If you are getting ready to apply to college, we bet you have quite a few things on your mind right now, such as school grades, standardized test scores, and essays. However, another crucial part of the college application process that students often overlook is the importance of meaningful extracurricular activities.
While some may argue that certain aspects of your application (hello: GPA and test scores) are more important than others depending on the level of competitiveness for the schools you are applying to, it is still crucial to ensure that you are getting involved in meaningful extracurricular activities.
Colleges want to see that you have excelled both inside and outside of the classroom and that you possess the necessary skills and strengths to bring a fresh perspective and strong contributions to the campus. Additionally, another bonus of being involved in extracurriculars is that they are also a great way to discover new passions and interests while getting more involved in your surrounding community.
With the many dozens of possibilities out there for you to get involved in, it's normal to feel overwhelmed.
Ultimately, any extracurriculars you choose to participate in should be ones that you are prepared to commit to, as a strong level of commitment will show admissions officers that you are focused, dedicated, and set on accomplishing the goals you set for yourself.
Additionally, another pro of committing to any given activity is that, over time, you will develop skills (teamwork, independence, confidence, time management, etc) that are necessary to succeed once you’ve made it on campus.
If you are completely unsure of where to begin, fear not! Here, we will dive into our top 10 extracurricular activity areas that look great on college apps. Let’s get started!
Joining a sports team is a great way to develop the teamwork skills that many schools look for in strong applicants. Common sports programs at most high schools include track, basketball, hockey, volleyball, tennis, football, soccer, baseball, and softball. Dance, cycling, climbing, swimming, martial arts, fencing, and hiking are just a few of the less common sports out there for you to get involved in beyond what your school offers. Also, not all sports are team-based, which is okay too!
Whether it is through a club at your school or through a different organization within your community, volunteering is truly a “double-whammy” - you have the opportunity to meet and interact with new people while contributing to a cause that you care about.
Many schools offer community service clubs that are intertwined in the events of the surrounding district, which make it easy to get involved. If you are looking for something outside of school, you could even look into joining an organization such as Habitat for Humanity. If you can’t find a volunteering club that you are interested in but you know that there is a need for help in that area, consider starting it up yourself!
A part-time job can be a beneficial way to gain real-world skills such as accountability, customer service, and how to work well under pressure. The possibilities for part-time jobs will certainly vary depending on where you live, but a few common part-time jobs for high school students include babysitting, working at a restaurant, or working at a store in your area.
If you already have an idea of what you want to major in once you get onto campus, a great way to show your passion and commitment to that area is to try to seek out part-time employment opportunities that align with your intended field.
Take me for example.
I knew that I wanted to go into marketing and business when I applied for college.
So, if I was smarter in my high school days, I would have looked into seeing if any local businesses or organizations needed help with their marketing efforts. Not only would this have been solid exposure to my desired field early on, but it would have shown admissions officers that I was the real deal.
(For anyone wondering, I worked at a flower shop when I was in high school. Not exactly screaming "BUSINESS!" there!)
Ignite your creative side by joining an arts-related club! Activities within performing/arts can include anything from drama to slam poetry to photography and film to dance.
Even if your school does not have a theater department, it is still possible that there are other clubs or schools around your community that have one, and can allow you to get more involved.
Student government is one of the most popular ways to not only get more involved in your school but to also gain some great leadership and teamwork experience.
Say you are hoping to study finance or a related field in college; in that case, running for a treasurer position where you can manage the school’s budget and keep track of expenses would be a great way to gain some experience and responsibility working in your area of interest before stepping on campus.
If you are passionate about seeking change within a certain issue in our society, whether that issue is animal rights, breast cancer awareness, or helping the environment, then joining a social activist club might be a great choice for you.
In addition to joining clubs that align with your activist interests, you can also consider taking the initiative within your community to start something new. Maybe you organize a peaceful protest in your area to argue against an unfair law, or you host a county-wide fundraiser to raise money for a charity that is close to your heart.
Maybe you love to sing, play the guitar, or just get together with friends and talk about music.
Whatever it may be, there are many different ways to turn an interest in music into a dedicated extracurricular activity. You can join your school (or your community) chorus group, orchestra, or jazz band; other possibilities range from forming a band with some classmates or friends or even making up your own club to educate your fellow peers on the ins and outs of your favorite genre.
Even if it's not in a group setting (like being in a band), remember that the time you spend towards learning or practicing an instrument is still an extracurricular activity!
There are many options for you to get involved in both in and out of school if you enjoy an activity such as writing, graphic design, website-making, photography, or working with TV/radio.
You could join the school newspaper to gain experience interviewing fellow students and faculty and writing about important or relevant topics.
Consider getting involved in your school or local radio station, or working part-time for a local business in need of help with expanding their online presence if you are more passionate about the digital/technology side of the spectrum.
Clubs within this area are a great way to gain crucial experience with interpersonal communication and leadership while also learning more about a wide variety of topics.
Academic Competition is a very broad area of interest, but some specific examples of clubs you can get involved in are science fairs, math leagues, spelling bees, or even robotics competitions.
The range of opportunities might vary depending on what your school and local community offer. However, any club within this realm is sure to teach you more of what you are interested in, challenge your creativity, and put your competitive skills to the test!
If you haven’t seen anything jump out at you from this list, remember that there are still options out there! A smart place to continue your search is on your school’s website, where there is likely a list of all of the clubs that your school offers for students to sign up for.
If you're passionate about something but your school doesn’t have a club that focuses on it, consider starting it up yourself! Ultimately, regardless of what you choose to pursue, it is crucial to do it well, give it everything you’ve got, and of course, have fun!