When evaluating fresh applicants, college admission officers look for the total package. Variables they examine include cumulative GPA, standardized test scores, recommendation letters, and extracurriculars. Unfortunately, students often take on too many extracurriculars at their detriment.
Check out our recommendations for extracurriculars that look good on your college application, plus tips on how to select them for yourself.
Top Extracurriculars For College Categories (Part I)
Here are some basic extracurricular categories to consider checking out and what they offer.
Student Government – Joining the student government is a fantastic way to show that school matters are important to you. Plus that you have personal qualities that enable you to be voted in by your fellow students.
Academic Clubs/Teams – An academic club or team lets you showcase your passion for learning new skills and subjects, while also developing a competitive edge. When it comes to how easy or difficult a subject should be, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Embrace things that seem out of your depth and give it your all.
Debate Team – Debate team students develop a number of helpful skills such as critical thinking, public speaking, and public engagement. All of these skills help you not only in life but are also sought after by prospective colleges too.
Arts Clubs – Creative art clubs, like drama, music band, or other visual arts promote open-mindedness and creativity. Those qualities often help add to overall campus life, enriching the experience for everyone learning and living together. Admissions officers definitely look to build open-minded classes.
Internships – Internships don’t only apply to college life; they’re also helpful in getting you into college. Internships show that you’re capable of handling greater responsibilities outside of regular classes, and are already testing waters in the workforce. Overall, the initiative that successful internships require easily translates into handling college easier.
Top Extracurriculars For College Categories (Part II)
Here are a few more categories to consider.
Culture Clubs – Diversity and culture are promoted and appreciated on college campuses more than ever. If you decide to join a culture club while in high school, that willingness to learn about and accept, people and ways of thinking different than your own is attractive to many schools. That ability to develop your own awareness and share it with others won’t hurt you when applying to schools.
Community Service / Volunteering – Most schools will want some level of volunteer work done by applicants, in order to seriously consider them. Volunteering, or community service, looks great on your future resume too. If you’re not sure what to do, check online for local non-profit organizations in your area and contact them for volunteer opportunities.
Student Newspaper – Writing for the student newspaper is great for two reasons. First, it demonstrates your willingness to tackle responsibility for something that can directly affect other people, in this case, fellow students. Second, in order to write for the student newspaper, your own English and writing skills have to be better than merely competent. This fact shows admissions officers that you can theoretically handle the heavy writing workloads that college entails.
Part-Time Work – If you work a part-time job, and that takes up most of your time, don’t worry about having enough extracurriculars too. Schools know that many students often work part-time jobs to save money and help their families out. You won’t be penalized as a result, because they know you’re working for a good cause.
School Athletics – Participating in school sports helps students develop in various ways, from learning teamwork, building individual leadership skills, to maintaining good physical fitness. Athletics will help out in many admissions officers’ eyes, but don’t hesitate to balance them out with other extracurriculars that showcase your other talents and experience too.
Specific Extracurricular Clubs/Organizations To Seek Out
If you’re interested in specific clubs, here’s a basic list to cross-reference with what your high school currently offers.
- National Honor Society (NHS)
- Student Government Association
- STEM Club
- Girls Who Code
- Astronomy Club
- Chemistry Club
- Engineering Club
- Biology Club
- Math Club
- Physics Club
- Coding Club
- Drama Club
- Marching Band
- Concert Band
- Jazz Band
- Literary Magazine Club
- Poetry Club
- Photography Club
- Dance Club/Team
Tips To Remember
Before joining anything, keep these points in mind, so that you can get the most out of your experience.
Don’t Dabble – Many students think that you need to do a ton of different extracurriculars over the course of high school to look impressive. The problem with this “more is more” mentality is that it often appears that you’ve dabbled for the past four years than seriously committing your time and focus.
That’s why it’s better to have a select few activities that you’ve worked on, rather than jumping from club to club. It’s better to do drama and debate for four years straight than drama for one year, debate the second year, basketball your third year, and math club your senior year. You’ll also be able to showcase your contributions much more thoroughly.
Pursue With Passion – If you enjoy what you do, have a talent for it, and end up becoming a leader in it, then you’ve found the perfect extracurricular for yourself. It doesn’t matter how small or prestigious the club or sport is; if you can demonstrate your passion and accomplishments within that organization to college admission officers, they will notice and remember when reviewing the rest of your application.
Make Sure Your Extracurriculars Align With Schools – When researching potential schools, check if they have clubs or academic programs that align with your extracurriculars. Let’s say that you spent three years in the Physics Club and two of your prospective schools have excellent Physics departments.
If you’re interested in that major, then mark down the time and experience you gained in Physics Club. Those schools will see that your extracurricular activity aligns well with what they offer, making you appear to be a greater potential asset to have.
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Top Extracurriculars For College FAQ
What are some common extracurriculars that look good to schools?
Some helpful extracurricular activities include the student government, academic clubs or teams, debate team, high school athletics, and the student newspaper.
How many extracurriculars should I list on my application?
It’s better to list activities you’ve done for a long time versus too many. If you’ve done 2 clubs or teams for 3 to 4 years, put those down instead of 8 different activities you only did for a year.
What’s one thing admissions officers want to see in my extracurricular activities?
They want to see your passion and your achievements.
What’s another thing I should consider about my extracurriculars when applying?
When researching potential schools, check if they have clubs or academic programs that align with your extracurriculars.