How to Choose Stand-Out Extracurricular Activities
Pick activities that will impress college admissions officers while also enriching your high school experience
Extracurricular activities are undoubtedly important when it comes to experiencing personal growth and finding success in the college admissions process. With a sea of options out there, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed when it comes to finding activities that are right for you. Consider these four tips in order to make extracurricular choices in which you’ll excel.
1. Choose activities that you truly enjoy
First and foremost, consider what you really enjoy doing. If you love being up on stage, audition for a school play; if you’re mad about science, join a student-run chemistry club. The more you enjoy the activities you pursue, the more likely you’ll be to excel at them, ultimately impressing college admissions officers. In the end, your extracurricular choices should inform colleges about who you really are -- participating in activities simply to put them on your college application won’t get you any points. You are unique just as you are and your activities should prove it!
2. Don’t overbook your schedule
When it comes to extracurricular activities, admissions officers want to see quality over quantity. It’s better to be deeply involved in two extracurricular activities than to dabble in five. Colleges are ultimately looking for depth over breadth when it comes to your life outside the classroom. It’s also very important to make sure you have enough time to keep up with your academic work, so make sure to maintain slots in your schedule for homework and studying (and rest!).
It’s better to be deeply involved in two extracurricular activities than to dabble in five.
3. Seek out jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities
Having a job or internship shows colleges that you’re grounded, independent and driven. You get bonus points if your gig shows interest in a certain career; for instance, an internship at a local newspaper shows colleges that you’re enthusiastic about journalism. When it comes to volunteering, choose an issue that tugs at your heartstrings. Whether that means serving at a soup kitchen or helping out at an animal shelter, colleges will see that you enjoy giving back to your community and that you care about the world around you.
4. Vow to really commit to your activities
Once you’ve chosen your activities, make an effort to become as deeply involved in them as possible. Nancy Meislahn, dean of admissions and financial aid at Wesleyan University, said the following in an interview with U.S. News and World Report: “When I read an application, I expect to see a growth and evolution from exploration and ‘dabbling’ to real commitment, maturation, and leadership.” A good way to prove that you’re committed to an activity is to take on a leadership role. This not only shows colleges that you’re deeply involved; it also shows them that you’re capable of leading, which is an attribute that admissions officers seek.
Remember: Your extracurricular activities should reflect your passions and interests. Admissions officers will not be impressed if they get the sense that you’re involved in an activity for the sole purpose of putting it on your college applications. Ultimately, colleges want to get a peek into who you really are and what you really care about. If your activities can provide them with this “peek,” you’ll be in good shape when the college admissions process rolls around.