Q: I AM SO LOST!! I am a high school sophomore and I am really starting to think about the whole college thing. Generally I'm shy and uncomfortable, but this year I joined Key Club (volunteering) and French Club (which consists of 3 people including myself). I want to find something in school that I can devote a lot of time to, because apparently that's what colleges are looking for, but none of the other clubs interest me. When it comes to French Club, I am even less involved because there are so few people in it. I would try asking friends to come, but they are all in Spanish. One of my friends and I spent the first three meetings or so talking with the advisor about ideas, but none of them ever worked out. I am not much of a leader either, so I don't think I could start my own club. Also I'm not very athletic, so I've just about run out of options. I don't know what to do!!

A: Take it easy! Please do not feel you have run out of options. First of all, the major thing that "colleges are looking for" is a solid transcript. Courses and grades always come first. Yes, extra-curricular activity does play a role in the admissions decision, but there is no hidden agenda. Colleges are not "looking" to see if you are athletic or creative. But they DO want to see if you are looking past yourself.

Generally, admissions officers ask themselves two basic questions about each applicant:

  1. Can this applicant succeed in our academic environment?
  2. What can this applicant contribute to life on our campus?

Students who are involved in something indicate that they are active rather than passive. But it is also important that the activity be genuine. If a student is involved in an club or sport only to "look good" for college, the lack of sincere enthusiasm will come through. So you want your activity to be real.

Let's go back to the French club, because you would not have spent three meeting discussing ideas if you didn't take it seriously. First of all, just because most people you know are taking Spanish, that does not make them ineligible for French club activities! On your posters and flyers, indicate that knowing French is not a requirement. Come up with a program of events that are open to everyone at school:

• Perhaps a teacher who has been to France would come and talk about his or her adventures and show photos.

• Invite a local travel agent to speak about tours to France (stress to this person that coming would be free publicity for the agency).

• Show a French film (with English subtitles).

• Is there a French Embassy or consulate nearby? Invite a representative to speak about summer programs for students.

• Offer food -- food always brings in the audience! Have some brie cheese, croissants, and grapes (no wine!) and charge a nominal amount at the door to cover your expenses.

Have members wear red, white, and blue (the colors of the French flag as well as ours) on club days. Arouse people's curiosity. If people at your school start to see that French Club offers fun activities, the word will get around.

If you take my advice and do these things, you will see your actual leadership develop. Above all, stick with it and have fun. And I guarantee – by the time you are a senior, French Club will be well-known and popular at your school. Bonne chance! (good luck!)