Applying to college can be super competitive. And while grades are a huge indicator of the type of student you are there are other things that will make a student stand out as an applicant and impress college admissions. A college will weigh participation in extracurricular activities because they demonstrate that a student has developed skills and knowledge in specific areas. It also shows that they have participated in activities that enhance personal development.
Two Types Of Extracurricular Activities
There are two types of extracurricular activities that colleges are looking for. I recommend that you do a mix of both of these activities as they will show college admissions that you are well-rounded and experienced.
Also, it’s very important to note, that consistency is key. Consistency is how you will impress a college. They don’t want to see you join the debate team once or volunteer your time twice. Colleges are looking for a consistent pursuit of extracurricular activities. This is the key to using extracurricular activities in your favor on your college applications.
1. Academic Extracurricular Activities:
Academic activities are just as they sound. They are activities that show learning that goes beyond the classroom. These can be in school or outside of school. Examples include school clubs, study abroad, AP courses, concurrent enrollment, honor society, Spanish or Foreign Language clubs, academic summer programs like science or coding camps, and competitions or contests like Spelling Bees or Science Fairs.
2. Community Extracurricular Activities:
These activities are just as they sound as well. They will be activities where you volunteer your time without compensation. Activities that include your town and those who live in it. Examples include Boy or Girl Scouts, Red Cross, 4-H, Local Animal Shelter, Community Garden, Litter Removal, Special Olympics, or Adopt-a-Highway.
Here are my top 5 extracurricular activities that I recommend for students who want to strengthen and stand out when applying to college.
1. Get A Part Time Job
Yes, your employment history can be put down on your college applications. Colleges love to see part-time students who have work experience. Working while in school can show that a student is responsible and motivated. It also shows good time management.
Furthermore, working while in high school can demonstrate a student’s ability to earn money and help support themselves. Admissions departments will view a student who can contribute more than just academics.
I don’t want you to think that if you have a job you won’t be able to fit in more extracurricular activities and that will hurt your application. Most colleges will not view your employment this way. They will see that you can financially help your family out and learn many of the desirable skills that colleges are looking for.
2. Sports Teams
Sports are one of the most common extracurricular activities for students. Many schools and towns offer an array of different sports for students to choose from. Admissions departments like to see participation in sports from prospective students. Playing team sports goes beyond the individual. Team sports show a willingness to work with others and work toward a shared goal.
In addition, playing a school or club sport can also demonstrate drive, commitment, and time-management skills. If you’ve been in a sport long-term be sure to include that on your application. Explain what it has meant to you and what you learned from it. How you have grown and how it has shaped you as a person and a student.
3. Educational Camps And Classes
Educational summer camps and classes typically focus on a single subject where students improve their academic understanding in areas such as science and technology. These camps and classes go into depth on a topic and allow students to explore, discover, and learn important points and aspects on a level they couldn’t in a typical classroom. This develops a deeper level of comprehension. There are many great educational camps that will teach classes in subjects like coding, math, robotics, and technology.
When a student attends an educational summer camp, it shows colleges that they are dedicated to their education and want to advance in a specific academic area. It demonstrates that a student is learning more than friendship building, they are challenging themselves while working on educational skills and following their educational interests.
4. Academic Teams And Clubs
Academic teams and clubs are another great way for students to show their dedication to education. It shows that a student wants an intellectual challenge and to work on personal growth as well as learn all the skills and benefits of being on a team.
There are many different types of academic teams and clubs. It goes beyond the debate team and chess club. There are math, science, engineering, chemistry, biology, astronomy, physics, robotics, etc. teams and clubs that will challenge you.
These clubs can demonstrate to college admissions your interest in learning and knowledge beyond just coursework. A potential college will see your interest, commitment, and drive. In addition, if the team you are on competes it demonstrates a competitive spirit which many colleges view as advantageous.
5. Volunteering And Community Service
I believe volunteering is one of the must-have extracurricular activities for any college application.
Volunteer work is a great way to give back to the local community and show your commitment to public service. Not only is it a great way to connect with the local community but it also is great for developing new skills, boosting self-confidence, connecting with others, and raising social awareness. All of which colleges love to see on applications.
If you are looking for a way to volunteer and give back to your community, DoSomething.org has an awesome list of over 70 community service ideas.
Creating The Best Habits You Can
College is very different from high school. The bad habits that allowed you to breeze through high school will ultimately hinder you in college. Success in college will require you to make major changes to your academic habits. Here are 6 High School Habits You Should Drop Before Going To College which will have you ready for college life.
Sensei Side Note:
There are other extracurricular activities that look great during college admissions, this list includes my top 5. In addition to these 5, you would want to include other activities that show consistency and dedication. If you are a dedicated musician, or artist, or participate in performing arts, Music and Arts are also extracurricular activities that will impress the colleges you apply to. Another program that demonstrates dedication, respect, and commitment is the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). The JROTC is available for middle school and high school students to participate in. The JROTC is an amazing program that prepares students for leadership roles while teaching them responsibility and community service.