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ECAs – Why are they so important?

If you are someone who wants to pursue under graduate education in the United States, then you must have come across the term ECA.

ECA is Extra Curricular Activities

ECA stands for Extra Curricular Activity. Anything you do outside of the classroom on a regular basis may be counted as an ECA. Many students believe that having good grades is all it takes to get accepted to US universities. However, this notion is completely wrong. Most universities in the United States review applications holistically. Although your SAT score and high school GPA matter a lot, they are not the only determiner. You can understand this better if you think of it in this way. Imagine you have straight A’s in all your high school transcripts and got a near perfect SAT score. But you’re not the only one with amazing grades. Just like you, hundreds or thousands of applicants may have an outstanding GPA. So, how does the university differentiate between you and the other students? Well, they look at your ECAs (and other factors of your application).

To put it in simple words, universities and colleges require students who are not only great at studies, but also great at contributing to their community. They need someone who is a great learner and a great do-er as well. The only way to convince the admissions office that you can contribute to their community is to show them who you really are, beyond the classroom.


So you might be thinking now, what kind of extracurricular activities should a student participate in? Well, the answer to this question is easy. Participate in activities that mean something to you. Many students think that only participating in Olympiads can be counted as a good ECA. However, this idea is not true. If you do participate in Olympiads and if you do very well in them, it will definitely be a plus point. But Olympiads are not the only notable extracurricular activity out there. Your ECA can be related to many things including sports, music, theatre, art, academic clubs, debating, volunteering etc. Part time jobs, internships are considered as ECAs as well. Many universities even consider partaking in house hold responsibilities as a significant ECA.


Those who are great at sports and have played in sports teams throughout high school may be eligible for many sports scholarships in universities. Many colleges have talent scholarships awarded to students who demonstrate talent in the fields of music, dance or art. If you actively took part in debates in high school and participated in debate competitions, you can add it as an extracurricular activity. Volunteering and community work can be a great ECA to showcase your leadership skills and your love for community.

Lastly, it is important to not blindly participate in everything you see, rather, find few things you like and try to participate in that regularly. You must also not fake your activities in your application as people who work in the admissions office can detect fake activities.