Hello everyone, today I’m going to share with you some tips and tricks to picking extracurricular activities that will pop on your college applications. Here’s the honest truth about extracurriculars: You should enjoy your time outside of class, so do what you want with who you want. Passion shines through in essays on a college application—doing an activity you don’t care about because you think it will look good on applications will be obvious when you can’t write anything meaningful about it.
An extracurricular activity is anything you do outside of school that isn’t a job. This can be a sport, club, faith based organization, sport, volunteering etc. When choosing these activities, choose things that suit your interests but also scare you a little bit. When I was a freshman, I knew I wanted to play basketball, which I had been playing since elementary school, but I chose to try out for lacrosse as well, which I had never played before. I was scared to try a new sport but I knew it would be something that I would likely enjoy because I knew I liked team sports.
Breadth is also an important feature when choosing your extracurriculars. As I mentioned previously in my course selection post, having a wide variety of interests shows that you are a well-rounded person. It will also open you up to having different friends with different interests.
The last key feature of your extracurriculars is commitment. This means being involved consistently over an extended period of time. Colleges want students that are going to be committed to their school for at least four years, and dedication to activities is a great way to show this. For example, starting a club and being its president for one year will not look as good on an application as joining an already established club and going to weekly meetings for all four years. You can also boost your extracurriculars by adding increasing leadership over the course of your membership.
A good personal example of an extracurricular with increasing leadership would be my involvement in the Junior State of America (JSA), a student run debate organization with local chapters at over 500 high schools nationwide. I joined as a member of my school’s chapter my sophomore year, regularly attended meetings, and ran my chapters social media accounts. As a junior, I held a small regional position (Golden Gate Region Mayor for those familiar with the organization) in which I organized events, delegated work to subordinates, and contributed overall to running the state’s operations. As a senior, I held a large statewide position (Chapter Intelligence Agency Director) that involved organizing a lot of agents, communicating with other state leadership as well as JSA staff, chapter presidents, and teacher advisors. I partnered this role with being the chapter co-president of my school’s chapter, where I planned weekly meetings and held on campus events.
My JSA experience is a pretty good example of an extracurricular that will look good on college applications. I had three years of commitment, increasing leadership experience, and partnered with athletics, showed a breadth of interests. Not only did it look good on college applications though, I also made a lot of amazing friends from throughout the country, created some of my best high school memories, and gained a lot of self-confidence.
Because JSA was so meaningful to me, it was pretty easy for me to write about in my application essays. This is where a lot of the value of extracurriculars shines through. Admissions staff can already tell what your academic interests are based on the intended major you select on the application. They can already tell whether or not you do well in school based on your transcript. The essay brings you to life on paper and shows what your interests and personality are. The easiest way to manifest these things is by talking about what you do when you aren’t in school, but don’t worry, I will touch more on this in my post about essay writing.
My last reminder is that you should choose activities that you think you will enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, you can always choose to not pursue it further. From that experience you learn. If you do enjoy it, even better! Extracurriculars in high school are a great way to make friends and memories.
Disclaimer: This post was originally published on Cleverly Caroline on February 14, 2019.