Do you wish that your best friend worked in admissions, and could just tell you what the admissions committee really thinks when they read your application?

Starting today, I will answer your admissions questions, giving you the same honest, informed advice that I offer my clients when they raise these issues. Please check back frequently to learn the truth about what really goes on behind the scenes.

First up, what a school really thinks about your lack of extracurricular activities:

Schools don’t like to admit candidates who don’t do anything other than study or work. They worry that you won’t be able to balance everything in school, and also that they are missing the opportunity to admit someone (better!) who will have more of a positive influence on campus and beyond.

Perfect grades and test scores are not usually enough to help you get in. Also, it’s not even like schools need to sacrifice strong numbers in order to find candidates who are super involved, with the demonstrated ability to make an impact in the community. There are plenty of applicants with pristine profiles and great extracurricular activities!

So, the bottom line is that in order to be as competitive as possible, you do need to be involved in your community. However, please know that lots of activities “count” and will enhance your profile. You don’t need to volunteer – schools also appreciate sports, clubs, hobbies – anything that shows sustained commitment and diversified interests.

Would you like an honest answer to your admissions question? Please email me at karen@northstaradmissions.com. As the former Associate Director of Admissions at Tuck, a former member of the Dartmouth Undergraduate Admissions Committee and the Founder and President of North Star Admissions Consulting, I am happy to answer your questions and demystify the process.

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than 20 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 97% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.