I’ve heard a lot of people in the quizbowl community ask how to effectively talk about quizbowl on college applications. While I’m not an expert at the admissions process, quizbowl was a major part of my high school experience so it came up quite a bit in my own application essays and interviews. Even after two years of college, I’m still pretty involved and frequently refer to my current quizbowl responsibilities in cover letters and conversations with internship recruiters. Building on what I wrote in this post last fall, here are some more specific ideas for framing skills from your high school quizbowl experience on college apps (and maybe even internship/job apps as well).
Disclaimer: A lot of people (admissions officers and alumni interviewers included) don’t really know what quizbowl is, so make sure you have a quick explanation on hand. You can use “it’s like Jeopardy! with teams” if you really want to, but I usually go with something about “interscholastic academic competition.” Specific details about question pyramidality or tossup/bonus formats might be too much detail for this purpose.
College admissions committees are looking for students to demonstrate how they are motivated, intellectually curious, hard-working, and so on (basically any other positive trait that you can clearly outline). Here are some skills from playing quizbowl you could highlight:
- Intellectual curiosity: If you play quizbowl, you probably enjoy learning more than people who wouldn’t spend their free time studying and picking up knowledge about literature, history, science, or whatever subject you’re into. Maybe studying Renaissance paintings sparked an interest in art history. This is a great tidbit to bring up in an essay or interview; even (or especially) if you’re convinced you want to major in astrophysics or something else that isn’t art, it’s good to show you’re well-rounded and passionate about a variety of things.
- Teamwork: If you have teammates, you most likely had to learn to work with them, whether to confer well during bonuses or to maintain team chemistry at tournaments. If you’ve helped to organize an event or put a set together, you’ve had to figure out communication and problem-solving there. Emphasizing the interpersonal skills that come from experience on a team shows that you can succeed and contribute positively in student orgs and future collaborative tasks.
- Self-motivation: Maybe after noticing your team was missing every mythology tossup, you read up on myth systems last summer and have never missed a tossup on Norse gods since. If you can get yourself to do difficult tasks and overcome challenges, highlight your sense of drive and work ethic.
- Commitment: This can be shown through anything you’ve consistently pursued without giving up. Several years of substantial involvement in quizbowl (or any other extracurricular) and following through on duties can show commitment.
- Leadership: Captains and club officers have experience working with different personalities and handling an array of responsibilities, from leading practices and boosting team morale to recruiting new members and even registering for tournaments, depending on how involved the coach is. With or without an explicitly outlined leadership role, you can show initiative and leadership skills in ways like mentoring younger players. For my own college apps, I wrote about taking initiative in directing events and pursuing outreach efforts.
- Creativity: I’ve seen people come up with pretty creative ideas for studying, online leagues, fun practice activities, and more. Thinking outside the box is a valuable skill to emphasize for college, and there are plenty of ways to show creativity in conjunction with leadership and teamwork abilities.
- Community service: Whether hosted at your school or somewhere else, staffing tournaments (reading, scorekeeping, doing stats, or in any other role) is a great way to give back to the quizbowl community, and you can definitely show this on an application. Other volunteer experiences could include things like helping out with your middle school’s team.
Depending on what your time in quizbowl has involved, there are countless other aspects you could highlight as well. A huge part of a successful college (or internship/job) application is just effectively communicating the skills you have and your capacity for growth. Playing tournaments, writing questions, moderating, and organizing events are enriching experiences, and you can use them to your advantage in showcasing who you are. Good luck, and feel free to comment or reach out for advice!