Extracurricular Activities – Boosting your College Application
The end of your high school career is on the horizon, and now is the time to start thinking about applying for the college of your dreams! The piles of paperwork that go along with college applications can be daunting, and one of the topics we are most frequently asked about are extracurricular activities.
So, what exactly is important to colleges when they look at the extracurricular section of your application?
How do you know what activities are the best to increase your chances of getting into your first choice of schools?
The answer to those questions can depend on a number of factors, but the common activities you will want to highlight in your applications include:
- Leadership roles
- School clubs (if you are still in high school)
- Work history
- Volunteer experience
- Athletics / Sports
Grades and test scores have a massive impact on your college application, but your extracurricular history can help you present yourself as a well-rounded, committed individual to a potential school – which can be just as important!
If you are wondering which activities will be the biggest benefit to you when it’s time to send in those college applications, take the following factors into consideration.
Quality vs. Quantity
While it may be tempting to join every club and sport you can think of to beef up that application, chances are that colleges are going to see right through it. The quality of your extra activities is far more important than the number of activities in which you are involved.
Colleges are looking for experiences that demonstrate your commitment, maturity, and leadership.
If you joined ten different clubs at school, but are not deeply involved in the organizations, there isn’t much to show to a potential college. Instead, focus on a couple activities or volunteer opportunities and fully engage in the experience!
Follow your Passion
Is being president of a debate club more important than holding down a part-time job after school? Not at all!
Leadership skills can be demonstrated in a wide variety of ways, and being passionate about the activities you are involved in will make a big impression when it comes to college admissions.
Whether you have learned life by managing in an office setting or are running for high school student council, make sure that your activities give your future college a glimpse into the passionate person that you are… the real you!
Commitment is Key!
If you’ve ever wondered why colleges put so much weight on extracurricular activities, you are not alone! When it comes down to it, schools are looking for college freshmen that have proven they have the ambition and drive to pursue higher goals.
Whatever activity or job you choose to get involved in, give it your all!
By showing a deep commitment to the obligations you have in life outside of the typical school day, you show your potential college that you are ready to take on the challenges of higher education.
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the universities you want to apply to, and it is likely one of the biggest decisions you have had to make so far in life.
When choosing the best extracurricular activities to support your future, remember that it is not so much what you do, but how you do it that counts the most!
Extracurricular Activities FAQs
I will be applying to college in the fall, and I’m nervous about being accepted to my top-choice schools. I currently have a 3.8 GPA and am taking AP and honors courses, and I am very involved in sports, Girl Scouts, and the local Boys and Girls Club. My problem is that I have never been very involved with in-school activities because of my commitments outside of school. Is lack of involvement in school sports and clubs looked upon poorly by colleges? Also, I know that the National Honor Society is well respected, but my school’s policy on accepting students to it is that you need 72 in-school service hours. As I explained above, I don’t have the necessary hours and therefore wasn’t able to be in NHS. Should I mention this to the colleges I apply to? Thank you for any help.
First of all, without knowing your test scores, it’s hard to say what your overall chances are at any particular school. My own feeling on this is that colleges care much more about the depth of your commitment to outside activities rather than the breadth. They would rather you be involved in just a few activities and devote meaningful time, rather than have more activities but not devote much time to any of them. Therefore, I think should be fine with the activities you have, assuming you devote some significant time to them (by the way, I also assume that the reference to “sports” means some type of organized league rather than just some “pick-up” games).
I probably would mention on your college application that, while you would be eligible for NHS, your commitments to various activities outside of school prevented you from being involved with NHS. Of course, I’d be sure to also tell the colleges about the extent of your involvement in sports outside of school and the scouts and some of the positive benefits you’ve received from your participation. Good luck!
I always read that it is important to colleges that you have leadership positions in the clubs in which you are involved. I am worried because I have always pursued leadership positions in Student Council, Beta and NHS, but I have never won the elections. Should I say that I at least ran for a position?
It’s true that colleges like to see leadership in their applicants, but it doesn’t have to be through an elected position. Are there projects or activities within your club that you have spearheaded? If so, be sure to mention these in your applications. If not, there’s an easy solution: Volunteer to start an initiative or coordinate an event through one of your clubs (a conference or fundraiser, for example). You could also start your own club–something that reflects your personal interests. Be creative, and leadership will follow!
I am currently a sophomore at a fairly well known private school in Florida. I am in all honors classes, have a 4.15 GPA (out of a possible 4.3), am a member of the student council and PALS (an organization to help new freshmen), the manager and statistician for the varsity basketball team, have starred in two plays, and plan to take 3 AP courses as a junior. My school does not list class rank, but I would guess that I am 8th out of my class of 155. Last summer I took a sports law course at Duke. This summer I will attend a legal conference at Stanford and a leadership conference in Washington, DC. I recently took the new PSAT and received a 71 in critical reading, a 73 in math, and a 77 in writing. Academically, I’m not worried, but I have not done much community service. Though I have 100 hours, most of it comes from volunteering at a summer camp. I’m concerned that not having enough community service will hurt my chances of being accepted into a school like Stanford or George Washington. Is it necessary that I help out more in the community, or can I continue to focus on academics and leadership?
Let me start by congratulating you on your accomplishments so far. Your excellent grades, strong test scores, and variety of extracurricular activities should give you a good shot at getting into some of the country’s most prestigious colleges. If you want to get involved in another volunteer activity, that’s fine, but I don’t think it’s necessary. First of all, 100 volunteer hours are nothing to sneeze at. Second, you seem to be involved in plenty of extracurricular activities already. Colleges would rather see you participate in a limited number of activities and devote significant time to them than join every club in sight but not be deeply involved in any of them.
Basically, you’re doing all the right things already. As long as your SAT scores are consistent with your PSAT scores, you should be in great shape. In the meantime, relax a little and enjoy the rest of high school. You don’t want to burn yourself out before you get to college!
What do most colleges look for when they are reading student applications? Second, does volunteer work make a student’s college application a little more presentable or deserving of a second look? Third, does a student have a good chance of being accepted into a college if he or she has volunteered time at certain places?
College admissions offices consider a range of factors in evaluating applications: grades, essays, standardized test scores, rigor of coursework (e.g. AP and other advanced courses), teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and personal qualities. Volunteer work is certainly a worthy extracurricular activity, as long as you show a commitment to it. Most colleges prefer someone who does a few extracurricular activities with consistency and passion than someone who belongs to every club at her high school but isn’t deeply involved in any of them. Where you volunteer is not as important as the time and energy you commit to it—and how well you convey what you have learned from the experience in your application.
Dear Admissions Guru, I’m a junior in high school and I’ve participated in school sports and activities. But I haven’t done any volunteer or community work. I wanted to know if I start volunteering and doing community work, would it still be worth it? Thank you.
Yes, it would still be worth it. It’s not too late for you to start since you’re only a junior. But I wouldn’t wait any longer since in the fall you can start applying to colleges. Good luck!
I am a sophomore in an IB high school, and I’m not sure whether my extracurricular activities are the right activities for colleges. I am not the leader of anything in my community, and I really haven’t done much volunteer or community service activities. I have mainly focused my energy into after-school activities such as G-force, Youth Leadership, FCA, choir, soccer, and the full IB diploma. I want to go to college and major in nursing. Would my extracurricular activities be looked upon as good enough for colleges, or do i need to do more community things and be a leader of different organizations? I have good grades, (4.25 GPA) and am ranked 13th of a class of 278. I haven’t taken the SAT or ACT yet. I’m not sure that my current activities will be enough to get me into a highly accredited or Ivy League university. Do I need to be more involved in other things?
You’re doing a lot of things, and I think with your grades and your IB courses you’ll be fine. Of course, it’s hard to say which schools you would get into because that will depend on your test scores as well. However, based on what you’ve told me, you should get into some very good schools.
If you want to get involved in a community activity, it wouldn’t hurt, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Don’t overextend yourself, sometimes colleges would rather you be involved in less activities but devote more time to them. If you have too many things “listed,” it might look like you’re joining things just for the sake of joining without devoting meaningful time to them.
Dear Admissions Guru, This is my junior year, and I am extremely stressed out about my chances of getting into an Ivy League school. Currently I have a 4.4 GPA, I rank number one in my class of 458 students, and I am taking all the AP classes available at my school. I have been taking advantage of my summers by attending the NYLF program on medicine, and I’m attending the People to People’s program at Johns Hopkins University this summer. In the community, I am a youth executive board member of the Santa Clara Valley Red Cross Chapter, an intern at a medical clinic, a clinical research assistant, a YMCA youth and government delegate, and a hospital volunteer. At school, I am president of my Red Cross Club and a member of NHS, CSF, and Literary Society. My SAT score is about a 1200. I understand that I need to improve my score, however, besides the SAT, I feel very uneasy. The load of stress is making me feel “burned out.” Although I am stressed out and constantly tired, I know that there are other spectacular students out there. I feel as if I am not doing enough to get into Stanford University or Johns Hopkins University. What else can I do to make myself stand out? If I am doing the right things, what am I doing now that does make me stand out?
First of all, you are doing everything you can do and more. Your class rank, GPA and activities are very impressive. And your SAT score of 1200 is definitely nothing to be ashamed of.
Now, is your SAT high enough to get into Stanford or Johns Hopkins? Maybe not, but you’ll still get into an excellent school (and, with your being number one in your class and all your activities, you still may have a shot at these schools). Don’t stress yourself out over this. All you can ask of yourself is to do your best.
I would not recommend that you get involved in any more activities because it looks like you’re already busy enough. You need to have some free time to yourself too. In fact, I think you ought to stop some of the things you’re doing so you have some time to yourself to do whatever you want to do–relaxing things like reading, watching television, going to a movie, concert or sporting event, etc. Put everything into perspective. Getting into a good college is important, but I don’t think you have anything to worry about in that regard. Just do your best to try to raise your SAT score, keep doing the other things you’re doing, and stop worrying! It’s okay (and actually important) to have a little fun in high school too! Too much stress is not good for your physical or mental health. Relax and enjoy your high school experience.
I am a junior in high school. I have been taking all the honors and AP classes at my school, and have been keeping straight A’s since freshmen year. Although I have a passion for academia and community service, I did not attempt to join a sports team because I found myself dispassionate about sports. Will I have a disadvantage when I apply to college?
Well, it’s not because you’re not involved in sports in particular, but you will have some disadvantage because you’re not involved in any extracurricular or community activity. Based on your grades alone, assuming you have good test scores you’ll probably be able to get into some good schools. However, to be able to get into an upper echelon of schools, I think you need to get involved in some of these activities.
I’m a freshman in high school and I have no community service or extracurricular activities. I’m in mostly honors and accelerated classes and get mostly A’s and A-‘s. I’m planning on taking foreign languages for two years and fine and performing arts for two years. I am also planning on taking two AP science classes and AP calculus in my senior year. I would like to know if I would strongly need community service and/or extracurricular activities in order to be accepted by the more selective colleges? If so, how many hours (e.g. volunteer work) should I do? Thank you.
First of all, your grades are excellent, particularly since you’re in honors and accelerated classes. Your intention to take foreign language and fine and performing arts courses shows your commitment to academic success. It’s hard to say how much extracurricular and volunteer activities you need to do to get into any particular school. If you continue to get mostly A’s and do well on the SAT, you will probably get into most of the colleges you apply to.
