This is your basic extracurricular activity essay, and will double with many other prompts from other schools. Already written an extracurricular essay you love? Copy, paste, and call it a day.
If not, you can view a thorough, step-by-step guide to writing the essay at this link, or keep reading here for some tips on choosing a topic and a strong sample essay written specifically for Georgetown.
Picking a Topic
Here are a few steps you can take to identify a topic.
Go to your activities list and pick 2-3 possible topics.
Go through the BEABIES Exercise (either mentally or by filling out the chart) to decide which topic might yield the most content.
Double check with your personal statement to make sure you’re showing some side of yourself that’s not currently being discussed at length there.
Let’s check a couple examples.
Example: Narrative + Overcoming a Challenge
Because this student is writing about overcoming a challenge, she uses a narrative structure, telling a linear story and explaining what she walked away with.
If there were a “cry graph” for the number of times students at my school broke down from freshman to junior year, it would increase exponentially. We often found ourselves weeping together in philosophy class, one of the only safe spaces to open up emotionally about the constant pressure we all experienced. I was alarmed at the number of times I heard “I’m going to kill myself” in the classroom on a daily basis, and my closest friend confessed that she considered quitting school. In short, my school community was very, very stressed. These red flags led me to decide that it was time to change the picture of the cry graph and create a space other than philosophy class where we could support each other, so I founded the Psychology and Mental Health Club.
I researched empirically proven de-stressing methods, and found that yoga, art therapy, and canine therapy can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels while increasing oxytocin levels. I organized stretching and doodle sessions, and collaborated with the library to host therapy dogs so that students could ‘paws’ and relax. After each event, we asked students to indicate their mood before and after; 96% of students responded that their stress decreased.
I am elated to say that the Mental Health Club seems to have successfully reversed the ‘cry graph.’ We have become a mindful, supportive, tight-knit community, and we are no longer defined by anxiety–rather, we are now defined by our dedication to mental health awareness and balance. I have received numerous requests to continue and expand the club’s work, so we plan to hold our sessions every two weeks, and to introduce meditation, calming music, herbal teas, and other mindfulness activities that I continue to explore.
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Tips + Analysis:
This author uses her extracurricular essay to explain how she overcame a challenge in her school community. You can find a whole host of tips and ideas for this narrative style extracurricular essay here, but the following are a few quick takeaways:
Raise the stakes. We need to know why we should care about the challenge your extracurricular activity is working to solve. When this author shares the commonality of hearing students’ suicidal ideation, we can see why this is an important problem to solve.
Be specific about what you did. This author not only explains that she created a club, she also details both the distinct steps she took to generate a solution and the specific services her club offered.
If possible, share quantitative outcomes. We all probably trusted that the therapy dog sessions were effective (see: any puppy ever), but this author drives that point home with data: 96% of post-session student responses showed a decrease in stress.
Example: Montage + Making Connections
This student uses a montage structure for his essay, using different aspects of the extracurricular activity (debate) to demonstrate interest and achievement in a whole host of areas (philosophy, critical thinking, public service, self-awareness, self control).
Initially, debate seemed nonsensical: lambasting opponents while arguing improbable scenarios. But over time I’ve learned that it’s more than competition that drives me to stay up all night looking for evidence: I love learning about the political and ideological underpinnings of our society and the way they shape us.
On an easy debate tournament weekend, I research foreign diplomatic agendas and synthesize the information into coherent debate evidence. When tournaments become more hectic, however, I delve deeper into the works of philosophers and social critics and translate the knowledge into debate argumentation. While researching foreign policy, critical theory like Heideggerian phenomenology and constitutional details, I’ve developed an ability to critically analyze argumentation, make sense of the world around me and creatively express myself in an academic setting.
My hard work has paid off. In the past four tournaments, I’ve received a Top 10 speaker award for the varsity division consisting of about 50 debaters. This trend has increased my credibility in my debate league to such a level that my partner and I were invited to participate in a series of public debates at LA City Hall to defend the water policy for the drought. The opportunity allowed me to actually impact the public’s awareness and accept a larger responsibility in the workings of my community.
More importantly, however, debate has taught me to strategically choose my battles. When I prepare my arguments, I know that I can’t use all of them in the end of a round. I have to focus. I’ve learned to maximize my strengths and not try to conquer everything. Moreover, I’ve learned to be responsible with my choices. A wrong argument can mean losing if we can’t defend well. Not only do I now know how to zoom in from a bigger picture, but I also know how to pick the right place to zoom in to so I can achieve my goal.
Debate has turned me into an responsible optimizing, scrutinizing and strategizing orator.
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Tips + Analysis:
As with the earlier example, you can find a wealth of tips for an “uncommon connections” style here. You can also find some distilled tips and ideas below.
Identify skills and learnings you’ve gained from the extracurricular activity, and where else those skills show up. This author has three primary takeaways from debate: an interest in philosophy, becoming a more vocal and active community member, and the ability to choose his battles. In your essay, you can earn bonus points by highlighting unexpected places those skills have shown up. This author could have cited the way she applied a philosophical concept to a drama performance she did, or how her participation in the LA City Hall debates led to her attending a climate march.
Organize your essay effectively by addressing each connection in its own paragraph. One possible structure for each paragraph is:
a. Name the skill or takeaway
b. How does it show up in your extracurricular activity?
c. How does it show up somewhere else, possibly unexpectedly?
Summarize the takeaways clearly. This is even more important if your takeaways are uncommon or unexpected. This author names each outcome of her engagement with the debate team in her closing sentence: responsibility, efficiency, a critical eye, and the ability to strategize.