Find your cocurricular passions. Do the things that are important to you, not the things you think are important to an admissions office.
At times I am asked, “Do you think this particular experience will be helpful for me to get into your university?” This question points to a student who is thinking through an opportunity for the sake of getting into college rather than as an opportunity that will have a meaningful impact on the student. My response is always the same: “Is this activity meaningful to you?” I want you to engage in activities that are important to you, not important to me. What’s important to me, such as playing lacrosse, reading The New York Times daily, attending Broadway shows with my son, and reading nonfiction books and watching movies about World War 2, might not be important to you. So why would you engage in my interests? We want to know about your own passions—the things that you enjoy doing most.
One mistake students often make is to perform community service because “it’s what colleges look for” in applicants. Engage in community service because you enjoy giving back. If you work as a tutor, babysit younger siblings, or help your grandparents by translating for them, that’s your form of giving back. But you don’t have to perform community service. It is also a mistake to assume your activities have to span the spectrum, from playing an instrument to playing a sport to working a part-time job to becoming an Eagle Scout. Spread your time out across activities in a manner in which you see fit. There is no rule of thumb on our end regarding the number or spectrum of activities you present us on your résumé.