However, I say “most” because the very top schools will most likely want to see some extracurricular activities and community service. At that level, such activities and service may be the difference in your being accepted or not. Therefore, I encourage you to get involved. Ideally, you should do something you like. I suggest you try to get involved in some activities through the school and do some volunteer work in the community. As to how many hours…again, that’s difficult to say. It should be enough to be meaningful but not so much that it interferes with your studies, work, etc. My general thought is that you might want to consider devoting between 5 to 10 hours per week on average. Of course, if you get involved with any sports, it’s likely to involve a larger time commitment. However, absent that, I think something in the 5- to 10-hour range would be sufficient, particularly if you’re involved in a few activities. Good luck!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m a sophomore in high school, and I have a 6.76 out of 7.00 GPA. My class rank is currently 7/945. I’m also an officer in interact club (volunteering + community service), and I teach and assist at my church. I am thinking of trying out for my dance/drill team this fall, since it is a good extracurricular activity, and I also enjoy dancing. Dance/drill team is approximately $900 – $1,000 the first year and requires a lot of dedication. Dancers are expected to stay after school a few hours Mondays through Thursdays, and they perform at football games and do other volunteering & fundraising projects. So it takes up a great deal of time. I’m worried I won’t have enough time for my other classes, because I’m taking an AP class right now and am also planning to take two or three next year. Should I try out? But if I try out and make it, my GPA may suffer because I won’t have as much time to study. Is there any other option in this situation? I was also wondering if I can take one year of dance as pass/fail. I can just take one pass/fail course per year because the maximum number of pass/fail courses you can take is two, and I would like to take PALS during my senior year as pass/fail. Also, does dance/drill count as leadership? Finally, I want to go to medical school. Would Rice (ranked 17th for 2005) be a good school to go to? I am also considering UT (ranked 46th). Which would you recommend, or do you recommend another option?
I think it’s generally better to do less activities and put more time into them. The activities you’re in sound good, and I wouldn’t do more if you think it will affect your grades. However, if you think you would like the dance/drill, then you might consider stopping the other activities to concentrate on the dance/drill team if you can’t do all of them at once.
With regard to taking dance as pass/fail, I think that is more a question of whether it’s something you’ll enjoy rather than something that will make any significant difference in your admission chances. I wouldn’t say that dance/drill is “leadership,” but then again, you have a leadership position already in the interact club.
Rice is an excellent school. UT is also a good school, but if you can get into Rice, you might want to consider some higher-ranked schools for your pre-med program. Since you’re familiar with the rankings, you can see which these are. A more highly-ranked school doesn’t mean you’ll get a better education, but there’s no denying that sometimes the reputation of the school can make a difference to medical school admission officers. Of course, I suggest you also take into account other factors in selecting a school, such as type of campus, student mix, geographic location, sports and activities, etc. You have a very strong record, and I’m sure you’ll get into a fine school.
I am a high school senior, and I was told to take the SAT exams. Is it a bad thing that I haven’t taken them in my junior year? Would it help to take them twice in my senior year? I am not a very athletic or academically inclined person, although my grades aren’t bad. But I am very active in community service with a volunteer fire department, and I am also an EMT. Will this help me get into any colleges? Thanks for your help.
It’s only a bad thing that you haven’t taken the SAT yet from the perspective that taking them more than once can usually improve your score. I would take them as soon as possible. Then if you feel like you need to take them again, do so. Decent grades and the kinds of valuable things you’re involved in will get you into a good school. Read the advice on this site and match your grades and SAT score up with likely colleges.
Who should I ask for recommendations?
Don’t assume that the teacher in whose class you did A-level work will write the best recommendation. Select people–preferably teachers, unless you’re instructed otherwise–who are likely to take the time to write thoughtful comments and who seem interested in doing so.
If you are in a position to request letters of recommendation from persons of influence (alumni, politicians, or company presidents, for example), ask yourself these questions: Does this person know me well enough to write an informative reference? What information can this person add to my profile that others have not already covered?
Do admissions people know about all school clubs?
Blue Key, NIFTY, CYO, ETC! Whatever the organization, don’t assume that admission officers will recognize titles or acronyms. Define the activity, as well as your role in it. Always the best rule of thumb.
I’m a high school sophomore at a respected public high school in the Midwest. I’ve got a 5.75/5 GPA and am ranked 6th out of 439. I take challenging classes (about four honors per year). My problem is activities. I have only limited involvement in two clubs. However, this summer I plan to participate in some research internship program at Argonne Labs and am also attending the National Scholars Academy. Next year I will also join science club. What are my chances for Michigan? Northwestern? Others?
Your grades and class rank are great, especially from a “respected public high school.” An admissions person told me the other day that Stanford received enough 4.0/4.0 GPA applicants to be able to fill their entire freshman class. So grades are not enough. Being involved in two clubs is not the problem. The problem is your “limited” involvement. Find a couple of activities to throw yourself into, something you REALLY care about. Become a “star” in them. The other activities–the internship and the National Scholars Academy–are pluses, too.
Your chances at Michigan and Northwestern? That honestly depends on their applicant pool at the time you apply. It would be impossible to predict. But one thing is for sure: You can’t do anything about the other applicants, you can only do something about yourself. Good luck.
What do you think of the idea of writing your own letters of recommendation, then getting your teachers to sign it with whatever modifications they would like to make? And do you know where sample letters of recommendation are on the internet so I don’t have to write all of these myself?
I don’t think too much of this idea, I think it more or less defeats the purpose. In my mind, the best letter of recommendation is one that can speak specifically about your ability to perform at a certain school. Thus, a letter from an alumni or someone connected with the school, who knows the environment and can say, “So and so will do well” is going to be a powerful statement. Other letters, from respected people, also carry weight. Personally, I would never sign a letter of recommendation for someone that I hadn’t written myself.
I am a junior in high school and would like an impartial recommendation on what to do for my summer vacation. I hope to be accepted at a highly selective school based on my great test scores and my okay grades. I don’t have an overwhelming passion, except for soccer, which–despite dedication and hard work–has limited potential to polish my halo due to genetic ability limitations. So…do I spend $6500 of my parents’ hard-earned cash to go to an elite summer school program that might make me more attractive to an Ivy League school?
Great test scores and okay grades may not get you in to the college of your choice. But that wasn’t your question…While Ivy League schools are great, there are many excellent schools out there. For starters, you need to begin to assemble a list of prospective colleges. Then, begin to shape your credentials using this summer to help you do that.
If I were you, I don’t think I’d spend $6,500 of my parents’ hard-earned cash on a summer program, but I would probably do something academically enriching. There are a lot of options, many lasting only a couple of weeks. That gives you plenty of time for soccer. You might also want to work a little harder in school next year. Grades do count.
I am a junior in high school and have a GPA of 3.8. I have taken honor courses, and this year I’ll be taking a college course as well. I am involved in a few extracurricular activities (section editor of school paper, student council, community service committee) and volunteer at the local hospital. But I made the mistake of not doing anything in my freshman year. Do you think colleges might turn me down for that or look badly upon it? When I write down my activities I did each year, what should I put for my freshman year?
A student’s first year of high school is a learning experience. You are introduced to more difficult assignments, larger classes, new social pressures, etc. You are “learning the ropes” and may not be ready to tack on several extracurricular activities. In fact, many students don’t become involved in clubs, societies, and organizations until their sophomore or junior years. They want to give themselves time to adjust to their new school and the new academic responsibilities.
You are a very involved student and should have no problem being accepted to several fine schools. The most important things you can do now are to maintain that high GPA and to continue serving and volunteering.
You have to be truthful on your application, so you shouldn’t put anything in for your freshman year that you didn’t actually do. If you think about it, you might remember something you did, even if it was only something you did one time. It really shouldn’t be a problem if you became involved in activities in your sophomore year.
I am just starting my junior year, and I have a problem with my classes. I am taking 3 AP courses and all advanced classes possible at our school. I got into journalism class, but my teacher said that there is a major time commitment involved both in and outside of school hours. My problem is that I already work 36 hours a week at my job, I’m starting to volunteer at a local hospital, and I’m beginning to play golf. If I were to drop this class, one of the only things I could do would be to be a TA for a teacher. Will that affect my chances of getting into a college like UC-Davis? Also, I played football and baseball my freshman year but sustained injuries. My doctor told me not to play theses sports any more. Will this affect how the colleges think of me, even though I would’ve been playing those sports if not for the injuries?
Students often overload their schedules with activities because they think that schools are impressed by the number of clubs, organizations, and sports that they are involved in. While it is important to be involved, overloading your schedule may lead to serious problems with grades—and even your health.
Schools want to know that you are committed to the things that you choose to be involved in. Even if it is only one or two activities, colleges will be impressed if you invested valuable time in volunteering at the hospital and playing on the golf team. Students who are able to hold down a job while in school are also impressive to colleges.
I don’t think that dropping the class will have any effect on your chance of getting into any college. However, unless you really need the money, I would recommend you cut back on your work schedule. Working 36 hours per week is an awfully high amount for a high school student. It’s almost working full-time!
And, no, not being able to play sports because of your injuries will not affect how colleges think of you. In fact, I would put on your application that you played the sports but then got injured and couldn’t continue. Colleges will like that you made the effort.
Remember, it’s not how much you do. It’s how hard you work at what you do. You are a very involved student and should have no trouble getting accepted to several fine schools. So concentrate on maintaining your GPA and continue to be active in your current extracurricular activities. And, remember to have some time for yourself and enjoy your high school years!
What qualifications or extracurriculars, such as community service, mean the most to colleges when they are reading applications?
Colleges are impressed when students show commitment to whatever extracurricular activities they become involved in—and they don’t necessarily have favorite activities. So the best things to do when choosing one or more ways to get involved are to: 1) Consider your interests. Ask yourself if joining an athletic team, playing in the band, or volunteering at the hospital excite you. 2) Consider your schedule. Will you be able to commit to three-hour evening practices for four months as a lead in the school play? 3) Consider your level of commitment. For example, do you really love French enough to be president of the French Club?
After you know what you like and what you can commit to, enjoy! Choose one or a few things to do, and get busy doing them. But remember, it’s easy to concentrate on extracurriculars and let grades and test scores slip. Don’t overcommit, keep your trend in grades moving up, do your best on the ACT or SAT, and you should have no trouble getting accepted to several fine schools.
I’m a sophomore in high school. My GPA is 4.0, and I’m taking the hardest classes possible (all honors) as well as psychology (which is considered a more junior/senior class at my school). I play a sport every season, and I’m also moderately involved in student government. Also, I volunteer and am involved in a youth group. I’m wondering whether my lack of in-school extracurricular activities, such as different clubs, will reflect negatively upon me, and whether I should attempt to get involved in one or more of those.
First of all, congratulations on your accomplishments so far. Given your avid participation in sports, as well as your volunteer work and youth group participation, I don’t think admissions committees would construe you as lacking extracurricular activities. They want to see well-rounded students who are involved in their communities, and it sounds like you fit the bill.
