These days, it may seem like you need to be Leonardo Da Vinci to get into a top college; gifted academically, but also artistic, musical, and with a hundred other hobbies and accomplishments. Anxiety over the pressure to fill up resumes with an impressive roster of extracurricular and leadership activities may cause students (and worried parents) to overload. Taking a strategic and focused approach is key to success.
While schools appreciate breadth and diversity in a profile, they are primarily looking for depth and commitment. A long-term, substantial commitment to a few activities is far more valuable than a lightweight role in many clubs or teams. Choosing to focus on activities you truly enjoy and are passionate about will help make this commitment much more fun! An admissions consultant can help you brainstorm about your profile, or even about starting your own initiative.
You may also want to consider the overall story your activities tell about your profile or the different skills they allow you to build. A student interested in science or medicine should definitely prioritize getting research or lab experience, while a student interested in the arts should focus on activities that can help build a portfolio. Any activity can offer leadership roles, so while student government and similar groups can be valuable, especially for students interested in policy, students should think broadly and creatively about leadership in the context of extracurricular activities. Finally, students should be careful not to neglect the importance of service and community-based activities. Colleges are actively looking for students who will be active members of the campus community and who will be engaged with and concerned about the world around them.