After Class: Affinity Groups

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Here’s a quiz. Do you know what these acronyms stand for?

  1. ASA
  2. GSA
  3. BSU
  4. BAG
  5. FLO

In high school, you may get to know these collections of letters as shorthand for affinity groups. An affinity group is a set of people who share a common background or characteristic that is an important part of their identity. Many schools offer a potpourri of these organizations, such as an Asian Student Alliance, a Gay-Straight Alliance, a Black Student Union, a Brazilian Appreciation Group, a Female Leaders Organization (the answers to your quiz), or many others. Celebrating diversity and exploring various backgrounds – both our own and that of others – have tremendous personal and education value, on top of being activities that college admissions definitely appreciate. Involvement in affinity groups allow students to deliberately set aside time to learn about more about themselves and other cultures.

However, some school affinity groups are disappointingly basic and even shortsighted, like a Hispanic Culture Club that gathers only to eat tacos once a month. Be sure to find groups that take their programming seriously enough to create important experiences for people to learn. Fortunately, most offer a chance to gain new insights through speaker events, field trips, group discussions, community service, and joint research projects.

If your school offers an affinity group, check it out. Even if you don’t feel like you technically fit the criteria of that group, most are open to anyone who simply wants to learn more about that particular culture. If your school doesn’t offer the affinity group you seek, start your own with some classmates. You might also consider joining an affinity group related to the language you’re studying in school. Participation in affinity groups enhances your own understanding of the world and also provides leadership opportunities in your school.

Jeff Knox

Counselor

As an education planning resources counselor, Jeff Knox guides both middle school and high school students through their educational careers with an aim toward admissions to selective institutions. His resourceful one-on-one approach to admissions planning encourages students to strategically develop their academic interests and talents and to create a compelling narrative, whether applying for...

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