If you’re still paranoid about not being sufficiently involved in your school community (remember, being involved in your school isn’t something you need to do just to strengthen your resume, but also to woo teachers and your guidance counselor to write you great recommendations), the answer is not to add another organization to your resume, but rather to take a greater leadership role in the ones you’re already involved in, such as student government.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you’re able to identify an activity you feel passionate about, so you can make it the focus of your application essays. Good luck!
I am a sophomore at my school with a 3.6 GPA. I am not in any extracurricular activities because I have to work. Will not being involved in any extracurricular activities affect me for college?
While admissions committees tend to frown upon students who don’t participate in extracurriculars, they don’t write off students who work, particularly those who work to support their families.
Based on what you’ve told me, it sounds like you fall into this latter category, in which case colleges are likely to evaluate your job like an extracurricular activity. They may even give you some bonus points if you have to work long hours (or every day during the week) and still manage to maintain a high GPA through your senior year.
I have heard that colleges actually prefer to see applicants with a clear path of consistency that is shown in their extracurriculars and other activities. I would guess this means that if someone wanted to be a doctor they would volunteer at a hospital. Is it true that universities only want applicants who have a choice of what they want in their life?
While colleges certainly don’t frown upon students whose extracurriculars forebode a particular career path, admissions committees realize you need some time to explore and figure out what you’re really interested in. Consequently, they’re most concerned with the level of commitment you demonstrate for the activities you partake in and the passion that level of commitment reflects. The specific activities are not as important as showing them that you’re devoting some meaningful time to them.
Is a work experience very necessary to get into Ivy Leagues or other really good universities? Apart from grades and SATs, are they very particular about extracurricular activities? Is a student who gets good grades, gets a good SAT score, but isn’t too involved in sports or extracurricular activities or a work experience still considered a potential candidate?
Work experience is not necessary to get into good schools. If you do have a job, you can make it a very positive part of your application, showing that you are responsible, learning new skills, able to work with people, etc. But you don’t have to have a job in order to demonstrate these things. Having a part-time job in high school can be good, but it should never interfere with your grades. And if you are able to choose between having a job and being involved in extracurricular activities, choose the activities–you will have a job for most of your life!
Schools look most closely at your grades and test scores, so yes, they are extremely important. After that, schools will look at your extracurricular activities along with the rest of your application. Even if you get good grades and test scores, it will be very difficult to show that you are a well-rounded person if you aren’t involved in anything else.
But before you think you have to go out and join every sports team your school offers, remember that there are hundreds of activities to get involved in besides sports. Check out clubs of every kind. If you don’t find one you like, start your own. Look into school activities like newspaper, yearbook, debate, or music (just to name a few). Volunteer in your community by serving at a food kitchen once a month or helping tutor kids at your local Y. I can’t begin to list all the opportunities…
You don’t have to go crazy joining every activity in sight. Carefully look at your options and choose a few things that really interest you and sound like fun as well. Activities aren’t meant to burden you–they are meant to be fun and give you new experiences all at the same time, something you look forward to. Even if you haven’t been involved much in the past, it’s never too late to start something new. Good luck.
I am currently a sophomore at a pretty good public school. I had almost all A’s freshman year. I take as many honors and APs as I can. Additionally, this will be my second year as a student council officer, I am the president of art club, and I plan on joining one or two other activities. Also, I volunteer in the summer and currently have 80 hours. I don’t spend too much time on these extracurriculars (probably 3-6 hours a week), because I also do a lot of art in my spare time. I take an intensive drawing class outside of school that is 3.5 hours and assigns homework, which usually takes me 4-6 hours. In the summer, I do intensive, selective art programs as well. Will my limited involvement in in-school activities and not having regular volunteering/work hurt my chances at being accepted at a highly selective school?
Not necessarily. It sounds like you have a strong bent toward art and more intensive art programs. Colleges love to see students who find a few things that they’re good at and pursue them wholeheartedly. Instead of spreading yourself across a bunch of different activities, you’re already spending meaningful time on a couple of things you’re really good at. Keep doing what you’re doing!
Most of the time I have to give this advice to students: “Don’t take on too much. But if you find something you really love, do it!” Now, in your case, it sounds to me like you’ve already caught on. Don’t worry about the kids who are in twenty thousand different activities. You’re doing a great job…you’re trying a couple new activities, which is always a good learning experience, and you’re still taking on hard classes to boot. Keep it up.
If you maintain your grades as well, you’ll have a lot to show for yourself come application time. Maybe you’ll even get to wow some admission officers with an illustrated personal essay (*wink*). Have fun–oh, and don’t forget to send me an original painting once you’re a famous artist!
Hi, I’m a junior at one of the top public high schools in California. I’m having some trouble determining if I need some more extracurricular activities to have a better chance for the Ivy League schools and public schools like Berkeley. I have a 3.99 GPA (unweighted) and I got a 2100 on the SAT. I speak almost 4 languages (still a little rusty with French), and I was born in a foreign (non-English speaking) country. I moved here when I was 14 years old, but I still managed to maintain a straight-A GPA. I’m the ambassador volunteer at the number-one geriatrics department in the nation at my local hospital, and I’m currently involved in two clubs at my school. I’ve also played the piano for eight years, and I’m involved in an Honors society called CSF. My problem is that I haven’t been involved in any athletic or band activities at my school. In addition, I haven’t spent more than a year with the clubs that I’m currently in (and have been in, in the past). I am planning on becoming an executive board member for CSF and becoming the President of two clubs on things that I’m very passionate about (like teaching piano) in my senior year, but I’m afraid that it will be too late. How do you think my chances look for the Ivy Leagues? Any response will be helpful.
I’d say stick with what you’re doing, especially if you haven’t been involved in all of your groups for very long. You’re already developing yourself and participating in quite a lot of things, and it sounds to me like you’ll pick up some leadership in the activities you’re already involved in. That’s great. You don’t need to pad your resume with a bunch of new activities at this point. Play to your strengths instead (your piano, your languages). Ivy Leagues (or any good schools, for that matter) are not looking for people in 20 activities…they are looking for people who are meaningfully involved in a few unique activities. That’s you. So go ahead and keep doing what you are doing…and when you start applying to schools, make sure to point out the uniqueness of your community and artistic involvement.
My son is entering high school this year and has no particular interests. I would like him to pursue an activity, sport, or hobby that might get him college scholarships. What unusual or obscure sport/activities programs do colleges have that would not have lot of competition? Like bagpiping, archery, rifle? Where can I find out this information?
The first thing I can do is to point you in the direction of this snappy and informative article: “32 Weird Scholarships Almost Anyone Can Get.” Read through this list of scholarships, it leads into a discussion of quirky activities that can earn students money.
From there, you might want to brainstorm (or have your son brainstorm) interests. There really are so many college organizations out there for so many different interests, it is somewhat mind-boggling. Check out of Top 100 Club Sports Sites for a great start. This page is focused on the website designs of the club sports themselves, but honestly, this list provides a wonderful sampling of college sports you never knew existed.
Lastly, I want you to think back on what your son may have been interested in in the past–even as a little boy. (Drawing? Building objects? Experiencing the outdoors?) Chances are he still has a desire to pursue similar things, just in a more adult fashion. Make sure you observe him and see what he spends his time on. Even if he just plays video games at the moment (I’m using that as an example since a lot of teenage boys do that)–what do you think it is in him that makes him want to do that? Is there another way he can capitalize on his desire to imagine–to have some sort of dominant role in fulfilling a goal–etc? You said he’s not particularly interested in anything–maybe he is interested in lots of things instead? That’s not a bad preparation for college either. Remember that sometimes one doesn’t have to excel at just one thing to get good scholarships. Often students can do just fine even if they haven’t figured everything out yet.
These are a lot of diverse suggestions, but my point is to get you thinking about the options for your son. Good luck as you (and he) figure out the details!
I’m currently a sophomore in high school, and I’m trying to get ahead in preparing for college by getting good grades and participating in extracurricular activities. My problem is, I live in a place where transportation is a big issue. I have my learner’s permit, but my mom isn’t planning on letting me drive, so it’s kind of hard to stay back after school. On weekends, I have the same problem since my mom has two jobs. I don’t have much leadership skills, and even though I’m in a governor’s school, my grades are not as high as they should be (my grade point average is 3.172). I’m really worried that if I don’t get my activities sheet filled up, colleges won’t be impressed with me. What should I do?
Have you explained to your mom (as you did with me) your predicament in wanting to be able to participate in more activities for your college career’s sake, but not being able to drive to those activities? Could you work out a deal to share transportation with her? Or, could you arrange a way to carpool with a peer or get a ride back to your house after school from someone else? With a little creative thinking, I bet there are ways to get to and from school without having to drive yourself. If you are truly interested in getting involved in more after-school activities, I suggest you be proactive in figuring out ways to get where you need to be, instead of just giving up right away. (Being proactive and taking the initiative are also two ways to build your leadership skills anyway!) Good luck.
I have just finished my sophomore year of high school and will soon be a junior. I have pretty decent grades with around a 3.5 GPA, and I participate in my school’s marching band, which is very well known and highly regarded. I also have a part-time job, and between those two activities, I barely have time for anything else. My problem is that although I am passionate about band, my job and my grades, I have also been accepted to be a part of the kick-off mentor program at my school. This program is designed to have upperclassmen mentor the freshman, and it is considered an honor by some and also gives community service hours for the time spent on it. Although this is great, I’m not sure about whether or not I should do it. It could be a great way to get noticed by colleges with the community service and the idea of being a mentor, but it’s not something I’m passionate about. I was wondering was whether I should do it or not. I have been contemplating this for a while now and still haven’t come up with a decision. I mean, will it be the difference between whether I get accepted to a college or not? Is this something that could possibly affect the way colleges look at me?
If you have the time to do it (in other words, if it doesn’t take up all the rest of your free time), I’d say go ahead and try it. You may end up really enjoying it. Of course, it depends on the amount of committed time the activity would take. But yes, to answer your main question, generally it would probably be a good thing to be able to add to your high school resume at the time you begin applying for colleges.
Now, I don’t know if it will make the difference between being accepted or not accepted to a given college, but it certainly will help your case rather than hurt it. I do agree with you that it’s good to be passionate about what you engage in long-term. But on the other hand, you are still figuring out what kinds of things those are. As I said, you might actually like the activity. But if you don’t end up being passionate about this particular thing, I don’t know if there’s much harm done…it’s for a temporary time, and none of us is ever passionate about every single thing in our lives.
Otherwise, if you could see yourself burning out by participating in one more time-consuming activity, then that’s a factor to consider too. I can’t tell you whether that’s the case, that’s something you’ll have to figure out since you know your schedule. Good luck!
When an application asks for “special accomplishments, awards, honors, leadership positions, and public service activities,” what does that include?
That’s a great question! Those categories are up to you to define, but they include activities you’ve participated in or things you’ve accomplished outside of your normal course load at school that have contributed to your growth as a human being. A leadership position could be a captain of a sports team, or it could be president of a Spanish club. A special accomplishment could be anything from a debate team award to a National Honor Society induction. Think about your time as a student and the experiences that have challenged you and set you apart from other students. Have you been involved with a volunteer project like Meals on Wheels or Habitat for Humanity? These are all parts of your growth as a student, and this is what the committee wants to know about when they ask this question. Good luck!
