Question: My son is a high school junior with strong grades and test scores. He volunteers over 40 hours a week but has not joined any school clubs. He is interested in colleges like Emory and Washington Univ/St. Louis. Will admissions officers consider his grades and standarized scores along with his extensive community service even though he has not been active in organizations at school?
In most cases, elite colleges such as Emory and Wash U. expect more than just top grades and test scores from their admitted applicants. Nonetheless, the role of clubs and other school-sponsored activities has become greatly overrated by parents and students. Admission officials are seeking candidates who have made a commitment to something outside of the classroom, but that something could include volunteer service (such as your son's), a hobby, a paid job, etc. Gone are the days when "well-roundedness" was the gold standard at prestigious colleges. Now, admission folks are also seeking students who may not be well-rounded at all but who have made a mark in one particular arena. However, the more selective the college, the greater that mark (or the more atypical the activity) the better.