Updated: Aug 30, 2021
We had the opportunity of interviewing Nicholas Anderson, a student at University of Pennsylvania, about: Extracurriculars
Nick is a first-generation college student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. In high school, Nick was involved and held leadership positions in NHS, student government, American Red Cross, varsity soccer, jazz band, and founded the Youth-In-Action chapter. His collegiate involvements/leadership positions can be found on his LinkedIn or Website: nickjanderson.com | https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-j-anderson1/
Key points Nicholas shares:
To be totally honest, I spent twice as much time working on my extracurriculars than I did on my schoolwork. Of course, maintaining a high GPA and keeping up with grades is important, but universities want to see that you enjoy life outside of school - that you follow passions.
In my opinion, there are two unparalleled actions that you can take every day to make a difference in this world - putting a smile on someone’s face, and teaching someone something.
Q: How much dedication did you put into your extracurriculars in terms of time and effort? Which ones do you think required the most dedication?
A: All of it! To be totally honest, I spent twice as much time working on my extracurriculars than I did on my schoolwork. Of course, maintaining a high GPA and keeping up with grades is important, but universities want to see that you enjoy life outside of school - that you follow passions. To be specific, playing/coaching soccer and practicing sax took up most of my time. Then my volunteer work as American Red Cross Chapter President and SWAT/YIA Founder and President followed. Finally, more standard roles like NHS VP, student government, etc. took up the least of my time.
Q: How did you build up a reputation to found your high school’s SWAT and Youth in Action programs, as well become the chapter president of the Red Cross Club?
A: I let my work and dedication speak for itself! The Red Cross Club was the first club I joined in high school, and I slowly worked my way up from Treasurer, to VP, and finally to President. I didn’t miss meetings, I was an outspoken leader (a result of playing a lot of soccer), and I was clearly passionate about what we did. That had an effect on the people voting. When it came to academic clubs like NHS, sports like soccer, and music like jazz, my hard-work and resulting performance was what put me in a position to lead. It was only once I gained experience in these leadership roles and earned people’s respect that I felt comfortable with finding SWAT and Youth in Action.
Q: What were some notable accomplishments you made in the extracurriculars you were involved in that not only had an impact on you, but your community?
A: Presents for the Panhandle (Personal) - My flagship volunteering effort, as a senior in high school I led a campaign to provide children’s books to an elementary school impacted by Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle. I rallied the community at varsity soccer matches to bring books in exchange for a discounted ticket price, promoted the project around the school, and reached out to the local UPS for shipping support. We ended up shipping around 150 books to Hiland Park Elementary School at no cost.
Bundles for Babies (American Red Cross) - As a chapter we assembled small care packages to distribute to families forced to relocate as a result of fire, natural disaster, or other unfortunate circumstances. We created over 50 bundles that were distributed to those in need across our community and others.
Beach + Community Clean Ups (NHS) - Anyone who knows me knows the extent to which I value the environment. As VP, I led the NHS on community clean-ups, including early morning beach trips, road and parking lot endeavors, and campus walks removing pounds of waste.
Drug-Free Campus (SWAT/YIA) - The SWAT and Youth in Action groups led a campaign designed to counteract drunk-driving, drug use, and tobacco consumption. We partnered with the baseball team to promote our anti-tobacco cause and the school to protect the community for irresponsible alcohol consumption.
Alzheimer’s Volunteering (A Happy Hour) - A big personal learning experience, I spent a couple of afternoons volunteering at a local assisted living facility treating patients with Alzheimer’s. Our goal was simply to bring some life and color into what was just another day for the patients.
Q: You’ve been volunteering with the Red Cross Club to provide disaster relief and coaching and mentoring kids at Chargers Soccer Club from high school into college. Seeing that you’ve been consistent in these activities, what experiences did you get out of them? What stood out to you about these volunteering opportunities?
A: In my opinion, there are two unparalleled actions that you can take every day to make a difference in this world - putting a smile on someone’s face, and teaching someone something. I base all of my volunteering decisions on being able to do at least one of these two things. Through the Red Cross, I had the opportunity to positively affect so many people. The stories that I heard and the smiles that I received gave my life real purpose. They taught me what’s really important. With the coaching and mentoring it was a combination of the two. I have the opportunity to teach children about life on the soccer field. Teamwork, sacrifice, leadership, dedication, drive, communication, organization, prioritization, and love to name a few. Every once in a while I can even make them smile with a nutmeg. If I were to not be here tomorrow, I’d look to the difference I’ve made in these children’s lives as one of my proudest accomplishments, and as an everlasting legacy.
Q: What advice or encouragement would you give to students who aren’t sure of what extracurriculars to participate in or if what they’re participating in will truly make a difference?
A: Do what makes you happy! Join things that make you excited to get up every day. If it makes a difference in your life, it’s already making enough of a difference. A lot of people think that the more they do, the better. Throughout my freshman and sophomore year of high school I joined every club available to me and found that I was stressed, anxious, and worked way too thin. On top of that, I couldn’t make a big difference in any one particular sector. I guarantee that you can be a part of just one extracurricular, and if you take it far enough and display enough passion, you can get into any school you desire. Passion is contagious - it will show positively in your college applications, and more importantly in your everyday life.
Thanks for reading!
While you’re here, connect and learn more about Nicholas on his LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-j-anderson1/
If you were interested in this article, read more about Extracurriculars here: https://www.alumnianswers.org/articles/categories/extracurricular
If you want to learn more from our interviewees about attending a school like UPenn, read more here: https://www.alumnianswers.org/articles/tags/upenn
Have more questions based on what you’ve read or any you would like us to ask alumni? Submit them here!