I am currently a sophomore. I have a 3.4 unweighted and 4.0 weighted GPA. Last summer I attended a science summer program at a prestigious university. Everything so far on my college resume is related to science or community service. Will I hurt my chances of getting into an Ivy League school if I take up band? I’ve been playing violin since the 5th grade just as a hobby. Not to win awards. I want to join band and learn a new instrument just to have fun and take a break from all this science. Will this look bad to admissions committees?
Not at all. Colleges actually (in my opinion) breathe a sigh of relief when they see a student pursuing a new avenue or trying something they’ve always wanted to do – and not just building up a list of extracurricular activities that a student thinks the colleges want to see. I think that your personal quality of life comes before any admission committee’s view of who you are, anyway. Go ahead and try that instrument. Chances are it will help your brain anyway!
I’m a high school freshman who – when the time for applying to college comes around – is hoping to enter a university/college with coursework focused on astronomy or a branch of science similar to that. My dilemma is that I haven’t previously done any extracurricular activities prior to high school. I’ve never been athletically inclined and, unfortunately, my school doesn’t offer much in the way of science clubs, etc. I was the class valedictorian in 8th grade and am so far doing excellent in my classes for the first quarter as a freshman. Now, I signed up for Student Council and am beginning to look at community service, but are there any other options/ideas you would recommend for high school that would beef up a college resume/enhance my high school experience?
Sure thing. I would suggest you join a few other extracurricular activities that you enjoy – perhaps an academic bowl team, math team or something related to the field(s) you eventually want to study. Or you might find that music or another pursuit seemingly out of left field could really capture your imagination.
But also…have you thought about working to start a science club yourself? That would certainly show initiative, and you’d have the chance to have a leadership opportunity right off the bat. See if you can round up a few classmates that might be interested and then find a teacher to be your adviser. Consult your student handbook to see how school activity organizations are started. You have a little bit of time to think about it, since you’re still a freshman, but I daresay you might have a wonderful opportunity to help shape a club or a branch of school activity to be something that you really enjoy and that will make an impression on admissions officers later on.
One more thing: You might want to think about eventually applying for a pre-college summer program in the sciences or mathematics. Usually students attend these types of programs between their sophomore and junior years or between their junior and senior years. You can run a Google search for these programs pretty easily, or start by looking at the pre-college section of the My College Guide blog.
I would like to know what grade is ideal to start compiling extracurricular activities and community service if my goal is to go to Harvard?
The sooner the better! If you’re already setting your sights on Harvard, you should already be thinking about what kinds of qualities you’d like to show when you apply to college. Join organizations or clubs that spark your interest, and devote meaningful time to those activities. Instead of joining many things at once, try to pick carefully and lean towards activities you’ll want to continue for several years. Schools like Harvard expect students to have more than just top grades and test scores. You also need to demonstrate that you’re an ambitious student with a desire to participate in your community. Remember, though, that while it’s great to set your sights on a school like Harvard, there are also many other colleges and universities that offer an excellent education and college experience. Don’t limit yourself to just aiming for Ivy League schools. Research broadly and think about your specific goals and desires. Good luck!
I understand that colleges want to see applicants that have unique factors that make themselves stand out in the flood of applicants wanting to seek great colleges. Could you give me a list of some specific activities or qualities that would make an applicant stand out in the abundance of eager and competitive applicants? By the way, the information you have provided for other high school students like me is fantastic.
This is a great question, but unfortunately the answer is not cut and dry. In general, activities that demonstrate leadership, service, and commitment tend to stand out. But, this could mean something different for each student. For example, a student interested in a medical or science major might stand out due to having many hours of volunteer work in hospitals and clinics. However, a student aiming for a sports scholarship at a state university might stand out by having a competitive sports record and a history of sports leadership. No two activities can truly be compared against one another, because the type of activity will always correspond to the student’s overall profile. Instead of aiming for extracurriculars that may look good, try finding activities you are passionate about that build skills, serve the community, or challenge you to lead. When you translate those experiences into life lessons in your college essay, admissions counselors will be able to see what you gained from the experiences. Whatever you choose, make sure you have active participation and strive to become a leader or core member of the group or organization. Good luck!
I will be applying to college this fall. I have played volleyball for the past three years and was on the varsity team last season. We have a terrible coach and I don’t want to play my senior year. However, I am afraid it will look badly on my college applications. Volleyball was my main extracurricular activity. Do you think I should stick it out?
Yes, if you want to play in college you should continue the activity through senior year. It sounds like you dislike the coach, but weigh that against what you’ll lose if you quit. Do you love the sport? Are you able to juggle it with your grades, studies, and applications? If so, volleyball may serve an important purpose in your life and it would be a shame to give it up because of one coach. In fact, working with a difficult coach could be seen as a good experience. Odds are, someday you’ll have a boss or supervisor that isn’t your favorite. But learning to manage the relationship rather than giving up your career shows maturity and sound decision making. Perhaps you could make this a learning experience and put in the extra work to make your volleyball season a good one. But, if you feel like the sport will interfere with your grades and studies, definitely consider replacing the activity. Good luck with your decision!
Which activities do colleges like to see on a resume? Other than student government, what are activities that would impress the college admissions committee?
Colleges like to see active involvement in clubs or organizations no matter the type. Rather than focusing on what looks best, you should head toward extracurricular activities that relate to your own interests. The more passionate you are about the activity, the more like you are to become deeply involved and take on leadership roles. Whether you are the head of the drama club or the student government treasurer, make sure you can demonstrate commitment and leadership of some sort. If you have trouble finding a club or team that suits your interests, consider founding a group. This also shows leadership and ambition, two qualities that every school will expect from an incoming student. Good luck!
I have participated in many extracurricular activities, but music has never been one of them. When I apply to college, will it be a disadvantage to me that I’ve never played an instrument?
Certainly not. Although music is a common extracurricular activity, it isn’t for everyone. You are far better off picking activities that are aligned with your passions and future goals. If music isn’t one of those, don’t worry. Make sure you have a well-rounded schedule with plenty of time to study, several commitments to organizations or activities outside of classes, strong letters of recommendation, and high grades. Lacking a sport or musical endeavor won’t set you back if you’ve engaged in other things. Good luck!
I play golf, but there is no golf team in my school for girls. Can I list this in my college application? Will colleges find this attractive even though I don’t play for my school? I do not play any other sport.
Yes, you can list it, but also consider discussing your goals in your essay. That way, you’ll make it clear that you want to pursue golf as a college student and just didn’t have the opportunity at your school to play on a team. Are you a member of any golf organizations in your community? If so, list those. Your extracurriculars don’t have to be connected to your school, but it’s great to show that you’re part of an organized and regular commitment. Good luck!
Dear Guru,I heard that any activities done in the summer after 8th grade can be included in the college resume. My daughter has an opportunity to do a fund raiser for illiterate kids in the later half of her 8th grade around March time frame. Wondering if the fundraiser done in March could be put in the college resume? Thank you.
Sure, she can put the experience on her resume. The best of all worlds, though, would be for her to begin this activity and stick with it throughout high school, even if it’s something she does once a year every summer. If she lets this experience be her first activity to help raise funds and volunteer for literacy, she’ll begin a whole journey toward this passion that will show leadership, commitment, and maturity. Encourage your daughter to look at this opportunity as a foray into new passion rather than just a one-time opportunity. Good luck!
I want to apply for a scholarship that requires community involvement. Does a service club count? We give back to the community a lot, but I’m not sure if this classifies as community involvement.
Sure, service clubs count as community involvement, as do any activities where you are volunteering your hours toward a community project or need. If you can articulate how your activities with the club serve your community in your scholarship application, your essay will be even more powerful. Demonstrate why you chose this particular club and why you feel the needs of your community are important in the area that you’re volunteering. Good luck!
What volunteer programs best suit someone who is interested in becoming a chemical engineer, a doctor, or a biomedical engineer?
One great step to take would be to research volunteer opportunities at hospitals in your area. A volunteer job in a medical setting may range anywhere from marketing tasks to socializing with patients. Any volunteer opportunity that puts you in a setting where you might want to work in the future is a great experience. Can you visit your high school guidance office for leads on volunteer opportunities? Or, try talking to professionals in your area who work in those fields. They may have some ideas or opportunities for you. Most hospitals and medical clinics offer volunteer opportunities to teens, and you can usually find organizations in your community that organize events surrounding cancer research, hospitals, and healthcare. Good luck!
I’m a sophomore at a school known nationally for some of its programs. I’m aiming for UCLA, Berkeley, Brown, Cornell or similar types of schools, but I worry about my chances because my extracurricular activities are not unique. I’m in varsity tennis and plan to continue until senior year. I am the editor of our school newspaper which has won national awards. I am in Girl Scouts, I volunteer at Kaiser Hospital, and I take community college courses. I also help run a broadcasting TV program. I am in NHS, speak Spanish and English fluently, and am part Korean and Bolivian. I also tutor kids in chemistry and have about a 3.7 unweighted GPA. I will have taken around ten AP classes by senior year, but I am not a straight A kid. I have a sprinkling of B’s. I worry because I feel like I will not stand out enough to the top colleges. I also do not have many individual awards even though I am in award winning programs. How strong or weak are my activities right now? What should I improve on and what are my chances? Any other advice? Thanks Guru!
Phew! First off, congratulations for tackling so much already! You do have a lot of extracurricular activities, and it sounds like you are very focused academically. Tutoring shows that you are a leader willing to help others as well. Perfect grades are not as important as a well-rounded profile, and it sounds like you are building one. That said, we can’t predict your chances of acceptance at any school, as each school is different, and each incoming class is composed of a different student body. This is where your research comes in! Check out the websites of the schools you like and read about their requirements. Most schools post a profile of the typical incoming student or statistics about its incoming students’ mean GPA and test scores. With that information, you can determine whether or not you’re a good candidate. In terms of advice, try not to overload yourself with too many extra curricular activities in the hopes that you’ll stand out. If activities start to interfere with your academic performance, you know you need to dial back. Also, schools like to see committed, active involvement in clubs and organizations. If you feel like you are competitive for journalism awards or contests, do a little research and enter! Stay focused, and stay confident — you’re on the right track!
I am going to be a sophomore this year, and so far I have about 50 hours of volunteer work. I play a lot of sports and I am involved in a lot of clubs. Since sports restrict my involvement in clubs, I miss a lot of meetings. While I am involved in different clubs, they all meet at different times during the week. Dropping one club won’t necessarily help me with my involvement in another club. I have not seen my rank, but I am definitely in the top of my class. I would like to get accepted into a very academically rigorous school such as Princeton University. I estimate that I will have 250 or more hours of volunteer work by the time I graduate. Is this enough for an Ivy League school? What about clubs? I am involved in Stand Up & Rebel, Art Club, Academic Club, and Student Council.
