How to Take Advantage of Hobbies in College Applications
September 4, 2020
How to Take Advantage of Hobbies in College Applications
As a high school student, you’ve likely spent a lot of time trying out different activities inside and outside of your school community. However, beyond these extracurriculars, you might have interests that you’re passionate about — but haven’t actively pursued through a concrete club or initiative. These might seem redundant, but, if they either align meaningfully with the rest of your profile or show a side of you that might add a new layer, you might just be able to display your hobbies in college applications in a way that helps you stand out as an impressive applicant.
Hobbies can include any activity you spend time on for fun, or a skill you hone that hasn’t necessarily transferred to your other activities — yet. While certain involvements — such as clubs where you hold a leadership role, or a community outreach activity that benefits the rest of your community — take up the majority of your time outside the classroom, there might be passion projects or interests you work on in your spare time. Hobbies might be relevant to your academic interests, for example, writing poetry in your free time as a prospective English major. Or, you could be a STEM student who has a passion for learning languages on the side. No matter where your interests lie, we’ve provided a few ways to take advantage of hobbies in college applications so that admissions officers can discover the depth of your profile.
Consider how they tie into your other activities
One of the most straightforward ways you might be able to include your hobbies in college applications is through the extracurriculars that you already plan to put on your activities list. However, don’t add hobbies without careful consideration. It depends on if the activity aligns with the theme of your application. If your application persona is a screenwriter, it makes sense to include that you’ve made short films as a passion project. But if you enjoy playing basketball in your free time but you’re not applying as a student athlete and have no other athletic experience, you shouldn’t include it in your activities list. If a hobby isn’t relevant or doesn’t add anything meaningful to your profile, it can be read as stretching for additional activities.
Incorporate your hobby into your personal statement
The Common Application personal statement is a place to convey a story that is unique to you, and that helps the admissions officer understand what makes you exceptional in comparison to other candidates. If you worked hard on a project as a hobby that hasn’t found a place in the rest of your application — but you know it captures your essence as an applicant and person, and you put a lot of effort into a project or skill — you could very much write a 650-word essay about it. Again, be very careful. If you just spend a few hours a month reading books, that isn’t worth an entire personal statement. However, if you’re passionate about writing, and you spent your senior year working on a novel that has helped you reflect on your family identity or love for your town, that’s definitely worth mentioning in your personal statement. Admissions officers want the personal statement to demonstrate what a student can bring to their college that no one else can — if a hobby has truly defined your journey of growth, or encompasses a central part of your personality, consider basing your personal statement on that hobby.
Write about it in a supplemental essay
A supplemental essay is another great place to discuss hobbies in college applications. Again, this might play out in different ways, depending on what the supplemental prompt is. Many colleges ask why you’ve chosen to apply to the school. If there’s a club or activity that relates to your hobby, it could be a golden opportunity to discuss how you’ve spent time honing your skill in the area and hope to participate. For example, while you may have only cycled as a hobby in high school, you might be excited to participate in Columbia’s competitive cycling club.
Another type of supplemental essay that allows for you to reflect on a hobby is a prompt which asks you to elaborate on a part of you that you haven’t mentioned anywhere else in your application. This is an excellent way to show admissions officers a different side of you that they wouldn’t normally guess from reading about your intended major or viewing your activities and honors lists. Last year, an InGenius Prep student was applying for a computer science major and had very STEM-heavy activities, wrote an essay about how he learned to play the guitar and overcame his stage fright. So, these essays provide students with an effective platform for highlighting a new side of them.
Take advantage of arts supplements
If your hobbies involve the arts — including visual art, music, dance, theater, architecture, and creative writing — you should consider submitting an arts supplement to the colleges that allow it. The arts supplement, sometimes known as the “arts portfolio” or an “additional arts form,” is a chance for students who’ve excelled in a creative or performance art to submit an organized sample of their work. Instead of vaguely stating on your activities list that you spend your free time drawing or singing, submitting a portfolio or video clip can help explain the depth of your talent to the admissions officers. The optional arts supplement, which is evaluated by professors in the relevant department, helps admissions officers get a sense of exactly how talented a student is.
If you are considering submitting an arts supplement, remember that students who have worked on their skills for years send in their work. If you’ve been significantly practicing your artistic hobby for years, definitely go for it. It’s one thing to be passionate about an art form. It’s another to have spent hours, days, and years, learning and improving in it. If you believe that the time you’ve spent working on your art, music, dance, or acting outside your usual activities has paid off and you are one of the best, then submit an arts supplement!
Submit a resumé
Finally, submitting a resumé can be a way to include your hobbies in college applications. While some schools don’t allow any supplemental materials, there are schools that have an additional documents section that allows you to upload files, and many students use this as an opportunity to send their resumé. If you’re planning to do so, including your hobbies as a separate section can be a good idea, especially if they are unique and can help distinguish you from the competition.
It might not always be appropriate to include your hobbies in college applications. However, if your hobbies help illustrate you as a more nuanced candidate and help admissions officers gain a better understanding of the perspectives you can bring to campus, you should definitely highlight them in whichever component is most suitable, whether it’s your activities list, personal statement, or supplemental essay.