Extracurriculars Give You an Edge

How do extracurriculars help your college chances? Your "extras" show your commitment, talent, and curiosity. And that's what colleges want.

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 regularly do outside class. You'll find the most common "extras" at your school. Sports teams, musical groups, academic clubs, student government, and the student newspaper are just a few examples. Outside school, the options are wide open. 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.

What Colleges Look for in Your Extracurricular Commitment

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.

Finding Balance Between Your Studies and "Extras"

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 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 take on more than you can handle. Showing that you know your limits and can manage your time will be more impressive to a college than an overloaded schedule.

What's Next?

  • Use College Match to look up the importance of extracurricular activities to colleges that interest you. Go to the Admissions tab and look under Selection of Students.
  • To learn more about the admissions factors colleges find most important, visit the Prepare and Apply section of CollegeData.
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