Your student profile sounds very impressive, and you should be proud to be in the top of your class while balancing all of these activities. When a student is involved in many different activities, it can help to create a hierarchy in order to allocate your time wisely. It goes without saying that your grades and academics are placed at the top of the hierarchy. Before anything else, prioritize your studies. Next, think about what area of your extracurricular life receives the most energy and attention. From what you’ve described, it sounds like volunteering and sports are next in line, with clubs falling beneath those activities in level of importance. You can determine how to make your membership meaningful in everything you do, as long as you assess how much time you can give to each thing. For example, on a sports team, you can’t miss games, so you are committed for the entire season. But for a club, maybe you can miss meetings but still engage meaningfully in one big project during the year, such as a fundraiser or a volunteer effort. Then, when it is time for you to write about your extracurricular activities in college applications, you can discuss ways in which you participated in events and projects. While I can’t predict your chances at any school, it does sound like you are on the right track. Staying active in your academic community now will help you transition to the college environment where opportunities to volunteer and join clubs will abound. Good luck!
What looks better on my college application? Tae Kwan Do or Cross Country? I will be a sophomore and want to join a School Sport. My school offers both of these. I did not join a sport as a Freshman. I don’t have prior experience in either. My counselor told me that Tae Kwan Do is not very valuable. Thanks.
I’m not sure it’s possible to weigh these two sports against one another because they’re so different. In truth, the most valuable activity will be the one you stick with and the one that gives you discipline, confidence, and self-esteem. Think about which sport you feel you’ll benefit from personally rather than which one will look better to a college admissions counsel. Both sports require concentration, determination, and dedication, and they’ll only be valuable if you devote your time and energy to learning the skills. Most universities have cross country and track teams, and if you think you’ll continue the sport throughout college this might open up avenues for scholarships. On the other hand, some schools offer martial arts, and because Tae Kwan Do is less common than cross country, it could help you stand out as a strong applicant. When you make the choice, choose the sport to which you’re likely to remain devoted. Good luck!
When I was in high school, I didn’t do any school activities because I had to work, but in the summer I volunteered at a hospital and still do. What should I write when a college application asks me to list my activities? Is volunteering at a hospital enough?
I think you may be overlooking one of your most important activities, which is your work experience. Many high school students don’t have any, so yours may set you apart on your application. Talk about how you worked during high school, and focus on the skills and experience you gained. You can also talk about your volunteer work and highlight the way that experience has shaped you, plus how you plan to continue volunteering in the future. Believe it or not, I can tell you have a lot to discuss even without sports or other school clubs. If you do decide to mention that you weren’t able to participate in clubs because of your job, you might talk about clubs or sports you want to try in college. It’s always best to talk about the future and the positive aspects of past experiences in any admissions essay. Good luck!
My daughter is a junior in high school. She is a straight A student in the Honors program in a high school with a very rigorous curriculum. She is also a member of the National Honors Society, is on the Tennis team and participates in two clubs at her school. We have started looking at colleges and it has become clear to me that participation in extracurricular activities is as important as good grades. I have been diagnosed and treated for cancer two times in the past 5 years. My treatments have included chemotherapy and radiation as well as numerous surgeries and a lot of recovery time from each of the treatments and surgeries. Because of my health issues my daughter wasn’t able to participate in as many activities as she would have had I not been sick. She was a tremendous help to me and our family during my illnesses. The idea that my being sick would get in the way of her being accepted into the college of her choice is very upsetting to me. Would it be out of place for me to send a letter explaining our families personal situation to the colleges she applies to? This would not in any way be an attempt to garner sympathy. I simply want the recruiters to be aware that there was a reason for her limited participation in extracurricular activities. I appreciate any advice you can offer. Thank you
I’m sorry to hear about your illness, and it sounds like it has been a long battle for you and your family. I do think it’s OK and helpful to discuss your daughter’s personal situation when you make contacts with recruiters and admissions professionals at the schools to which she applies. Your daughter should also discuss this situation in her application essay, because it shows how she has spent her time constructively outside of studies during high school. While many students do have clubs and sports to list, most students haven’t dealt with the kind of situation you’ve described. I think it’s certainly OK to discuss it with recruiters, or even to send a letter, and your daughter should consider what she has gained from the hardship and experience when she pens her application essay. There is a great chance that her contributions and experience will be looked upon as a leadership role and an experience that speaks even more favorably about her character than a traditional extracurricular activity might. I wish you the best in your recovery, and I wish your daughter the best of luck in her applications.
Is it necessary to play at least one varsity sport at high school to make it into top ten schools in US? My son is not very athletic. Is it OK for him to join two or three clubs he is passionate about and concentrate on academics rather than participating in a varsity sport at high school?
While sports are one path to leadership skills and strong extracurricular records, they are certainly not required. Plenty of students pursue other activities instead and still gain acceptances to top colleges. Your son should follow his own passions and stick with activities that will inspire him to grow, learn, and take on new responsibility. Colleges are communities full of varied talents and skills, and top colleges look at students who excel in many different areas. Plus, activities like marching band, community service clubs, and debate teams foster the kind of teamwork that team sports facilitate. Keep encouraging your son to follow his instincts, and don’t worry about sports if they are not his interest or strength.
I am a junior and I don’t participate in any sports. I do a lot of volunteering and community service. Which is the most important: participating in sports, or volunteering and community services??
Neither of these two types of activities can be measured against one another. What’s most important is that you embark on journeys that speak to your passions and interests. The activities that speak loudest about your characters are those to which you dedicate time and energy for at least several years. Adopting leadership roles demonstrates a passion toward the focus of the activity, whether it’s a team sport or a philanthropic effort. If sports aren’t your passion, that’s OK! True, most colleges do focus on sports and athletic programs, but thousands of students at every school engage in non-athletic activities. Follow your true interests and passions, and make sure you isolate one or two activities you plant to stick with throughout high school to show your commitment. Good luck!
I just finished my freshman year of high school a few months ago. One of my A’s was in band. But, I absolutely despised band! So when we chose classes for our next schedules, I took out band. My parents are absolutely fuming. They said that consistency is important, and if I quit band I won’t have anything good on my application. I’m in student council, and I was involved in the school musical too. But after sophomore year, I’m moving. I’m afraid that when I move to a new school, I won’t be able to continue the things I was involved in, except for band. What should I do?
The answer is simple: If you hate band, don’t participate. Since you’re entering sophomore year, you have time to find hobbies you like. There are so many other activities you could do, and it’s important to find something you’re passionate about so that you’ll continue it. Do find another activity to fill that space, though. If you enjoy drama or theater, find community organizations or school organizations to join. Or, if you are interested in a sport or a volunteer organization, consider those as well. You’ll have to do research, especially if you’re moving to a different school. But don’t stick with something you hate for the sake of consistency. Strive to be consistent with something you enjoy!
Hello! I am wondering what college to go to because I love business and have a passion for organizations such as Delta Epsilon Chi. One school I like has a Delta Epsilon Chi chapter, another school doesn’t. Is it better the start a new chapter for an organization or to join the already established chapter? Thanks for taking the time to read this!
That’s a great question. Either would be great, so I think you might benefit from weighing other factors about both schools to see which is the better fit. If both schools measure up equally in terms of academics, location, cost, and campus life, you might consider the networking you’ll be able to do at a school that already has the organization place. However, starting a chapter is a great leadership opportunity. Take a long look at what each school has to offer and see if one outweighs the other in other areas. Then, make a decision about which is the best fit. I think both joining and starting a chapter of the organization would be equally fulfilling and beneficial, so see if you can make the decision based on other components. Good luck!
What extracurricular activities look best on a college application if you want to study to become a vet?
It’s great that you have a career goal in mind. One big mistake we see at My College Guide is the tendency for students to seek extracurricular activities that will look good on an application rather than activities that will further their own passions, interests, and knowledge. If you want to become a vet, perhaps choose clubs or activities that give you experience working with animals. Have you considered volunteering at an animal shelter or applying for an internship at a vet’s office? Extracurricular activities should enhance your experience, knowledge, and communication skills in areas you’d like to continue working and participating as a young adult. A deep level of involvement, such as a leadership position or several years of meaningful involvement, looks best on an application.
Should I drop my sport junior year to focus more on grades and the SAT? I have average grades but I want a high score on the SAT and need to spend more time on preparation. Freshman year, I joined the fencing team, and now I’m on varsity. I was thinking of not fencing this season to concentrate more on SAT. Is that a bad idea? Would it be better to continue and have four years of fencing?
All three matter significantly: test scores, grades, and extracurriculars. If you feel that fencing is distracting you from studying, certainly consider dropping it for another activity that will enhance your grades. However, since all three are important, are there other activities you can sacrifice rather than the important ones like extracurricular activities? For instance, do you spend a lot of time chatting online, playing video games, or heading to the movie theater? Think about how you manage your time each week and weekend. You may find that it isn’t the fencing team that’s interrupting your studies, but other activities that you could easily decrease. It would look great to stick with a sport all the way through high school, especially one that builds character and sharpens your focus. Before you quit, try to isolate the real problem! Best of luck.
I would like to get into a Ivy League College and need to know some extracurricular activities to begin this summer. I want to be an OBGYN, and I have already volunteered at a hospital and shadowed a doctor. What else would you suggest to help my application look outstanding?
These sound like strong goals. Remember that longevity and dedication are important factors in choosing extracurricular activities. Working at a hospital for three years, or several summers in a row looks much better than having a scattering of short-term activities on your application. Can you find a volunteer job or activity to stick with throughout high school? One that’s directly related to the career you want is even better, because it shows your passion and dedication to learning what practicing medicine is really like. Since medical schools want to know that a student really has what it takes to practice medicine, search for extracurriculars where you can get involved in the healthcare industry. Good luck, and stick with what you pick!
Over my high school years, I have not been involved in many extra curricular activities because I have two jobs. I’m worried that colleges will notice this, and I was wondering if colleges will take my two jobs into consideration as extracurriculars.
You bet they will. Working two jobs during high school shows maturity and responsibility. Colleges are looking for students who are hard workers, dedicated to their education goals. If you can demonstrate in your essay how working two jobs during school taught you time management, responsibility, and leadership, you’ll make a positive impression. Focus that essay on how working gave you skills rather than how it held you back. Good luck!
I’m a junior in high school and have been involved in school band and marching band since seventh grade. I’m taking a heavy academic load this year, and I’m not enjoying band anymore. I’m thinking of quitting. I’m in other clubs, and I’ve been active in Girl Scouts for eight years. Will quitting be looked upon unfavorably by colleges?
Not necessarily. If you know that you don’t want to pursue marching band any further, you might replace the activity with something that interests you. It’s not uncommon for a student to realize that a hobby or activity they’ve held for a few years is not necessarily their true passion. This is a good time to start deciding what really excites you. Rather than simply quitting the band, why not find something to do in replacement of that activity? If you’re worried about the image of “quitting” on your application, discuss the decision in your admissions essay. Certainly, if the activity is getting in the way of your academic load, you’ll want to prioritize your studies over your extracurriculars. Good luck with your decision — and, if you quit, quit on a good note, maintaining good ties with your band leader. It’s important to keep good relationships with your teachers, coaches, and leaders even if you move on to a new activity.
I’ve been the class president for sophomore and freshman class, have a 4.15 GPA. I’m currently a sophomore and a member of the JV cross country team. I am also head of the sophomore committee. I’m wondering if I should volunteer at my local hospital instead of running track. What looks better and is more important on a college application, volunteer service or sports?
Great question! What looks best on your application is an activity you stuck with for a long period of time and one in which took on a more active role. So, a few hours of community service won’t stack up to a leadership position on a sports team, but just playing on a team doesn’t look as good as leading or organizing a volunteer group. Choose the one you’ll commit to more deeply, and put in some extra energy and time. This shows that you have leadership skills and ambition. Good luck!
