why do American universities care so much about extra-curriculars?

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Anonymous #1
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why does the extra-curriculars matter so much to them? someone could do something completely unrelated to their chosen course like something related to music/sports or their day job or random stuff but they do it for uni and it increases their chance of getting in because the universities take that into consideration and their chosen course could be something that got nothing to do with the extra curriculars, it makes no sense! like shouldn't your personal statement somewhat reflect your passion for your course instead of you doing well in sports?

Oxbridge or many top unis here doesn't care about useless extra-curriculars and I know the process is different but still why do they care?

I'm asking this because I might apply to an American uni and this just makes no sense
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Anonymous #1
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RogerOxon
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I'm asking this because I might apply to an American uni and this just makes no sense
It's not going to change. I wouldn't bother, unless you can get a full scholarship, and have compelling reasons not to study in the UK.
(Original post by Anonymous)
why does the extra-curriculars matter so much to them? someone could do something completely unrelated to their chosen course like something related to music/sports or their day job or random stuff but they do it for uni and it increases their chance of getting in because the universities take that into consideration and their chosen course could be something that got nothing to do with the extra curriculars, it makes no sense! like shouldn't your personal statement somewhat reflect your passion for your course instead of you doing well in sports?

Oxbridge or many top unis here doesn't care about useless extra-curriculars and I know the process is different but still why do they care?
Oxford is very clear that it only cares about academic achievement and potential.

American universities care more about students pursuing a wider range of study, and activities, including contributing to the community. I assume that they believe that a long list of extra-curricular activities also demonstrate that you are able to effectively manage your time. That is important if, like many here, you need to work whilst studying.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by RogerOxon)
It's not going to change. I wouldn't bother, unless you can get a full scholarship, and have compelling reasons not to study in the UK.

Oxford is very clear that it only cares about academic achievement and potential.

American universities care more about students pursuing a wider range of study, and activities, including contributing to the community. I assume that they believe that a long list of extra-curricular activities also demonstrate that you are able to effectively manage your time. That is important if, like many here, you need to work whilst studying.
yeah I know Oxbridge doesn't care about extra curriculars.
even if it is to prove the ability to manage time efficiently why is it the priority? shouldn't academic achievement and interest for the subject be the priority?
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RogerOxon
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(Original post by Anonymous)
yeah I know Oxbridge doesn't care about extra curriculars.
even if it is to prove the ability to manage time efficiently why is it the priority? shouldn't academic achievement and interest for the subject be the priority?
As I understand it, most US universities don't offer the same level of focus in their degrees. You have to study a broader range of subjects, and often don't even apply for a specific one. It's more of a mix and match approach to a degree.

Look at the "Holistic Review" drop-down, here:
(Original post by https://admissions.berkeley.edu/freshmen-requirements)
We review students using a Holistic Review process. This means that we not only look at academic factors, but also non-academic factors. Using a broad concept of merit, readers employ the following criteria which carry no pre-assigned weights:

  • The applicant’s full record of achievement in college preparatory work in high school, including the number and rigor of courses taken and grades earned in those courses.
  • Personal qualities of the applicant, including leadership ability, character, motivation, insight, tenacity, initiative, originality, intellectual independence, responsibility, maturity, and demonstrated concern for others and for the community are considered.
  • Likely contributions to the intellectual and cultural vitality of the campus. In addition to a broad range of intellectual interests and achievements, admission readers seek diversity in personal background and experience.
  • Achievement in academic enrichment programs, including but not limited to those sponsored by the University of California. This criterion is measured by time and depth of participation, by the academic progress made by the applicant during that participation, and by the intellectual rigor of the particular program.
  • Other evidence of achievement. This criterion recognizes exemplary, sustained achievement in any field of intellectual or creative endeavor; accomplishments in extracurricular activities such as the performing arts or athletics; leadership in school or community organizations; employment; and volunteer service.
  • Race, ethnicity, gender, and religion are excluded from the criteria.

All achievements, both academic and nonacademic, are considered in the context of the opportunities an applicant has had, and the reader’s assessment is based on how fully the applicant has taken advantage of those opportunities. For an applicant who has faced any hardships or unusual circumstances, readers consider the maturity, determination and insight with which the applicant has responded to and/or overcome them. Readers also consider other contextual factors that bear directly upon the applicant’s achievement, including linguistic background, parental education level, and other indicators of support available in the home.

