The Best Extracurriculars That Colleges Want to See on Your Application

CFNC IMAGE Best Extracurriculars

The value of extracurricular activities is a common concern among high school students (and parents) when it comes to filling out college applications. But does it really matter that much? And if so, what are the best extracurriculars for college that you should be considering? Let’s discuss!

What high school clubs should I join to make my college application look good?

When it comes to the best extracurriculars for college, the most consistent advice for high school students is that your reason for participating has more value than your number of activities. Start by choosing clubs or sports that interest you or are something you want to learn more about. Do you enjoy photography? Join the yearbook club. Are you a good writer? Check out the school newspaper.

David Bergman is the co-author of “The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process.” He says admissions officers want to see three things in extracurricular activities:

  • Aligned with the student’s future academic or career goals
  • Demonstrate the student’s ability to lead and get results (titles matter less than duties and responsibilities)
  • Show evidence of distinction, such as placing in a local, state, or national competition

You should start building your resume of extracurricular activities during your freshman year. Aim to join a club or sport right away. It’s a great way to make new friends and explore your interests outside of academics. You can also focus this same energy on extracurriculars not affiliated with your school – youth organizations, churches, working, etc.

Do colleges care if I join a sports team?

Being on the track team shows a college that you can make a long-term commitment, but sports are not the only option when it comes to building your extracurricular resume. When you participate in extracurricular activities, you build skills that will be attractive to colleges and also help you later in life.

  • Serving in student government shows leadership skills.
  • Volunteer work shows you’re dedicated to helping others.
  • Working a part-time job while keeping your grades up shows that you are responsible and can manage your time.

Sports are great, and so are other activities that show your passion, talents, and strengths. Your best extracurriculars for college will match your interests, and that may or may not include sports.

Tips to find the best extracurriculars for you

There are no right or wrong types of extracurricular activity, but this is a good resource on extracurricular activities that could help your college application shine.

  • It’s best to build your extracurricular activities on your true interests. Do what you love, so that you do it well.
  • It’s never too late or too early to get involved in activities.
  • Don’t let your talent go to waste. Try to take your hobbies to the next level.
  • Show leadership in your areas of interest. Start a club in your school, be a team captain, initiate yoga at your workplace, organize a charity event, etc.
  • Connect with a non-profit.
  • Consider a summer internship.
  • Do whatever is within your reach

Bottom line: Never think of any experience as bad experience. Everything you do makes you unique and adds to your personality.

A little extra goes a long way

Beyond citing the activity you are involved with on your college application, don't forget to include what you learned or contributed as part of your experience. Here are some hints to get you started:

  • Talk about why you participated in the activity and how much time you contributed to it.
  • Note any new challenges you took on.
  • Discuss times when you oversaw an activity or project where you directed others.
  • Mention how you improved the activity or expanded the membership.
  • Did you fix any problems or make any improvements?

While extracurricular activities give college admissions officers a better idea of who you are, they also give them a better idea of how you’ll fit into their campus culture.

Why are extracurricular activities important?

Colleges also have extracurricular activities, so they want to recruit students who attend school for more than academic reasons because they add to the campus life experience. After all, you won’t spend every minute in a classroom, and extracurriculars are a great way to make new friends and get involved! For example, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has more than 150 registered student organizations. North Carolina Wesleyan University has more than 30 student clubs and 15 varsity sports. Colleges look at your extracurricular activities as signs that you will engage and bring energy to campus.

As you’re searching for colleges to fit your academic needs, check out their student clubs and organizations. Use the CFNC College Search to explore all aspects of schools. In addition to academics, you’ll also find information about student life, including social activities, athletics, and clubs. Sign up for a free CFNC Account to create a list of schools that match your interests.

When you’re ready, CFNC can also help you apply to college, complete financial aid, and establish residency, to make the college enrollment process a breeze!

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