I was offered a position as a guidance helper in my sophomore year, but I want to take and extra band class. It will show up on my transcript as study hall. Which will look better?
Congrats on the offer! Instead of worrying about what “looks better” (which is impossible to determine, by the way,) think about what will provide you with the most growth and skill-building. It sounds like you already have a band class under your belt, but if you plan to study music, perhaps the band class better suits your needs. However, if working in the guidance office will open up new opportunities and give you exposure to new tasks, it does sound like a position that demonstrates maturity and leadership. If the guidance helper position is more selective and involved, it might serve you better — in action, and on the application. Good luck with your decision!
I’m a Girl Scout and my brother is a Boy Scout. We are both in high school and we are wondering how schools view the Girl Scout Gold Award and the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. We’ve heard that the Eagle Scout Award is considered with more weight. These projects take so many hours, and there are many rules to follow and forms to take care of. Do schools respect these projects? Are the hours put in worth it? This will take months of planning and executing. Thanks!
Congrats to you and your brother on considering these projects. Rather than thinking about whether a school will respect the project, think about whether you will gain something valuable from the process. The prestige of the award itself is nothing compared to the skills you gain and the leadership practice you endure while working toward the final goal. If you really want to know how schools regard the two awards, you could call your schools of interest and the admissions counselors. However, I would encourage you to only pursue extracurricular activities that are meaningful to you rather than pursuing activities and awards that might “look good.” The latter is a misstep, as a college education is about tackling the goals and achievements that are important to you. Good luck with your decision!
No matter what, I always try to learn the most from the experience. But for someone with limited time, which is better to focus on: grades or extracurricular activities?
Great question! The answer is this: grades come first. Extracurricular activities should enhance your education, growth, and maturity. They should feed into your passions and interests as you discover them and excel in school. Too many extracurricular activities can interfere with your studying, so don’t overload. Instead, find a balance between strong grades and strong involvement in your community. Meaningful participation is more important than the quantity of clubs and activities, so choose one or two community groups or programs that truly ignite your interest. You can always add on another if your time loosens up, but overextending yourself can be detrimental to your wellness and your overall performance. Good luck!
I just finished my freshman year few weeks ago and I’m really worried about my future since my freshman year record wasn’t that great. I did not take any honor classes and got 3.86 GPA. I will take 3 honor classes next year. In addition, I did not join sports teams or clubs. Does my freshman year record hurt my chances of getting into college? What are the disadvantages of joining club and a sports team during sophomore year?
Great question! First of all, you have three years to prove that you’re college material, so don’t let a faulty freshman year stand in your way. Here’s what you need to know: Adding honors classes and extracurricular activities to sophomore year will make your schedule more demanding. You should prepare by developing strategies to manage your time and keep your grades high. Perhaps set aside specific hours each day for studying and homework. Adding extracurriculars is a good move, but avoid adding too many at once. A sports team demands time and dedication, as do clubs. Think about what really interests you and what you’re likely to stick with throughout high school before making the choice to join a club or sport. I applaud you for planning out a better sophomore year. If you feel that you are starting to fall behind, remember that your studies are the most important thing. Commitment to your education should come before commitment to a club or organization, so put studying and homework at the very top of your priority list. Good luck!
Would colleges rather see that a student do more AP classes online during the summer, more volunteer work, or more full time work to help pay tuition? Or, should I try to strike a balance between the these activities?
Good question. This really depend on what the rest of your profile shows. For example, if you’ve got tons of AP courses on your transcripts but lack volunteer work, I would suggest filling the summer gap with volunteering. If you have high grades, challenging courses, and extracurriculars, working to save money for college during the summer is a great idea and will also help you build skills. My advice is this: use the summer to boost areas that are lacking on your future application. If you’ve got plenty of extracurricular activities and AP classes, find a job you’ll enjoy and save up money for tuition. Work experience shows maturity and ambition, and can be a great way to set yourself apart from other entering freshmen. Good luck!
I am going to be a freshman in high school, but I already attended the high school for 7th and 8th grade. I want to know if I should join a sport, which takes about two hours every day, or join clubs, which will only take one hour per week each. Some say that joining a sport early in freshman year is the best idea because that is when the workload is the lightest. But will one year of sports look good on an application, or will it show a lack of continuation? Are sports weighted more than clubs on applications?
The best route is to choose activities you’ll stick with. Extracurricular activities should serve to build relationships and enrich your educational experience. Sports are not weighted heavier or lighter than clubs on the application. Instead, the committee will evaluate your application as a whole, factoring in the types of activities you chose and your level of involvement. Rather than picking something you’ll quit after a year, choose clubs or organizations that you can actively participate in and eventually adopt leadership roles. These will give you more value, and will demonstrate commitment when it’s time to apply for college. Also, I would be wary of the advice that freshmen year offers a light workload. More often, freshman year is a learning curve in which students work to develop time management skills and handle college-level work. For many, this is a tough year and first semester might be more challenging than you anticipate. Good luck with your high school extracurriculars!
I’m a rising senior in high school. I’ve played soccer every year in school but I’m thinking about not playing this year. Will this look bad on college application, like I just quit? Any suggestions for things that I can do to boost my attractiveness to a college? Work? Volunteer? Clubs? Thanks!
That’s a good question. It won’t necessarily look “bad” to quit, but it will be noticeable. Therefore, I think what you suggested is a great idea: If you do quit, fill that time with something constructive such as volunteering, part-time work, or clubs. You could also discuss your transition in your admissions essay. Quitting soccer to take on part-time work to save money for college sounds like a valid reason, especially if you don’t plan to play in college. However, if you are quitting simply because you are tired of it, think about your position on the team and whether, as a senior, it is your turn to be a leader. Anyone committed to time-consuming sports and activities sometimes thinks about what it would be like to stop and have more free time, but is that really worth letting go of the commitment you’ve made to the team? Think hard about this decision, and consider discussing it in your application essay if you do quit. Good luck to you!
Are there any extracurricular activities that can be done at home or online?
Typically, extracurricular activities involve collaborating with others. These types of activities build communication skills and promote your ability to work well with others. This means joining organizations, clubs, or team sports. You might be able to find something near your home, but typically things you do alone at home or on the internet aren’t really considered extracurricular activities. Don’t worry, you don’t have to join five or six clubs if your schedule is tight. Joining one organization and offering quality commitment is far more effective for your own skill-building and for college admissions.
I am currently a senior in high school and while I was filling out my paper work for requesting recommendations, I couldn’t think of any school activities that I’ve been involved in for a long period of time. I hardly ever do community service. What should I do?
If that’s the case, perhaps you can talk about the activities you are most passionate about. It’s okay to have dabbled in a few different things and explored possibilities. Many students don’t find subjects and fields that truly spark their interest until late in the educational process. Instead of focusing on what you stuck with the longest, focus on what you learned from those activities, and talk about your passions. For example, if you volunteered at a hospital but know you don’t want to work in the medical field, you can still describe something valuable you learned from that experience. Likewise, if you ran track for one year and stopped, you might discuss what you gained from the competitive sport and the importance of deciding to allocate time toward things that really matter to you. Demonstrating an awareness and maturity that involves growth from all experiences will be more powerful, in your essay, than a long-term sport or club. Good luck!
What can be considered as an extra-curricular activity?
Any activity where you dedicate your time and service outside of classwork can be considered an extra-curricular activity. These might include clubs, organizations, volunteer work, sports, paid jobs, participation in band or musical groups, or travel abroad for experiences and service work. The sky is the limit, so don’t just think of extracurriculars as memberships to groups. Any kind of activity that you participate in on a regular basis, meaning daily or weekly, could be considered an extracurricular. You shouldn’t choose them based on what will “look good” on the application. Instead, pick them based on your passions and interests.
Does it make a difference to a college whether you do extensive domestic community service or international community service? Do you think it’s more impressive to complete 100 hours of community service in Costa Rica or 100 hours of community service in the Bronx?
No, I don’t think it matters unless you plan to study international relationships, Latin American politics, or a major that relates to multicultural experiences. What matters most is what you did during your community service and how you grew from it. Complete the community service in the place where you feel your skills are most needed. If the Bronx is your home, sometimes it’s better to focus on how you can help others locally. Good luck!
I recently co-founded the beta club at my school and was wondering how good that will look to colleges. Nobody at my school had ever heard of this club, so I can’t tell yet how influential it will be.
Congratulations on your success! The more energy you put into the club, and the more leadership you show, the more colleges will recognize this extracurricular activity as a stand-out part of your application. Grow the club as much as you can and get others involved. If people at your school don’t know about this club, make them aware by giving speeches, posting flyers and other materials, and spreading the word. It will be what you make it. Good luck, and when you write about this experience in your college essay, focus on what you learned from organizing and leading a new club!
I am a freshman and I’m not sure if I should take band next year because I would like to try some other electives. Would quitting band now look bad on my college application?
If you’d like to try something new, freshman year is a great time to make that decision. It does show dedication on a college application to have participated in activities for several years in high school. However, if band isn’t for you, find an extracurricular that you enjoy and will stick with for the next few years. Even better, if you find one you really like, try to land a leadership position in the club, team, or organization. This will give you leadership experience on top of what you already gain from the activity. Good luck!
I’m a freshman attending a nationally ranked private high school with an unweighted GPA of 4.05. I am participating in orchestra, rowing during the fall and spring, swimming in the winter, and newspaper year-round. I’ve earned some accolades for orchestra, and I also have 150 community service hours. I’m worried about my ability to keep all of this up in my sophomore, junior, and senior years. Based on all of this, do you think I should drop anything? I’m worried that I’m spreading myself too thin.
If you’re worried that you are spreading yourself too thin, you likely are. Listen to your intuition. While it’s great that you’ve sustained a high GPA with these activities, ask yourself whether that is sustainable. If you believe it isn’t, you may need to realign your schedule to your goal of academic success. If you can’t keep up with all of the activities, determine which ones are long-term activities and which ones can be cut. For example, if community service is hugely important to you, you might decide to drop a sport for one season to continue your service, or you might decide that newspaper year round is more important than orchestra, etc. Either way, listen to your instincts and don’t let your grades fall due to too much stress and activity. Good luck!
My school has almost no extracurricular activities and absolutely no AP classes. They do offer a running start program where you can take college classes your sophomore year. I was wondering if this is going to affect my application, because I have no AP classes and barely and extra curricular activities.
First off, your school’s offerings won’t limit your ability to head to a great college as long as you work to build a great student portfolio. Extracurriculars don’t have to be sponsored by your school. You can find volunteer jobs, sports teams, and clubs outside of your high school, and these count as extracurricular activities. Try to find activities that will help you stretch your leadership skills and commitment to seeing projects through from beginning to end. Additionally, a lack of AP courses won’t hurt you if you do take advantage of the program you mentioned where college experience can be gained during high school. Sit down and assess what you’d like to do with your studies and free time, and build a plan that balances a challenging academic load as well as quality activities that speak to your interests. Don’t take on so much that you can’t keep your grades in the ‘A’ and ‘B’ range, but do try to invest your time into commitments and activities that will build your strengths and skills. Good luck!
