In the USA or UK, it is almost impossible to get into any university without extracurricular activities or ECA for citizens and international students.
Suppose someone wants to study physics in the UK. In that case, the universities will most likely want him to be a part of a physics club, take extra physics courses at college or volunteer in a physics laboratory.
However, US universities prioritise ECAs even more. Leadership and volunteering account for approximately 30% of the total application. The rest are based on academic performance, SAT scores, and recommendation letters.
US universities allow students to have multiple ECAs with the specific major-based ones. You are still welcome to study astrophysics if you have published a cookbook or love to do photography. Those universities like to see longevity, passion for a particular type of activity.
Crimson, an admissions support company specialising in increasing acceptance to highly regarded institutions, says extracurriculars are a critical part of a student's university application. Involvement in clubs and more provides a clearer picture of who a student is outside of the classroom and offers an opportunity to showcase various skills and interests.
Universities in Canada may not provide financial aid to international students, but they do have some highly competitive scholarship programmes like KMILOT and Lester B Pearson.
For international students, UK universities like Oxford provide rich scholarships for having "super curriculars"- a term used to describe major-related extracurricular. Again, a full-fledged profile, including strong ECAs, impressive grades, and a well-written essay, is required to get those scholarships.
In Bangladesh, most of the schools and colleges do not emphasise on having ECAs. Schools don't have the resources to support students when they try to open clubs. Even worse is when the school authorities demotivate students by saying ECAs will be a hindrance to their studies.
But here in Bangladesh, most of the schools and colleges do not emphasise on having ECAs. Schools don't have the resources to support students when they try to open clubs. Even worse is when the school authorities demotivate students by saying ECAs will be a hindrance to their studies.
For example, a cricket club needs adequate funding to hire a coach or register for tournaments and the school might be reluctant to invest into it. In Bangladesh, not only the teachers and parents but even the students tend to stop doing ECAs because they feel like it won't be beneficial for them in the long run.
However, it is not entirely the students' fault to think that way. This is because all the major Bangladeshi public and private universities do not require ECAs in their admission process. It is solely based on a three-hour-long admission test whether you get in or not. The metric of intelligence in the Bangladesh admission system is quite unfair. Unfortunately, very little light is shed on the admission process by policy makers.
Nonetheless, it could be argued that in Bangladesh, except for Dhaka and Chattogram, the schools do not also have the appropriate funding to support their students to run a club. The students coming from rural areas or less affluent families are generally never exposed to such ECA opportunities.
In fact, getting the opportunity to join a school itself is a matter of great privilege for them. And in this scenario, the admission system of our country tries to establish a fair playing field by only focusing on academics.
This is the reason why we might not see any reform in the education sector regarding the admission process anytime soon. It is also fueled by the fact that most of the students are now struggling to have the basic education in the pandemic.
Where admission tests, SSC, HSC and regular classes can't be conducted because of Covid-19, incorporating ECAs into the curriculum is far-fetched.
The problem, however, remains. The biggest sufferers here are the students who want to pursue their undergraduate degrees overseas. For example, Student X comes from a middle-class background where his parents do not support studying abroad. He badly needs scholarships.
At First, he was entirely unaware about financial aids. Now, he understands the importance of having some sort of extracurriculars. He attends webinars of universities and discovers that universities require fleshed-out, great essays filled with unique experiences of personal growth and struggles.
In Common App (admission portal of US), there is a separate section of reporting "activities." Person X now starts to look for content writing or researching posts on Facebook Desperately. He decided to start playing cricket like he did when he was at school and eventually left it.
But still, can his newly formed ECAs compete with thousands of internationals who have at least two years of experience? Won't the admission officers assume that student X's ECAs are temporary?
The choice of where someone wants to study is very subjective. Still, a general idea needs to be provided in every school about the pros of doing ECAs and how they can help future prospects.
It is essential to educate children so that they are not entirely clueless about the admission process, unlike person X. On the other hand, even if a person has no plan on applying to universities abroad, being indulged in an extracurricular activity will never go in vain.
Even if the institutions and parents cannot directly support their children in practicing extracurricular activities and even if the policymakers can't bring a paradigm shift in the admission system in a jiffy, children should never be, at least, discouraged from doing ECAs.
Adiba Tahsin has completed A-levels in 2021. She is currently preparing university admission
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.