Many high schoolers feel confused and stressed when they just think about extracurriculars. Some don’t know what to do after school to impress colleges, and others are concerned because they don’t have the time for "traditional" extracurricular activities. Well, never fear! We’ve compiled some advice and suggestions for you here based on solid research. If you’re concerned about the extracurricular portion of your applications, read on.
First, it’s important to acknowledge that anything can be an extracurricular activity. If you have a hobby or something that you’re passionate about, you can make it your own and add a unique activity to your resume. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Model U.N., play varsity tennis, have a summer job, or babysit. Every person has their circumstances and their own story, and it’s your job to tell admissions officers your story through your extracurriculars.
If you’re one of the lucky few who knows your passions and career aspirations, you should convey that through your activities. Many of you have likely heard the term "well-rounded" to describe the ideal student. However, you don’t have to be captain of the lacrosse team, president of student government, and head officer of Debate Club to get into a great school. In fact, many colleges prefer that students who have a passion for a particular field focus on that field in their activities and their applications. For example, if you have a passion for writing and literature, you could be the editor of your school's newspaper, intern at a publishing company, and/or enter a few writing competitions and win. This can apply to any passion you have, from science to ballet. Colleges want to see that you’re passionate about something - it doesn’t matter too much what that thing is.
If you’re like most students and you don’t know what you want to be yet, extracurriculars are a great way to find out! You can start by exploring different clubs and sports or volunteering/interning at different places and then stick to what you like. Whatever you do, make sure that you are active and involved with your activities, and that you enjoy them or are passionate about them. Being a member of a club just because you think it’ll ‘look good’ on your applications is a waste of time. You can’t fake passion, and admissions officers can see through fake interest. Don’t join five clubs just to put them on your resume- instead, join one or two that you are passionate about or enjoy and take them to the next level! If you play a sport, make sure that you love it enough to take it to the top! Being the captain of the varsity cheer team looks a lot better than just being on the cheer team for four years.
If you have a job or have responsibilities at home and don’t have the time for clubs and sports, don’t stress out. Colleges use extracurriculars to learn more about you and what you love. Working at Starbucks is just as good of an extracurricular as being a leader in a club. In fact, having a job shows that you have had real-world experiences and are responsible and independent - it could impress admissions officers even more than the latter! Tell colleges about your responsibilities in your home and your life. Often, unconventional activities can highlight strengths in students that conventional activities cannot. Participating in a unique extracurricular makes you stand out from the crowd, which can pique the interests of colleges around the country.
If you’re not interested in any of the clubs offered at your school, create a club or opportunity for yourself. If you love cooking, start a cooking club and recruit members. If you love teaching, start a tutoring service. If you love the outdoors, start a hiking club. If you like technology or coding, create a successful app in your free time and put that on your resume. The possibilities are endless!
To summarize, whatever you do after school, you should love or have a passion for it. One activity that you are very passionate about is better than eight activities that you have no real interest in. You don’t have to know what you want to do in the future - use extracurriculars as an opportunity to explore what you love and find out. If you don't do traditional activities, it’s completely fine. Use whatever you do as an opportunity to tell admissions officers your life story. Lastly, if you don’t like what’s available, make opportunities for yourself!
Hopefully, this short guide gave you a bit of a better idea about approaching the extracurricular portion of your college applications.
*Astudia would like to thank and acknowledge Mary Ann Barge from Prepscholar and April Maguire from Collegevine for valuable information that helped shape this article.