Hi, I was wondering if their are any extra things I can do to have a good chance of getting in college and to make my application stand out. I understand grades are key, and I do sports and activities like student council, FBLA, yearbook staff, I go to church im in pep club and art club and I’m a straight A student with some B’s occasionally. and that sort of stuff but is their any other activities or things I can do to add to my app to be noticed and get a better chance.
It sounds like you’re doing all of the right things! There isn’t one particular activity for you to do. It’s more important to devote meaningful time to less activities than to have a lot of activities and not much time to do any of them. Good luck!
Hey Guru… So my grades are pretty high, and as a junior I have altogether 6 advanced classes on my transcript. However, I am finding it really hard to find more things to make me look “good” for college. Unfortunately I am not athletic and it’s hard to find my place in any club. I am in the National Honor Society, but my inclusion is more based on my community service activities than my extracurricular school activities. Is this going to diminish the fact that my grades are decent? What are your recommendations?
It’s very common for students to worry about “looking” good to colleges, so first of all, you’re not alone in these feelings! I’m sorry to say that there’s no one answer for rounding out your application beyond good grades, and here’s why. Colleges look at extracurriculars primarily to measure two things: 1) your ability to manage your time, and 2) to get a sense for the passions and interests that drive you as a person. You mention that you do community service–this could be a real asset on a college application, especially if you’re service work is connected to a genuine interest of yours. Continue to focus on academic excellence (congrats on those grades, by the way!), but also start pursuing some activities you truly enjoy. If sports aren’t your thing, no problem. Take a dance class at the community center, write your own comic book series, host a benefit bake sale for a cause you admire. You will “look good” to colleges when you can show evidence that you know how to use your free time in interesting, creative, and helpful ways, and school clubs and sports simply aren’t the only way to do that. Good luck!
I have decided that I do not want to play soccer in college. I am currently a junior. Throughout high school, I have played on the high school and year long travel teams. How do colleges look at your extra curricular activities your senior year of high school. My plan for my senior year is to be dual enrolled in high school and local colleges. I am involved in Science and National Honor societies, which should continue into my senior year. My test scores qualify me to apply to any school of my choice. If I do not play a sport my senior year would it hurt my admission acceptance. Can I substitute other activities? Please advise.
It can be hard when you feel like there’s an activity you’re “supposed” to do. Good for you for your long track record of success. With all you have on your plate, I am sure that colleges will understand why a grueling practice schedule might be too much. Colleges typically look at your overall slate of activities over high school and what they hope for is students who are very involved in a few activities, rather than flying from one to another in a topical way. In other words, they typically value depth over breadth. The point is that you have showed that depth in soccer, even if you don’t play it your senior year, through all the time that has already been invested.
Another thing to consider is using that experience as the basis for your entrance essay. You can talk about how much you loved soccer and how it was a big decision to give it up, but that you knew it wasn’t your future, and sometimes people need to make hard choices. Emphasize the many benefits you derived, from learning organization and discipline, to functioning as part of a team.
If soccer is something you enjoy, consider checking into a rec league or intramural team, though, as it might be a great diversion from your academic schedule, and will help keep your body healthy too!
Hope your senior year is great!
What do prestigious colleges look for, and what should I devote my time to, and? I’m a 16 year old junior, with a 4.7 weighted GPA in the International Baccalaureate program. When I go to college I want to major in political science. My extra-curricular activities consist of volunteering at the hospital, current Vice President of A.V Red Cross Youth Corps, (also participate in other community service clubs at school), Founder and President of Junior State of America (sophomore and junior year, hopefully senior year too), Petty Officer 3rd Class in the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps (received awards such as marksmanship and scuba diving certification) and more. I’m also in mock trial, my school’s law and government academy, and I participate in Youth Court as a juror for other teenagers who are convicted a crime. But, my question is, should I have left the robotics team? I started Robotics for 2 weeks, but quit because I wanted to take an SAT prep course. What would look better as well, a phenomenal SAT score, or Robotics? Would it gave also looked weird since I want to major in political science in the future?
Wow! Congratulations on your excellent work in high school. You are doing an excellent job, with a well-rounded slate of activities, not to mention a wonderful GPA. I wouldn’t worry about the Robotics. Sounds like it’s not an ideal match with your future interests, and colleges are typically more interested in seeing a depth of activities rather than a breadth, so your leadership positions are a fine representation. Spending time concentrating on a few activities that interest you the most is wiser than spreading yourself thin.
Make sure to take some time to relax, too, with that busy schedule you have.
My daughter is indecisive about choosing between two summer programs. She is a sophomore, and needs help deciding between a week-long residential business week or a mentoring opportunity at a school that she really enjoys. Which one would be better for her? Putting her interest aside which one would look good on her resume and which one would be good learning experience for her?
Thanks for contacting us. It’s great that your daughter is looking for meaningful, enriching summer experiences. I want to note, though, that you can’t put aside her interest. The truth is that schools are most interested in kids who pursue their own passions and learn something from them, especially since she has the chance to choose between two really great options. Since she still has a couple summers before college, she could even eventually do both. At this point, I would let her choose the one that interests her most and that fits the best with your family’s summer schedule. Undoubtedly, she will learn a lot from either experience, both of which sound as though they will provide excellent fodder for a strong, personalized essay, which is an important component of college admission.I hope she has a wonderful summer and learns valuable lessons, regardless of which choice she makes!
I did marching band for a year and recently quit. Are the drama program and yearbook enough activities for a good college application? I mean i have all As and am taking honors classes but are the activities I am doing along with grades enough?
Congratulations on your hard work to achieve such excellent grades. Every college is going to be looking for something different but in general, we find that colleges are more interested in your depth of activities, rather than your breadth. In other words, becoming more involved in fewer activities is a better way to show your level of commitment.High school is the time to try new things and find out what interests you. Seems that marching band wasn’t high on your list of priorities and there is nothing wrong with that! Spending more time focusing on the activities that really interest you is what matters. Drama and yearbook are great choices that will help build your skills in public speaking and writing — which translate to any future path you might pursue.Good luck!
Is it easier to get into college when you play a varsity sport? In my free time I love to run, swim, and box but it’s nothing competitive- is that attractive? And is it possible to play a sport in college you’ve never played before?
Hi there. We get a lot of questions about sports. Yes, lots of kids play a varsity sport in high school and that looks great on a college application since it shows dedication, teamwork and time management skills. But, certainly it’s not a better extracurricular than any other! Maybe you are in other music, arts or language clubs.The sports you have chosen are great because they are “lifelong sports.” You will always enjoy those from a fitness perspective. However, if you do want to parlay your choice of sports into a team activity at your school, almost every school has a track team and many have swim teams. Both offer the opportunity to do the sport you love, increase your fitness, learn new techniques and also have the benefit of the camaraderie of a team sport — and an extracurricular to put on your college application. It’s by no means a “requirement,” but colleges do like to see you were active in high school groups. Another option would be to use your swimming and running skills in a fundraising capacity, finding a local race for a cause that’s important to you and raising money for it. That’s another great skill to put on an application.Additionally, this journey might allow you to find some great fodder for your application essay — maybe you learned to love a team sport by turning your individual pursuit into a group activity. Maybe you learned about fundraising and sales skills through your charity event. Maybe you decided that you prefer solo pursuits, to think and reflect so these are important to you to do alone.The point is, you should pursue activities at a level that’s comfortable to YOU and not solely for a college application, but you can also be mindful of how you might make the most of them.Finally as for playing sports in college, it’s unlikely you’ll make the official team, though depending on your school, some might be less competitive than others. But, college offers multiple intramural and club activities that are sure to incorporate a sport you love, or even a new one you want to try. It’s a great way to meet people and stay fit at the same time.Good luck!
Will being a TA for two years look bad on college apps? I’m being a TA again because I realize I want to be a teacher.
Being a TA can be a very fulfilling activity, and even more so if you think you are intersted in pursuing a career in education. I assume that your academic coursework allows room for this while still fulfilling the classes that most colleges require. In other words, make sure that you aren’t TAing as a substitute for a core class you will need. But if your schedule has room, this can be a great addition.
The suggestion I have is to provide a clear tie between why you are doing TA work and your eventual goals. You can do this in the “extracurrciular” portion of the application as well as in the essay, where you can discuss how this activity helped you see a clear path for your future. You also might consider seeing if the teacher for whom you are TAing can provide a recommendation on your behalf, discussing your maturity, aptitude and why you were an asset in their class.
Given your proposed career path, this work should be an excellent addition to your resume and application. Good luck!
Hi, I am a junior in high school. I take all honors and AP classes (except English), and I have a 4.1 GPA average. I am part of the tennis team. However, I haven’t done a lot of community service (maybe 40 hours) and I am not part of any clubs. I won an essay contest in my high school this year. Do I have a chance at getting into a good college? I’m really worried.
Wonderful job on your grades.
Many students get hung up on community service as something they “have to have,” but the truth is that schools look for a variety of factors, and one of their levers is depth, not breadth. So, if community service isn’t a passion of yours, and you don’t have the time or interest to truly make it an activity that is a key part of your week, don’t let it derail your hopes of attending a “good” school.
Being on the tennis team is great, but keep in mind that schools also look for leadership. Perhaps you could kick it up a notch and help with team planning or other elements of the tennis team that would make sense to show deeper involvement. If you do want to add a community service component, you also could consider donating time to teaching lessons to kids at the YMCA or Boys and Girls Club, or hosting a mini tournament with proceeds going to a cause that’s important to you.
The essay contest is wonderful, too, and certainly something to add to your accomplishments. It also bodes well for your ability to write a compelling essay for your application.
We always caution that even with your impressive academics, it’s impossible for anyone to predict admission hopes. The best course of action is to continue to strive to reach those most selective schools, but make sure that you find some other schools that you would be happy to attend, and apply to a wide range. Add in another component if it’s doable, but in general, just keep up the great work!
I’m not a terrible student. I have a 3.89 unweighted and a 5.275 weighted GPA, but my problem is that though I’m involved in dancing, singing and drawing, I’m not involved in anything competitive at all. I also don’t do a ton of volunteering. Is it still possible for me to go to a good school? Everyone constantly talks about how important being well-rounded is. Although I understand that, I also want to spend my time on my studies and the hobbies I love. Should I drop them in favor of doing something more résumé-worthy?
Congratulations on your stellar GPA. You’re certainly far from a “terrible” student! Assuming you also have good test scores, you’ll probably be able to get into some very good schools.
However, college admissions officers consider a range of factors in when evaluating applications, including extracurricular activities. Your dancing, singing and drawing may well qualify if you do them through some organized program or group and if you’ve devoted meaningful time to them. Assuming you have, it’s not necessary to be involved in something “competitive.” So, it’s hard to tell if you should do more. Just keep in mind that if you’re interested in attending the very top schools, you’ll need to get involved in some extracurricular activities and community service. Your current activities sound great, and I wouldn’t drop them for something more “resume-worthy,” again, assuming they’re organized in some manner and you devote meaningful time to them.
Ideally, if you have time and they won’t interfere with your studies, you may be able to find some other activities that you feel passionate about. Your current activites may be sufficient as most colleges would rather see someone who is deeply committed to a few specific extracurricular activities than someone who belongs to many clubs and organizations but isn’t really involved in them.
