There was a time where colleges wanted to see a really active student, involved in lots of diverse clubs and activities. Now colleges are more interested in seeing you have an interest or passion that you are exploring more deeply verses superficial involvement in lots of different activities.
While many students choose to do their activities at schools, part-time jobs, church related roles, volunteering in the community, research projects all can show passion. For example-if you enjoy political science getting involved in your student government is an easy way to learn about politics. You could also volunteer on a local campaign and attend your local Boy or Girl’s State. You could even write political op-eds for your school paper. If you enjoy science you could join your school robotics’ team, volunteer at the zoo, work at vet/dentist/doctor’s office, participate in a research project through an area college.
How you use your summer can also be a great way to showcase your interests and passions. There are many summer programs at colleges that allow you to explore subjects. Some are competitive and require admission. Others are more “pay to play” (as long as you can pay the tuition you can attend). You can also take courses at a local community college or on-line. And of course–working in an area of interest is an excellent way to explore future careers.
What’s most important is that you can articulate why you got involved, what you learned from the experience and how it is propelling you forward with what you want to do in the future. If you were forced by your parent to go to a food pantry a few times but you didn’t enjoy it or didn’t connect with the participants–it will be hard to talk about it in an essay or to an admission representative. Be authentic and share what you truly enjoy. Colleges are looking to build a class and create a community filled with a variety of people. You will be happier in that community if they choose YOU because YOU are the right fit for their institution.