The Difference Between Co- and Extra-curricular Activities and Why They are Important!

For those of you who want to pursue higher studies abroad, it is time to start brainstorming about your admission essays. And, though they may seem insignificant, important aspects that need to be covered in both these documents are your co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Especially for those of you applying for undergraduate programs, i.e. your bachelor’s, the co-curricular and extra-curricular activities carry equal weight along with your academic and SAT score. For the master’s program, your co-curricular activities will set you apart.
While “co-curricular activities” refer to those activities that go together with your academics in school or college, an extra-curricular activity is any activity you take part in that does not involve your academics.

Here are a few examples of co-curricular activities you can highlight in your application

Undergraduate Applicants (BS/BA): school Headboy/girl, class prefect, House Captain, college newsletters, science clubs and projects, inter-class and inter-school competitions and state/national level competitions, elocution, etc.

Graduate Applicants (MS): technical quizzes during college fests, Robocon, SAE BAJA, filing for patents, articles contributed for academic publication, state/national level technical competitions.

A few examples of extra-curricular activities: sports, athletics, debate, dramatics, learning foreign language, arts, chess and book clubs, Rotary/Rotaract, Lions/Leo club or AIESEC memberships, Boy Scout or Girl Guides, volunteer work (blood donation, tree plantation, old age homes, underprivileged children, etc.), painting or dancing, National Cadet Corps (NCC), National Sports Organisation (NSO), National Service Scheme (NSS).

If they are “extra-curricular”, why do colleges and universities care about these activities?
Colleges and universities like students who take efforts to develop their talents and passions. They want students who interact well with others and add something to the community. There is more to college life, particularly in the US than just attending classes. US colleges and universities appreciate students who will go the extra mile by taking initiative and participating in academic as well as social activities on campus.

Which are the activities to highlight and how to describe them?

Before you decide to include co-curricular or extra-curricular activities in your SoP or essay, consider the following questions:
1. Did you actively participate in the activity: provide specific details of the role you played in the activity.
2. Did you engage in this activity for a significant number of years: give specific numbers to give the admissions committee a clear idea of your dedication towards the activity.
3. Were you specifically chosen for any activity: list events, competitions, or showcases that you were selected for based on your expertise in the field.
4. Did you take initiative: state your experience as a leader or mentor and discuss what impact you had on others.
5. Did you make positive changes to the activity: describe the work you did to expand and improve any clubs or events that you were a part of.
6. Did the activity change you in a positive manner: illustrate the changes the activity brought about in you such as deciding to be a part of the debate team to get over your fear of public speaking.

Now, that you have this information, make sure that you focus on the co-curricular and extra-curricular activities when you draft your admission essays. Remember, it is never too late to start participating in activities and events that can highlight your skills and abilities to make your profile diverse and well rounded.

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