My recommendation is to channel your hobbies into activities where you can build skills and serve the community. Have you considered volunteering at the local dance studio, joining a community choir or teaching kids how to draw in an after-school program? If you can’t find a club or organization that you want to join, start your own group. This will demonstrate your commitment, maturity and leadership to college admissions committees.
I’m currently in between eighth grade and my freshman year. Up until eighth grade, I was doing wonderfully in school, with all A’s in all honors classes all my life. But then we had a house fire and a family death that shot back my school performance. In eighth grade, I got low B’s and high C’s in on-level courses. I’m planning on taking four years of Latin, along with getting, hopefully, low A’s and high B’s in on-level courses all throughout high school. I can play five instruments, but I am in a wheelchair and cannot do band, choir or sports. I was wondering if low A’s and high B’s, four years of foreign language, and one or two clubs would be enough to get me into a four-year university?
First of all, I am so sorry to hear about the devastating losses you suffered this past year. Surely that would affect anyone’s performance in school.
Second, if you’re already thinking about college now, then you are a step above the rest. You’re already showing a commit to your education, and you have four years to increase your chances of getting into your first choice of colleges.
When it comes to your college applications, your GPA is the most important aspect. So in high school, take classes that challenge and push you, but make sure you have the dedication to achieve at least an A or a B in them. If you end up getting a solid 3.5 GPA or above, then you have a decent chance of acceptance at a wide variety of mid-level colleges.
In addition to grades, colleges also look at test scores, extracurricular activities, essays and recommendations. Don’t worry about not being able to do band, choir or sports. Instead, find a school club or a community service experience that you’re passionate about and can give your all. Colleges are much more impressed by quality than they are by quantity. If you show a deep commitment to one or two clubs and maybe hold a leadership role, you’re demonstrating that you’re ready to take on the challenges of higher education. It’s also impressive that you play five instruments! That’s something you can mention on your application as well. Also, the essay part of the application is the place where you can talk about some of the personal circumstances you’ve had to deal with or overcome.
If going to a four-year university is an important goal for you, you can work toward that goal and earn it.
I have a question concerning extracurriculars during my final year of high school. Is it pointless in trying to join new clubs and activities as a senior because I’ll also be working on college applications? I was timid during the first part of my high school career and did not participate in as many clubs as I could have. (I’m ashamed to say that I even had to stop going to art meetings for theater because I could not stop having anxiety attacks prior to attending.) But now that I’m a rising senior (and due to some family support), I have a sudden interest in doing something for the community, such as joining the environmental club to do beach cleanups or some outside volunteer work. Is it too late in the game to be having this epiphany because I’d only be doing them for a short while by the time I send in my application (and probably won’t obtain a leadership role considering how new I’d be)? Or is it still worthwhile to mention them as part of my extracurricular activities? I’m worried that so far I don’t look good enough to colleges because I don’t have as much under my belt as I’d like to have.
First, I’m sorry to hear that you struggled with anxiety, but I’m glad that you’re doing well and are getting the support you need.
Second, expand your definition of extracurricular activities. They don’t necessarily have to be memberships to groups. It could be anything you do on a regular basis, from sports or participation in a musical group to a paid job or travel abroad. If you’ve done any of these kinds of activities, consider talking about those experiences in your essay. And don’t be afraid to talk about the circumstances surrounding why you stopped going to art meetings. Colleges will be impressed by the challenges you’ve faced and the measure you’ve taken to overcome them. In the end, your biggest obstacle could be your greatest strength.
Finally, it’s never too late to follow your passion. Schools don’t write off students who aren’t involved in extracurricular activities, but they are looking for well-rounded individuals who are committed to their education and community. If you are interested in giving back, get involved in a community club or service project. Even though you might not take on a leadership role, if you feel passionate about it, you can make it the focus of your application essays.
Adding an activity to your high school resume right when you begin applying for colleges might not make the difference between being accepted or not, but it can only help your case. If you have a strong GPA and good test scores, you’ll probably be able to get into some good schools. Good luck!
I’m a junior in high school, and I have been on a club rowing team for the past two years. I have been wanting to quit for a while because it is six days a week from September through May. Because of this, I have not been able to get a job or do many service hours, and I genuinely do not enjoy rowing anymore. I am not on the team because I want to be, but I am on it because I feel that I have to be. My parents keep talking about the amazing scholarships that colleges give to female rowers, but I know that I definitely do not want to row in college. The main reason that I have not quit yet is that I am worried that quitting would look bad to colleges. My counselor told me that colleges are looking for students who have passion and dedication. I want to go into the medical field, so I have been looking into opportunities that show how passionate I am about that. I have already signed up for a weekly volunteer service at the hospital, and if I quit rowing, I am joining a monthly program that gives participants hands-on experiences in different parts of the medical field with actual doctors. I am also planning to shadow a surgeon. If I quit, I will definitely get a job as well to help pay for my college tuition. I hold a 3.7 GPA, and I have not taken the ACT or SAT yet. Is it too late to quit rowing and show colleges that I can be very dedicated to other things? I am really worried that quitting will affect what college I get into.
If you don’t enjoy rowing, and you know you don’t want to row in college, don’t participate. It would look great to stick with a sport all the way through high school, but don’t stick with something you hate for the sake of consistency. Instead, it’s better to be consistent with something you enjoy, so it’s smart to replace rowing with volunteer experience in the field you’re interested in. High school is a great time to explore your interests and try different things. I wouldn’t worry too much about how “quitting” will look on your college applications, especially if you demonstrate commitment and eventually adopt leadership roles in the new programs you join.
If you do end up quitting the rowing team, just make sure you leave on a good note. You wouldn’t want to burn bridges with your coaches and peers, even if you move onto a new activity.
I am currently a high school junior. With the pressure of college applications in mind, over the course of my high school career, I have joined many extracurricular activities and taken tons of AP classes. I am currently involved in book club (secretary), academic decathlon (captain), Muslim Student Association (vice president), Associated Student Body (ambassador of flare), varsity girls basketball team (manager and statistician), and I recently started my school’s first newspaper. I have a cumulative unweighted GPA of 3.893 and a weighted GPA of 4.464. I have taken only honors classes. I took AVID for two years and dropped it this year. I took ASB last year and am taking it again this year. Last year, I took two AP classes: AP Spanish language and culture and AP European History. I got A’s in both classes and got a 5 and a 3, respectively, on the AP exams. This year, I am taking five AP classes, one honors class and ASB. I really want to get into a good college, but unfortunately, I am burning out. Sometimes, I just don’t feel the energy or the desire to complete my assignments, and I wish I could just drop all my extracurricular activities so that I could devote more time to my studies, because, as a result, I am getting a C in two AP classes. I want to drop the Muslim Student Association and basketball, but I am afraid that what I do have right now won’t be enough. I also want to start volunteering at a local hospital on Sundays or maybe shadow a dermatologist or naturopathic physician. What would you recommend I do? What should I keep doing? What should I take up? Do you have any tips for dealing with this situation?
Wow, it sounds like you have set yourself up to get into some of the country’s most prestigious colleges. Congratulations!
But it also sounds like, if something doesn’t change, you’re going to burn yourself out before you even get to college. You seem to be involved — and active — in plenty of extracurricular activities. I know it’s tempting to join every club to beef up your college application, but the quality of your extra activities is far more important than the number of activities in which you are involved. Think about the activities that you are most passionate about, where you can demonstrate your leadership skills and commitment. If you aren’t deeply involved in the Muslim Student Association and you know you don’t want to play basketball in college, go ahead and focus your energy on the other clubs and organizations you’re involved in.
But don’t focus on your extracurricular activities at the expense of your grades and test scores. Listen to your instincts, and don’t let your grades fall due to too much stress and activity. If it’s too hard to juggle all of your activities with your studies, definitely slow down. Have you considered talking to your guidance counselor about stress management techniques?
Your student profile sounds very impressive. I think it’s time for you to relax, enjoy high school and have some free time to yourself, too.
My daughter is a junior in a very good public school in Wisconsin. She is taking several honors and AP courses and has a weighted GPA of 4.4. She has a composite score of 34 on the ACT. She has more than 160 volunteer hours, mostly from working at a local nonprofit hospital and some from her school’s volunteer club. She is applying for the National Honor Society and hopes to get accepted. She is also involved in her school’s newspaper and yearbook club and has been doing tae kwon do outside of school for the past three years. The problem is she doesn’t hold any leadership positions in any of the clubs. Would this hurt her chances of getting into an Ivy League — if not a good — college? She plans to do her major in computer science or business. She is not sure at this point.
It sounds like your daughter is on the right track. Although it’s true that colleges like to see leadership in their applicants, leadership skills can be demonstrated in many different ways, including being passionate about the activities and showing a deep commitment to obligations. It’s OK that your daughter doesn’t hold an elected position. Has she spearheaded a project or started an initiative within one of her extra activities? If so, she should definitely mention them in her applications. If not, encourage her to take a greater leadership role in one of the activities she’s already involved in, such as the newspaper and yearbook club, or to get involved in an activity she’s more passionate about. The more passionate she is, the more likely she is to become deeply involved and take on leadership roles.
Ivy League schools (or any good school) are looking for people who are meaningfully involved in a few activities that they’re passionate about, build skills, serve the community and challenge them to lead. Remember that it is not so much what your daughter does but how she does it that counts the most!
I’m a 26-year-old female in school to become an engineer. I’d like to design bionic prosthetics. I’m currently finishing a Journeyman Mold Maker apprenticeship, which has given me a certificate in tool and die making, a certificate in SolidWorks, and an associate of applied science in machine tool technology. I work full time as a tool room apprentice and am in school full time at a community college. I have a 4.0 GPA and would like to begin applying to universities after this semester. My extracurricular activities include hand-balancing yoga and aerial silks. My concern is that although I have been invited, I did not sign up for the honors society, nor have I taken any honors classes. I also am not involved in any clubs at school. I’d like to get into the best school I can. Would schools such as MIT, Stanford or the University of California, Berkeley even consider me? Should I aim lower? Or would it help to wait another semester to apply so I can join a club and the honors society?
Wow, that is quite the résumé. It’s wonderful that you have such a clear and precise picture of what you want to do and are taking the steps to get there.
Many colleges have a holistic admissions process, which means they consider your grades, test scores, admissions essay, letters of recommendation, etc. When it comes to extracurricular activities, schools are interested in what you do with your time. Admissions committees want to build a class full of people with interesting stories and unique talents. So whether you show innovation and passion through leading clubs in new ways, proposing partnerships between organizations, solving problems or devoting a significant amount of time to something, when choosing the best extracurricular activities to support your future, remember that it is not so much what you do but how you do it that counts the most.
You already have a solid foundation. Your apprenticeships and transcripts will show your dedication to your education and career, and your experiences with yoga and aerial silks show your commitment and maturity.
That being said, elite schools such as MIT, Stanford and UC Berkeley will definitely look for experiences that demonstrate your leadership. It probably wouldn’t hurt to take another semester or two to focus on a couple activities or volunteer opportunities and fully engage in the experience.
When you do eventually apply to schools, make sure you include some reach schools (harder to get into) as well as some safety schools (easier). Good luck!