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There are conflicting views about student participation in . A predominant position is that colleges were after "well-rounded bodies of individual specialists", suggesting that it is better for a student to be deeply involved in one or two activities rather than nine or ten superficially, such as a "violin-playing quarterback" or a "math-medalist poet," and that students should not "overdo it" and that parents should not become overconcerned about their child's extracurricular activities. Applicants who achieve a leadership position in an extracurricular activity are regarded more highly than applicants who merely participate in a bunch of activities. Advisors recommend that a student should choose which extracurricular activities they genuinely care about, pursue them with "gusto" and "joyful commitment" that demonstrates integrity and commitment. And, consistent with this view, is that too many extracurricular activities may look suspect to admissions officers, particularly if it seems unreasonable that any person could be as active and succeed scholastically at the same time. Jobs are generally viewed favorably by admissions committees, including even part-time service jobs such as flipping hamburgers, since it suggests that a student has learned to handle , to accept responsibility, and develop . A less dominant position was that it is helpful to be involved in a "variety of activities", including jobs, internships, and community service. Some universities, such as the , have formal programs for spot-checking applications for accuracy, such as sending a follow-up letter to the student asking for proof about an extracurricular activity or summer job. Advisors recommend that extracurricular activities should never interfere with a student's overall academic performance. A student with many extracurricular activities in twelfth grade, but few in preceding years, particularly when the essays focus on the extracurricular activities, is suspect; this suggests an applicant is being coached, and may reflect negatively on an application. Advisors warn against "overscheduling" students with too many activities or courses.
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The consensus view among guidance advisors is that it is a good idea to visit colleges, preferably when college is in session and not during a summer break, with a chance to meet an actual student in the form of a tour guide, and taking notes for reference later when applying. Sometimes a college will waive the application fee based on the college visit. A benefit is seeing a school as it really is—not just glossy pictures from a brochure or a promotional video from a website. Another suggested that students should ask themselves, when visiting a particular college: "can I see myself here"? Reporter Jenna Johnson in the suggested that students contact a professor in an area of interest at the college before visiting, and try to meet with them briefly or sit in on one of their classes. Reporter Brennan Barnard in the recommended that student visitors should ask questions (by avoiding factual questions better answered by the college's website), and ask for complimentary passes for dining or free food. Barnard recommends going beyond the usual tour to ask random strangers about life on campus and reading the student newspaper. He recommends arranging to speak with a professor in the department of interest as well as athletic coaches and music directors, possibly by emailing them in advance of the visit, to try to meet them even briefly. A follow-up "thank you" note to the host is a good idea (avoid texting abbreviations.)
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