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  • Speech at extracurricular award dinner

    2007 - 05.10

    Last night, I was the guest speaker at a High School award dinner for members of clubs and teams.  Below is a draft of the speech I gave. The actual speech was slightly altered.


    There is a great ice-breaker I normally use when leading groups in team building exercises.  I pair everyone two by two and ask each person to introduce themselves to their neighbor and tell them 3 things about themselves with only two of them being true.

    Therefore, let me start by saying that
    ¨     In high school I was the starting goalie on the hockey team
    ¨     In college I was the head resident advisor for the Office of  University Housing
    ¨     I have written over 1.5 million dollars in Federal grants

    Please don’t guess yet, which ones are true, we will get back to the answer shortly.

    Now you might ask yourself what does any of this have to do with me being a member of a team or club?  Good question, we’ll get to that in a second.

    Back in my high school and college days I myself did a bunch of extra curricular activities.
    ¨     I ran my high school yearbook
    ¨     For three years I published a yearly student guide for the entire student body
    ¨     I ran my schools dinner program and my senior class dinner
    ¨     I bound over 1,000 books for the school and kept track of the library
    ¨     I was on student council
    ¨     I co-wrote my student councils constitution
    ¨     I ran student council elections
    ¨     I was the head-RA in the dormitories
    ¨     I even received national honors for works with the dramatic society
    o       I even occasionally went to class!

    And I can tell you each and every one of things helped me get ahead and has helped me become who I am today.

    First let’s look at this from the college and graduate school side.  I am not going to tell you that if you are the starting point guard of the team you can get strait D’s and still get into Harvard.  If you are the star QB, however, then that is a different story.

    I spent a number of years as the Assistant Director of Admissions for a top tier University and I can tell you a few things. 

    At the University we looked at 100’s if not 1,000’s of applications and many of them all look the same.  On one day I could get 50 or more applications where each applicant has the same 1280 SAT and 88 GPA.  I sat in honors meetings where all of the applicants had the same 1500/99.  How do you tell these people apart? Admissions is a lot more than numbers.  Committees look tremendously at non-academic issues.  It is the
    ¨     Sports teams
    ¨     Student Clubs
    ¨     Extra circular activities
    That help distinguish you from your peers. 
    In school and in the real world people are looking for people who file niches, people who are unique, people who do things that they themselves did when they were growing up, or things they wished they did. 

    When at admission committee meetings as well as at scholarship and honor selections meetings, I can tell you that the committee goes on and on about different extracurricular activities applicants have.  I have witnessed firsthand students with a 95 average and 1500 SAT rejected because they were nothing except grades.

    Now while it is hard for me to give good solid examples from the admissions side, as none of you want me to sound clinical and say, candidate X had a 3.2 GPA a 540 SAT math yadda yadda, but he volunteered every week at the nursing home and therefore we accepted him, or we gave her a scholarship, it is easy for me to give you a few real world examples of how extra curricular activities do help you get ahead.

    When I was an intern at a medical school I came into work one day to find that my boss and almost my entire department was gone, fired, kaput.  When I asked the only remaining secretary what I should do, I was told to keep showing up and wait for the new boss to meet with me.  One advantage about being at the bottom to the totem pole is it took two weeks for the new COO figure out that I even existed.  He met with me on a Friday (with me figuring I am a goner, I was ready to just pack up my stuff and leave) and he asked me to tell him about my education and what I did during college.  I told him about college and all my extracurriculars and two of them struck his fancy.
    One was the dramatic society and one was the fact I was the head RA of the dorm.  He told me that back in High School he was in his school’s play and went on about his love for the theatre.   Then he told me that one of his major projects was to build a new residence hall and based on the fact I had a lot of insight on dorms, he put me in change of the initial stages of the design and development.  It saved my job and kept me employed for months. 

    That is just one example of how extracurriculars helped me get ahead.

    If you are still awake you’ll remember I started off with an ice breaker.  Three statements, two true:
    ¨     In high school I was the starting goalie on the hockey team
    ¨     In college I was the head resident advisor for the Office of  University Housing
    ¨     I have written over 1.5 million dollars in Federal grants

    So now you know that in college I was the head resident advisor in the dormitories.  As to having written over 1.5 million dollars worth of federal grants, all I can say is the job that led to that came across my desk because someone was a fan of one of my other club activities during college – while working with student council I was the editor and publisher of a book called “The Guide to the Perplexed” which was distributed and used by over 2,500 people annually.  This boss remembered seeing my name as the editor of “The Guide” and hired me.  That job led me to do a lot of grant writing and ultimate led to me applying for and receiving grants from the NIH.

    So you guessed it, I was not the starting goalie in high school, I was the second string goalie.

    Congratulations to all and much luck in the future.