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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Does Your #UVA Application Need to Show a Spike?

What does "spike" mean to you? If you've been spending time on websites where college admission advice is given out in the last few years, you've probably seen it used in conversations about extracurricular activities. Let's talk about that and what UVA admission officers are looking for when we review the activity section of your Common App.

The Definition

The spike being talked about on those sites refers to the notion that students should tailor their activities (and in some cases, the entire application) to fit their intended major. Most recently, I've seen people talk of showing a "business spike" or "psychology spike." 

The General Concept Isn't New

There were people talking about crafting and packaging yourself to fit a specific theme back when I was applying to college! We thought you had to be either well-rounded or pointy. We'd also hear people talk about students being specialists and generalists. I think that the internet has made "spike" spread very quickly to the point that it's become generally accepted.

My Take on the Spike Messages I'm Seeing

When it comes to activities, we don't craft the class to cover certain interests because we don't have to. When you have an incoming class of ~3,900 students, you don't have to engineer variety. No one is going to say "where are the drummers" or "who will write for the newspaper?" There will be drummers. And writers. And dancers. You get the idea. 

When I look at your activity list, I simply want to see that you're making a contribution in some area of your life. Activities don't have to be related to each other. Activities don't have to be related to your academic interests. Activities should be rewarding, interesting, and fun. You shouldn't be afraid to try something because it doesn't fit into a strategy.

Also, consider the fact that we are looking for curious students who will take advantage of all the wonderful options in the UVA curriculum. It's great to have an idea about what you'd like to study, but I hope you're excited about explore subjects you haven't had access to in high school.

What Applicants Should Do

Ask a few admission officers about this spike concept. You might have to explain what it is, as this idea didn't come out of admission offices. I hope you'll see that we are all interested in learning more about you in the activity section, but we aren't expecting your involvement to dovetail with your academic interests.


Activities should be rewarding and fun, not part of a strategy!