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Best Extracurriculars for College

Here are the best extracurriculars for college and everything you need to know about them to improve your application you stand out from the crowd.

May 22, 2024
  • Student Tips
Best extracurriculars for college

✨5-second summary

  • Extracurriculars are activities you do in addition to your regular classes.
  • They should showcase your personality and demonstrate leadership, dedication, self-motivation, and time-management skills.
  • Some of the best extracurriculars for college: captain of a sports team, internship and work experience, leader of a political debate club, Olympiad winner, fundraiser organizer, and founder of a non-profit.

When it comes to college applications, academic achievements alone often aren’t enough to make you stand out in a competitive field. Here's where extracurricular activities can help. In this article, we'll cover the basics and provide a few examples of the best extracurriculars for college that you can do to increase your chances of getting into your dream school.

What are extracurricular activities?

Extracurriculars are activities you do in addition to your regular classes. Your school often offers quite a few but you can find many more within your local community. Extracurricular activities include sports, music, art, student clubs, academic competitions, and many more.

Younger kids generally go to clubs or so-called organized hobbies, while for high schoolers extracurriculars have a special purpose.

Why are extracurricular activities important?

Everyone takes more or less the same classes at school because they are mandatory and usually regulated by the government. On the other hand, extracurriculars are the activities you can choose, so they tell more about you and your personality to the admission committee than just your academic performance and GPA.

Extracurricular activities can also show that you'll likely be an active contributor to the campus community and provide evidence of your passion. Extracurriculars that are highly relevant to your chosen field can be the key to getting into college.

How many extracurriculars should you have for college?

Some would argue that the more the better, however, it's not quite true. While it's good to have a number of extracurricular activities, you should focus more on quality, duration, and diversity rather than quantity.

How many extracurriculars should you have for college?

It's all about the balance:

  • The perfect combination is having up to 6 extracurriculars where you're dedicated to 1 or 2 and others are secondary.
  • If you engage in 1-2 extracurriculars, it can show that you're not willing to try something new and explore.
  • If you join 10 different clubs for a few months, the committee would probably think that you did that solely for the resume, or wasn't committed to any of those at the very least.
  • Having more than 6 long-term activities is unsustainable for most students.

That being said, don't be afraid to experiment and try many different extracurriculars before making your choice. And don't feel pressured to continue an activity just because you've already started.

What extracurriculars do colleges look for?

There is no definitive list of the "right" extracurriculars. Why you chose a certain activity, how you perform, and what skills you can get from it are more important than what you actually do. From your extracurriculars record, the college admissions officer wants to see:

  • Dedication and passion: You know where your strengths and interests lie and you're willing to commit to them.
  • Leadership and initiative: Many prestigious colleges want to guide students to be future leaders in politics, science, or other fields, thus leadership skills are crucial. Moreover, people tend to show leadership and take initiative at things they excel at so it could be another sign that you're passionate about your chosen field.
  • Self-motivation and responsibility: Committing to a non-mandatory activity requires motivation and holding yourself accountable which are very useful skills in education and life in general.
  • Time management: It's also important to demonstrate that you can pursue your interests while still performing well in school.

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Best extracurriculars for college

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? Or maybe you want to start your own club? If so, consider throwing your hat into the ring. Having a leadership role at any extracurricular can win you bonus points.

  • Student council leader
  • Leader of any club or activity

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 look for someone responsible. There's no better way of demonstrating 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. You can read more in our Guide on Internships.

3. Sports

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

  • Captain or a player of a successful sports team
  • High-ranking athlete
  • Dance crew member

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).

  • Volunteering for a political campaign
  • Founding a political debate club at your school
  • Starting a blog or podcast that discusses current political issues
Best extracurriculars for college: a group of students in a political debate club

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.

  • Olympiads
  • Quiz bowl
  • Debate club

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.

  • Starting a band or a choir
  • Improv
  • Student newspaper editor
  • Talent competitions
  • Drama club

7. Community service

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. Volunteering shows you can think beyond yourself, have empathy for others, and care for your community.

  • Starting a non-profit
  • Organizing a fundraiser
  • Mentoring or tutoring younger students
  • Volunteering at an animal shelter

Conclusion

Your high school journey will be what you make of it. For those looking to attend university, having some of these extracurriculars on your application can help you land a spot at your dream school. However, it's crucial to choose activities that genuinely interest you rather than just aiming for an impressive resume line.

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!

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