1. Leadership activities

While in school, look for opportunities to build and showcase your leadership skills. Is there a position available in a club or on your school’s student council? If so, consider throwing your hat into the ring. Universities want to see you’ll be a strong leader on campus, and this a great way to show them what you’ve got to offer.

2. Internships and work experience

Some students choose to focus on achieving perfect grades in school, but this can prove to be a bit of a hindrance in the long run if that’s all they give attention to. While admissions officers want to see excellent grades, they also want demonstrations of responsibility. There’s no better way of doing that than by maintaining a job or participating in an internship while in school. This shows schools that you understand the importance of hard work and commitment.

3. Sports

High school athletics are more important than many may realize, especially when it comes to scoring your dream university place. Students who participate in sports, especially team sports, can show they understand teamwork, communication, and dedication, as well as the ability to successfully balance the demands of sports and education.

4. Political activism

Are you passionate about local, state, or national elections? Do you have a cause you champion, and something you’ve given your time to? If so, don’t be afraid to share that in your admissions application. This showcases that not only are you socially aware, you’re passionate, and dedicated to a cause (or various causes).

5. Academic clubs

Clubs are great, especially when they have an academic focus. Participating in clubs, such as language clubs, can help an admissions committee begin to better understand who you are as a student, and show you’re willing to be involved in your academic community. Students who are engaged in high school are more likely to be involved at university, which is the kind of student universities want.

6. Creative activities

If you aren’t the type of person to participate in more run-of-the-mill extracurricular activities, it might be time to think outside the box. Creative activities, such as participation in your local art community, playing music, writing a blog, acting in the cast of a play, or building websites can help universities' admissions staff understand how you’ll fit into their academic community.

7. Technological skills

It’s hardly a secret the world is changing, especially in light of COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, universities and employers were moving more towards a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts) focus for education. As a result, demonstrating you have the technical skills that will help ease your transition into university can help move you closer to the top of the acceptance list.

8. Travel

If you are well-traveled, it would probably be beneficial to mention that in your applications. However, if your travel is limited to family beach vacations or trips to Disney, you might want to reconsider adding that. Instead, focus on including your experiences traveling abroad and meeting new people from all over the world -- or other opportunities you may have had to immerse yourself in and learn from other cultures. If you have learned a new language, perhaps helped by your travels, don’t hesitate to include that as well.

9. Volunteer

One of the best things you can do to make yourself stand out is to be generous with your time. Find a cause you believe in, and devote yourself to it. High school student Elena Kloss is one student who donates her time to serving her community. At high school, she's been involved in basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and football. She is a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society, and a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Inspired by her Human Biology class, she decided to become a nurse and intends to go to Carroll University to pursue a nursing degree, with plans to eventually work in an emergency room or in a labor and delivery unit.

Her teacher Anthony Mack writes, “She believes in serving her community whether it is as a hospitality worker at her house of worship, donating her time to the Lasallian Youth service organization, or by volunteering to mentor the youth of our community through her work with Big Brother Big Sisters.” Volunteering shows you can think beyond yourself, have empathy for others, and care for your community.

10. Student newspaper

Whether or not you’re a budding journalist, there are invaluable skills to be learned from working on the student newspaper at your school. You’ll gain organizational, writing, interpersonal, and administrative skills, as well as an awareness of wider society. There are many different positions, all of which will look great on a college application and can serve you in the future as well. It definitely won’t hurt if you find an article of yours published above the fold, either.

Your high school journey will be what you make of it. For those looking on towards attending university, having some of these extracurriculars on your application can help you land a spot at your dream school. By demonstrating you’re the type of person universities want to include in their incoming classes, you’re sure to make a great impression on admissions officers!