The review recognizes a wide range of talent and creativity that is not necessarily reflected in traditional measures of academic achievement but which, in the judgment of the reader, is a positive indicator of the student’s ability to succeed at Berkeley and beyond.
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kamara41
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Because extracurriculars can demonstrate 3 things:
- success/achievement (and the best predictor of future success is past success)
- leadership
- dedication/commitment (US college campuses are a lot busier and more lively than UK ones so dedication to ECs is more important)

And as for why they care about "useless" extracurriculars, in the US you don't apply to a specific course/subject but just to the university itself. And if someone has poured their time and energy into something they're passionate about, even if it's not academics-related, it's not "useless" because they will pour that same passion and energy into that activity (or another) on campus, which makes the campus a better place to learn and grow.
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kamara41
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(Original post by RogerOxon)
As I understand it, most US universities don't offer the same level of focus in their degrees. You have to study a broader range of subjects, and often don't even apply for a specific one. It's more of a mix and match approach to a degree.

Look at the "Holistic Review" drop-down, here:
Great way to put it.

In short, they have a much more holistic admissions process because they offer a much more holistic education.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by kamara41)
Because extracurriculars can demonstrate 3 things:
- success/achievement (and the best predictor of future success is past success)
- leadership
- dedication/commitment (US college campuses are a lot busier and more lively than UK ones so dedication to ECs is more important)

And as for why they care about "useless" extracurriculars, in the US you don't apply to a specific course/subject but just to the university itself. And if someone has poured their time and energy into something they're passionate about, even if it's not academics-related, it's not "useless" because they will pour that same passion and energy into that activity (or another) on campus, which makes the campus a better place to learn and grow.
I guess it's my fault for comparing it to the UK system
but how does not applying for a specific course work? how can you just apply to university?
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by RogerOxon)
As I understand it, most US universities don't offer the same level of focus in their degrees. You have to study a broader range of subjects, and often don't even apply for a specific one. It's more of a mix and match approach to a degree.

Look at the "Holistic Review" drop-down, here:
thank you, that sure made things more clear
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pet973
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I guess it's my fault for comparing it to the UK system
but how does not applying for a specific course work? how can you just apply to university?
You apply to a University (most often to the school of Arts and Sciences, unless you're doing something specific like Nursing) and you often get to explore your own interests across subjects, aside from fulfilling a more-or-less demanding Core courses (depending on the Unis it can be as low as 0 or as high as 7-8 semester courses). Then, before the end of your sencond year, you declare your Major(s) and maybe minors- the subjects you will focus the most in your last 2 years. Don't forget, US Unis are 1 year longer than UK ones, and even here you're often allowed some extra subjects later on, so in the end the difference is there but fairly minor.
Here you end up more specialised, in the US more rounded. Both work, it's mainly a matter of taste. Certainly the US system is better if you have varied interests/are undecided.
The UK school system, with A Levels as well, specialises students much earlier and much more than most other countries in the world. A lot of people around the world don't think it's necessarily a good idea to end up with mathematicians who can't write or writers who can't add...
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by pet973)
You apply to a University (most often to the school of Arts and Sciences, unless you're doing something specific like Nursing) and you often get to explore your own interests across subjects, aside from fulfilling a more-or-less demanding Core courses (depending on the Unis it can be as low as 0 or as high as 7-8 semester courses). Then, before the end of your sencond year, you declare your Major(s) and maybe minors- the subjects you will focus the most in your last 2 years. Don't forget, US Unis are 1 year longer than UK ones, and even here you're often allowed some extra subjects later on, so in the end the difference is there but fairly minor.
Here you end up more specialised, in the US more rounded. Both work, it's mainly a matter of taste. Certainly the US system is better if you have varied interests/are undecided.
The UK school system, with A Levels as well, specialises students much earlier and much more than most other countries in the world. A lot of people around the world don't think it's necessarily a good idea to end up with mathematicians who can't write or writers who can't add...
so I can't apply in the US for a specific course like eg biology?
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pet973
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(Original post by Anonymous)
so I can't apply in the US for a specific course like eg biology?
No, but you can certainly indicate it as your intended major (you’re asked for your top 2-3 choices normally). And nothing will stop you from taking a lot of biology courses early on.
But you won’t be held to it. Colleges don’t admit by major because over half of students end up changing their minds anyway. There are exceptions, but very few and only for things like engineering or the rare business majors (like wharton). But they will certainly consider and rate any extracurricular activities you have done related to your passion in a certain field.
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ry7xsfa
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I guess it's my fault for comparing it to the UK system
but how does not applying for a specific course work? how can you just apply to university?
You usually indicate what you think you want to major in on the application, but you're only held to this at a select number of schools for specific majors (for example, if you don't indicate that you want to major in CS for your application to UIUC, you can't then choose to major in it because that particular major there is already hugely oversubscribed).

