Are you an introvert wondering if you should have put more effort into stepping outside your comfort zone? Are you looking to find the best extracurricular activities for Ivy League schools? You are in the right place if you can answer yes to either of these questions.
We will provide you with the best extracurricular activities for college applications and help you understand if extracurriculars in high school are really all that important. You probably have heard repeatedly that if you want to get into a good school, you must be more than just academically successful. Schools want to see that you are not only a leader in the classroom but outside of it as well.
Are Extracurricular Activities Important in College Applications?
Though extracurriculars are not the most important factor in your college application, they still play a significant role. Unique extracurricular activities give you a competitive advantage over your competition. Though a high GPA is impressive, imagine someone who can maintain a high GPA while participating in a rigorous sport or club.
Not only does that show passion for the activity, it shows that you are dedicated and disciplined. It speaks more to your character than someone who can maintain a high GPA with no additional distractions or stress. Extracurriculars also show that students have an interest outside of the classroom, which they are interested in developing.
What Type of Extracurricular Activities Matter in College?
Though it’s great to show your involvement with various clubs, some clubs or activities will hold more weight when placed on your college applications. The activities listed in this section include some of the best extracurricular activities for Ivy League schools or, generally, highly competitive schools. This list of unique extracurricular activities is divided into sections to give you a better idea of the overall categories that are more important. These categories include the following:
- Athletic Commitments
- Roles of Leadership
- Longstanding Commitments
- Employment Work and Internships
- Volunteer or Community Work
- Drama or Theater Club
7 Best Extracurricular Activities for College Applications
Now that you know about the various categories of activities that are the best for college, we will detail which specific activities colleges like to see the most. These activities often will prove your commitment to yourself and even the activity. However, contrary to popular belief, regardless of the school you want to attend, there are no best extracurricular activities for Harvard or any other Ivy League schools.
Colleges want to see that you have been involved and are committed. The type of activity you choose often relates to your personality and work ethic. Colleges also want to see that your interests coincide with your educational aspirations.
Clubs where you hold a leadership position are the most important to emphasize on your college application. Students who hold leadership positions are the ideal candidates for admission because they have a competitive advantage over their counterparts. Leadership activities can mean several things. You can be a leader within the student government; you can hold a board position of a club or the equivalent. You can even be a leader in a community organization or church group.
Having relevant and consistent work experience is another great advantage over your classmates. Adding this to your resume shows you are responsible and adaptable to different settings. This can also be a major additive if your job is in the same job arena as your major. This demonstrates a passion for a given area and lets them know you are dedicated.
Athletics is one thing that colleges love to see. Seeing athletics on your application also means that you will likely participate at the collegiate level. Athletes are great assets to the college community because they are committed, hardworking, and likely good team players. Students who participate in athletics also sometimes have the option of athletics scholarships.
You should check with the institution for more information on what sports they will provide scholarships for. If you have played sports and quit them, I would leave them off my application. This could look bad on the student and, in contrast, show a lack of devotion. Athletics are not limited to the typical sports like basketball or football. Sports also include things like bowling, cross country, lacrosse, and even golf.
Colleges love to see that you are philanthropic and care about your community. Activities or events where you have consistently participated, raised large amounts of money, or organized events for fundraising are great things to add to your application. They also prove that you will be an asset to the college community.
Internships are another extracurricular thing you probably don’t consider when filling out your application. Your internships are a great way to show you can handle multiple commitments and apply your learning. These do not have to be paid positions but where you are consistently learning and growing. Internships can be found in your school, and some high schools even have dual enrollment courses paired with internships. Internships, like churches, can also be found within your local government or community.
Your application should also showcase your passion projects. This refers to things you are passionate about outside of academics. This can include cooking, the arts, or other things that interest you. Schools want to see that you are well rounded and not just educationally focused and nothing else.
Advanced Educational Opportunities
These opportunities do not exist at all schools. However, some schools will put students in touch with their local colleges and introduce them to programs that will provide dual credit and work opportunities. Students are often allowed to work after school and during the summer hours.
Extracurricular Activities You Shouldn’t Put on the Your Application
You have seen the variety of activities that should be put on your college application. However, it’s also important to know what you shouldn’t put on the application.
Middle School Clubs & Sports
You should put several unique extracurricular activities on your college application; however, clubs you participated in in middle school should be left off. Colleges will not be impressed by your involvement in the 6th-grade yearbook committee or 8th-grade choir.
Though summer camp was likely a great time, it should not be on your college application unless you were a counselor and not an attendee. However, there are some other exceptions. If you attended a program that is super competitive to get into, that is an achievement you want to highlight.
Clubs Where Your Participation Faded
It would be nice to put all the clubs you have tried to join in your lifetime, but it wouldn’t be smart. Your application then has a reverse effect than what you are going for. Any clubs where you were not an active participant should not be added to your application. This includes any clubs you intended to join but only managed to make it to one meeting.
Odd jobs you did around the home or your school are two things that should be left off the list. Colleges do not need to know if you cut grass for your neighbors or shoveled snow during the wintertime.
How Many Extracurricular Activities Is Enough?
You may think you need to have a long list of extracurricular activities for students looking to gain admission into college, but that is not the case. There is no set number of extracurricular activities that colleges look for. However, colleges do look for students to be well-rounded and multi-faceted.
4-5 is a good number of activities for students to be involved in. This number can grow based on the number of seasonal activities that you do. It is also important to remember that extracurricular activities are more than sports, so though you may think you haven’t done enough, you may already have surpassed your threshold.
One important thing is not to overdo it. It is important to have balance and maintain time for yourself. Though you may think you have the capacity to take on many responsibilities. You can not let your grades slip for your extracurriculars. After all, you are going to college to further your education.
How Do Colleges Evaluate Extracurriculars?
Colleges want to know that the activities you have committed to have helped you grow. Your extracurricular activities tell a story about your personality and show your level of dedication and commitment. Having a great GPA while juggling sports, work, or even community commitments proves you are dedicated and can manage competing priorities. This is what colleges look for. Several factors are evaluated when thinking about your extracurriculars. These include the following:
- Length of Involvement time – Colleges want to see that you are all in once you have committed to something.
- Involvement type: a participant or leader
- Community Impact – Colleges want to see that your activity impacted the community or made the world greater.
- Themes in Involvement – Colleges are looking for any themes in your involvement and if they tell more about you.
As you begin to look at schools, think about the major you hope to enter and the school you are applying to.
For example, showing extracurriculars centered around technology would be ideal if you want to major in Computer Science or even computer engineering. This means highlighting any involvement in programming clubs or competitions and any internships. Suppose you are looking for the best extracurricular activities for Ivy League schools.
In that case, you’ll want to showcase the most selective activities or competitions in which you have participated. This would include any championships you have won, science competitions, or any research opportunities you may have had.
Wrapping Things Up: Best Extracurricular Activities for College Applications
Regardless of what school you want to attend, colleges are looking to get to know you outside of your academics. They want to see that there are layers to you and you are passionate about something outside of your education. They want to see unique extracurricular activities that highlight you as a person.
Clubs in which you hold a leadership position or have a long-term commitment are great candidates for your college application. They show you can perform academically and work in a team for the group’s betterment.