Clubs, and sports, and jobs oh my!!! With so many choices for extracurriculars, it can be very difficult to determine which activities are best.
Maybe you are preparing to apply to college during the fall of your senior year and you’re wondering what activities to include n your activity list. Maybe you are in your freshman year and just starting to think about what activities would look the best on your applications to college. No matter what stage of your high school experience you may be in, the extracurriculars you spend your time on are important as they are a chance for you to enhance your leadership skills, knowledge, and experiences. Not only this but one day in the very near future, they will help you stand out to admissions committees. Don’t know where to start? By the end of this blog, you should have a good idea of which activities you may want to pursue and what activities will enhance your college applications.
What are extracurriculars?
Extracurriculars are activities that you participate in outside of your day-to-day classes at school. Sports and clubs are the most participated in extracurriculars. However, not all sports and clubs are offered at all high schools, as the types of sports and clubs widely differ. Additionally, extracurriculars can be jobs, hobbies, internships, and community service that takes place off campus. Extracurriculars are a great way to further your learning, meet others, and have some fun!
What types of clubs and sports could I potentially participate in?
As already mentioned, the clubs and sports that are offered at schools often will vary from school to school. Typically, schools will have varsity sports like basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, and football. These sports require that students try out and be invited to join the team based on demonstrated skill. However, some schools may have separate activities that allow students to join teams for fun only. Additionally, schools will have clubs of a variety of topics but several will have clubs such as Future Farmers of America (FFA), Beta Club, National Honor Society (NHS), Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA). These are national clubs that many schools have local chapters of and are a great way for students of similar passions to come together to learn. Lastly, many schools have students that decide to start their own clubs during their time as students. To learn more about what clubs and sports are offered at your school speak to a guidance counselor or teacher who can help point you in the right direction!
What do colleges consider when reviewing your extracurriculars?
It is extremely important to consider future college endeavors when choosing your extracurriculars. It is true that colleges may give certain extracurriculars more weight when considering your college application. In order to help you decide which to participate in consider the following characteristics of the extracurricular
Longevity – When reviewing college applications, committees place value on the duration that applicants have engaged in their extracurriculars. For example, colleges would place more value on a student that has participated in competitive sports for four years versus a student who participated in that same sport for a semester. Furthermore, colleges will review how many hours you spend in the extracurricular each week. Typically, the more hours you dedicate to the extracurricular the more weight that extracurricular will receive in review.
Uniqueness – College committees will also consider the uniqueness of the extracurricular that you participated in. The more unique the activity, the more weight it will get during the application review. For example, a student who is engaged in a national math competition would be favored versus a student who is engaged in math club. This is because a student would likely need to achieve more accomplishments to participate in the more unique activity.
Leadership: Another aspect of extracurriculars that is considered in holistic application review is the level of leadership a student is participating in. For instance, a student who is the president of a club would be more favorable than a student who is simply a member of the same club. Similarly, a student who chooses to find a club that continues to operate at the college would also be favored versus a student who is engaged in the same club as a member. Typically, students in a leadership role will need to take on more responsibilities than a member would which usually indicates that the student is engaged and dedicated to the extracurricular.
Relevance: An additional aspect of holistic application review that will be considered is the relevance to the student’s academic goal. For instance, a student that has an interest in electrical engineering would be favored in this aspect when compared to a student interested in electrical engineering and participating in band or orchestra. This aspect shows the committee that you are passionate and dedicated to your academic interest and is one that certainly can be favorable when a college is reviewing your application holistically.
Responsibility: Some students may have extra responsibilities that other students do not have due to family dynamics or situations. When these responsibilities and situations are present in a student’s life, it is important for the student to list these responsibilities on their activity list especially if they are activities that the student participates in for a lengthy amount of time.
How to Get Started
Now that you know what to consider when choosing your extracurriculars, let's discuss what steps you can take to get started!
Research what extracurriculars are offered in your school and community
Consider starting your own club, especially if there are no clubs that align with your current interests
Work to find out which extracurriculars would offer leadership opportunities in the future
Consider the time commitment of each activity and ensure that your selections would not cause schedule conflicts
Engage in and participate in activities that would allow you to demonstrate longevity, uniqueness, leadership, relevance, and responsibility.
Don’t forget to have fun!
In short, it is truly difficult to pinpoint which extracurricular activities are the “best” for college applications. Instead, students should choose to engage in extracurricular activities that include the above elements for the most favorable application review. Further students should consider these elements when preparing their college applications as students may need to select the activities that will showcase their experiences best due to limited space on applications.