I just got into a PhD program and was asked to give a presentation to my juniors regarding grad school applications.
In my country (Asia region), people are fanatical about non-academic extra curricular activities that are totally not related to their topic (sports, debate team, run charities etc). E.g. A student with good grades and is the captain of the school's basket ball team can get picked for a mathematics PhD scholarship over the top mathematics student with zero non-academic activities. The belief is that scholars should be "all rounded".
I think the situation is different in the USA. I would like to encourage my juniors who have excellent academic records but without significant non-academic extra curricular activities to try for the USA because of this.
I understand there are scholarships like the Rhodes which do look at non-academic achievements. But is my general understanding of non-academic activities for USA PhD admissions correct?