Do Your Extracurricular Activities Make the Grade?

Now, you might have a preconceived notion about what colleges look for in an applicant’s extracurricular activities—no doubt, sports, student government, and volunteer obligations come to mind. However, it’s not necessarily what you do that counts. It’s how and why you do it that does.

Want to know what qualities your college application reader will be looking for in your extracurricular activities? Here are our tips that will get you to the next round:


The days of resume stuffing are over. Colleges today want students who are deliberate in their choices—in other words, they won’t be impressed with a page-long list of extracurriculars. That’s because they know it’s impossible to give that many obligations the time they each deserve. There is no magic number of organizations or teams that you have to join. Some things require more time than others, so it all depends on what you choose to be a part of during high school.


Some extracurricular opportunities are short-lived, such as working as a camp counselor or helping coach summer sports. However, if you can be part of a group for three or four years, college admissions readers will notice. Why? Because you’re showing that you can commit to something. In college, a big part of being successful is just showing up (don’t think you can skate by in the back of the classroom, though). Depending on the college you attend, you might have hundreds of options for socializing, team building, and community involvement through groups, organizations, and teams. Colleges want people who they think will bring success to the college name. If you can work at something for a long period of time, then you will have a better chance of being successful, and that means you are a great fit for the school.


Which do you think colleges would rather see: activities that a student thinks will look good on paper or activities that a student is passionate about? If you think that people can’t tell when you’re passionate about something just by looking at a piece of paper, you’re wrong. In fact, this point relates to the last two sections—passion shows when you are deliberate in your choices and when you stick with something, no matter what.


When you’re passionate about something, whatever you are passionate about leaves its mark on you. To get the attention of your dream college, you need to have an impact on the organizations you are a part of, too. Did you improve your chosen club, team, or commitment in any way? How did you change your extracurricular activities? These are questions that you should be able to answer by the time you are finished with high school. Colleges want people who are going to create change in the world.


Speaking of change, nothing progresses without a leader. The final quality you should be able to take away from your activities is almost cliché—that’s because it has proven time and again that people who learn how to lead are better equipped to take on the challenges of college and beyond.

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