What extracurricular activities do colleges look for?

Understanding the Role of Extracurricular Activities

As admissions consultants, we are often asked about the role that extracurricular activities play in the college application process. Many students and parents are under the impression that only traditional activities such as being president of the class or captain of the sports team are important. However, thinking outside the box and pursuing unique extracurricular experiences can make a huge impact on your college application. Unique experiences can showcase what makes you, you.

What extracurricular activities do colleges look for?

Aligning Activities with Your Intended Major

The goal of extracurricular activities is to help you understand what you like about your intended major – they can also help you identify what your major could be. Being engaged in activities can also help you stand out from the crowd. Those non-quantifiable characteristics are an important part of who you are, and importantly, what you will bring to their college community. Admissions officers want to get to know YOU! Activities can help paint a picture for the selection committee. It’s hard to imagine a prospective student interested in pursuing Animal Science who has never worked around animals! Admissions officers want to see that you have pursued your interests outside of the classroom and have shown initiative and engagement within your community. So, how do you find these opportunities?

Finding Opportunities That Match Your Interests

Consider your intended major in college and look for activities that relate to that field. For example, if you are interested in becoming an environmental scientist, you could look for volunteer opportunities with local organizations that focus on environmental conservation and sustainability or internships at a research institute. (Check out our Research Program, for that matter!) Volunteer for a local clean-up drive and begin creating an “impact circle”. Starting small can be a more manageable way to get involved, and building your network can lead from a small activity to a larger activity over time. This will not only demonstrate your passion for the field but also give you valuable experience and skills.

Leveraging Hobbies for Unique Experiences

Another way to find unique extracurricular activities is to think about your hobbies — what do you like to do for fun? Do you love to write? Consider starting a blog or contributing to a local newspaper. Are you passionate about music? Look for opportunities to perform or start your own band. These experiences show that you are dedicated to your interests and have developed skills that can translate to your academic and professional life.

Emphasizing Quality Over Quantity

Quality over quantity is key when it comes to your extracurricular activities. You don’t have to do it all! Admissions officers would much rather see that you have committed yourself to a few activities and made a significant impact than that you have participated in many activities without showing leadership or initiative. Length of service can also be an important component – someone who has been involved for their entire high school career can show more depth of interest than a senior who adds a whole host of activities in their final year.

Conclusion and Call to Action

Extracurricular activities are an important aspect of the college application process. Make sure you think outside the box as you explore pursuing these experiences. By considering your intended major, hobbies, and interests, you can find unique opportunities that demonstrate your individualized pursuits and dedication. Remember to focus on quality over quantity and show initiative and leadership in your community engagement. Ready to start your journey toward college admission success? Contact us using the information below!

Former Associate Director of Admissions at Cornell University

13 Years in Cornell Admissions
20,000+ Applications Read and Evaluated

Carla, with over a dozen years in higher education admissions and program management, is dedicated to helping students achieve their potential. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington and has a background in teaching and human services. At Cornell, Carla played a key role in reviewing applications and training admissions readers, offering a deep understanding of the admissions process. Her experience, combined with raising two college-bound children, gives her a unique insight into college admissions.

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