of school. Admission officials, especially at the most sought-after colleges, can quickly tire of seeing the same old, same old entries on applications. Although admission folks realize that many school-based endeavors such as Model UN, debate, robotics, etc. require a lot of skill and dedication, these entries don't exactly turn heads when they show up for the gazillionth time. So think about what you enjoy that doesn't necessarily fall under the “School Club" rubric. Check out this old thread on College Confidential about “'Hidden' Extracurriculars" for inspiration: Even if a passion you pursue on your own doesn't allow for “leadership," it should help to set you apart from the crowd in a way that school activities won't.
  1. Join community groups. Are there organizations in your city or town that aren't designed for teenagers but might welcome a high school student? Taking part in a mostly-adult endeavor could be a way to explore your interests, meet new people of varying ages, and perhaps even snag a leadership job. This could also be a way to add an activity to your résumé that isn't commonplace.
  1. Use the “Additional Information" section of your application to briefly explain why your school activities list may not rival those of other applicants. But avoid a whiny, “I got screwed when I changed schools" tone. Instead, emphasize the pluses of starting afresh as a junior …. e.g., expanding your social circle, perhaps finding a life-changing teacher, and trying some of the activities suggested in #'s 2 and 3 above that you might not have discovered if you were busy running the Spanish Club or the Yearbook at your old school.