You'll take classes in a wide range of subjects, either of your own choice or by following a core-curriculum depending on the university. Then, after a certain amount of time, you declare your major. However, there is usually still flexibility to change this depending on requirements and the amount of time you have left. The timescale of when you declare and when you can change will vary greatly between universities; I visited campuses where you declare at the end of your sophomore year, whereas at Caltech you declare at the start of third term (the final term of your freshman year), but you can sometimes switch until midway through your junior year as long as you still have the time to get your requirements done - and even add a second major or minor late too if you want too! You don't apply to a specific course because too many people don't yet know what they want to study (especially with how the US school system is set out) and even if they think they do, it can change drastically anyway.

So why do they ask what you want to major in on the application in the first place? Well... they're trying to build a well-rounded class. Even if your intended major can change, it does a lot to show what you are interested in - which US universities care about. If they didn't, they could end up with an entire freshman class wanting to major in the same 3 subjects. US universities really don't want this - even at the universities typically dedicated to STEM (MIT, Georgia Tech, Caltech, etc.), they want a wide range of interests and intended majors.

(Original post by Anonymous)
yeah I know Oxbridge doesn't care about extra curriculars.
even if it is to prove the ability to manage time efficiently why is it the priority? shouldn't academic achievement and interest for the subject be the priority?
Academic achievement is still very much one of the top priorities for US universities. However, extracurriculars are widely considered to be the most important thing because they help you stand out. The size of the US (and the prestige of many of their universities internationally) means that they get way more academically qualified applicants than spaces every year - and extracurriculars are a great way to differentiate between these qualified students and build a well-rounded class. They all want you to get involved with activities on campus - whether that's participating in existing things or setting up your own clubs - to create a better learning environment for everyone. ECs are the best way of showing commitment, what you're interested in, and the type of person you are to the admissions committee so they know firstly that you'll actually get involved, and secondly what with. And this ties in again to building a well-rounded class. Colleges care about diversity - not just of cultures and backgrounds, but of interests too! Being around those with different interests, experiences, and beliefs to you is often the best way to learn, grow, and mature as a person - something that you'll be doing a lot of at university. They also want people to be happy there - there's no point taking in a freshman class with 50 students who have a passion for robotics if the school's robotics team can only accommodate 30 people - including upperclassmen; that's just asking for people to be left out and be unhappy.
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RogerOxon
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(Original post by kamara41)
Great way to put it.

In short, they have a much more holistic admissions process because they offer a much more holistic education.
Whilst there may be some merit to this approach, it does appear to descend into a competition over who can get the best / longest list of ECs (I live in Northern California).

OP: The, more academic, and focused, UK system suits some people better. When you have so many top Universities in the UK, there's no reason to consider the US if our system doesn't play to your strengths.
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RogerOxon
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I'm asking this because I might apply to an American uni and this just makes no sense
If it makes no sense, don't apply. Why are you even considering doing so?
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ashtolga23
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I guess they have lots more people to filter through
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A Rolling Stone
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(Original post by Anonymous)
why does the extra-curriculars matter so much to them? someone could do something completely unrelated to their chosen course like something related to music/sports or their day job or random stuff but they do it for uni and it increases their chance of getting in because the universities take that into consideration and their chosen course could be something that got nothing to do with the extra curriculars, it makes no sense! like shouldn't your personal statement somewhat reflect your passion for your course instead of you doing well in sports?

Oxbridge or many top unis here doesn't care about useless extra-curriculars and I know the process is different but still why do they care?

I'm asking this because I might apply to an American uni and this just makes no sense
because naturally Americans have a more pro-EC culture, and for various reasons their unis are much more selective than ours, without being more academic, so EC strength is the best differentiator they have got
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RogerOxon
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(Original post by A Rolling Stone)
for various reasons their unis are much more selective than ours, without being more academic, so EC strength is the best differentiator they have got
That's a myth, IMO. You can apply to as many universities as you like here, so the success percentage is obviously lower.
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A Rolling Stone
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(Original post by RogerOxon)
That's a myth, IMO. You can apply to as many universities as you like here, so the success percentage is obviously lower.
that is one of the many reasons i said their unis are more selective than ours without being more academic
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RogerOxon
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(Original post by A Rolling Stone)
that is one of the many reasons i said their unis are more selective than ours without being more academic
I should have explained better. IMO, your probability of getting into a really top University (e.g. Ivy League) are reasonable, and not dissimilar to getting into the top few in the UK. There are just more universities and applicants per place.
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