Colleges are looking for more than "walking brains." They want your commitment, passion, talent, and curiosity. Your extracurricular activities put a spotlight on these qualities. Learn how these "extras" can help your case.
When college admissions staff look over your application, the first things they will notice are your college prep grades, the difficulty of the courses you took, and probably your test scores. But you are more than a set of numbers, and colleges know that. Your commitments outside class can paint a picture of the person you are—and quite possibly a person they want to admit.
What Is an Extracurricular?
An extracurricular activity is one you participate in outside of your regular high school classes. The most common "extras" are offered through your school. Sports teams, musical groups, academic clubs, student government, and the student newspaper are just a few examples.
Outside of school there is a wide range of extras that you may become involved with. These include volunteer work, scouts, a part-time job, college classes, and church groups, just to name a few.
Quality Is More Important Than Quantity
Finding an extra activity isn't hard. It's narrowing it down to a few that can be tough. Committing serious time to one or two extras is more impressive to a college than half a dozen activities you obviously don't have much time for. Choose activities that genuinely interest you and that you can dedicate time to.
Colleges will want to know when you began your involvement in an activity and the number of hours you allot to it each week. This demonstrates how important the activity really is to you and indicates that you are not participating just to look good on your application. Taking initiative, such as a leadership role, in a club or activity demonstrates an even higher level of commitment.
A successful combination of a strong academic record and wholehearted participation in outside activities shows you are ready for the independent life of a college student.
Academic performance is still the most important factor that colleges consider. In fact, for most school-sponsored activities like sports, theater, and band, you must maintain a certain GPA to even participate.
On the other hand, "all school and no recess" makes for a very boring applicant. Follow your keen interests and don't bite off more than you can handle well. Showing that you know your limits and can manage your time will be more impressive to a college than an overloaded schedule.
Your Extracurriculars Can Help You in Other Ways
- Test-driving certain interests and fields can point the way to your college major and your future career. For example, if you like animals, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter, or if you are interested in the tech industry, see if you can get an internship at a computer company.
- Stepping out of your comfort zone will grow your character. Colleges appreciate students who step out in new directions, who can inspire others, and who learn and grow from challenges.
- Taking on an "extra" may lead to a great essay topic. College essay topics grow from your personal experiences. Just going to class every day is not likely to give you much to work with. But pursuing a challenging outside experience definitely will.