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Best Extracurriculars for College

Best Extracurriculars for College – Your college application is a chance to give colleges and universities a good first impression. But there will be a lot of other people applying, so it’s important to make the most of your application.

Extracurricular activities are a part of your application that you need to fill out. Colleges can learn more about who you are as a person and what your interests and goals are by looking at what you do outside of school.

What are the best activities outside of school that look good on a college application? It’s important to know what kinds of activities you should list on your college application.

Even though you may have done a lot of things, not all of them need to be on the list. In fact, if you put in too many, it could hurt your application.

When there are more things on the list, it’s harder for the best ones to stand out. Keep the following in mind so you’ll know which extracurricular activities to list on your college application.

How Important Are Extracurricular Activities for College?

According to a study by California State University, Sacramento, extracurricular activities are positively correlated with attendance, GPA, test scores, and educational ambition.

Although this study deals with college students, schools often apply the same insights to applicants. The assumption is that students who get involved outside the classroom will make better additions to their campus communities.

Your involvement in high school extracurriculars can help you gain a competitive advantage when applying to college. These activities can also show what makes you unique beyond your transcripts and test scores while demonstrating leadership ability and a willingness to serve your community.

What Kinds of Extracurricular Activities Should You Take?

You can pursue different types of extracurricular activities based on what interests you. The strongest applications include a blend of the following activities.

  • Academic Activities: Examples include quiz bowl, debate, model United Nations, pre-college programs, study abroad programs, and mock trial. These activities demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning beyond the classroom and an interest in furthering your education. Colleges love to see academic activities on applications.
  • Community Activities: These activities include service or volunteering with local organizations. Possible groups include Habitat for Humanity, Room in the Inn, food banks, and family shelters. Colleges value these activities because they show you care about other people and will likely contribute to the campus community.
  • Personality Activities: Personality activities emphasize to colleges who you are beyond your grades, test scores, and application. They make you a unique person who jumps off the page. Examples include sports and scouting.

What Do Colleges Look for in Extracurricular Activities? 

  • Don’t be a dabbler. Colleges would rather see the depth of involvement in one or two activities, rather than a large number of extracurricular activities that reflect superficial involvement.

It will be more impressive if you are involved with theater for four years rather than theater for a year, the yearbook for a year, the chorus for a year, and the debate team for a year.

Show that you are dedicated to developing and deepening your skills. Similarly, with sports, colleges would rather see an applicant focus on a sport for four years and progress from modified to JV to varsity.

That student will bring more skills to a college than someone who never spent more than a year testing a sport.

  • Whatever you do, do it well. If you are doing what you love to do, doing it well and taking the lead in the activity, you have found the perfect extracurricular activity.

Something quirky like being an expert at Rubik’s Cube can turn into a meaningful extracurricular activity that will be attractive to college admissions offices.

  • The actual activity doesn’t much matter. No one activity is better than another. Drama, music, sports, yearbook, dance, community service.

Any one of these can be a winner on a college application if you reveal dedication, leadership, and passion.

Colleges offer a wide range of sports, clubs, musical ensembles, theater groups, and student organizations.

The college wants to enroll a group of students with diverse interests.

  • Make sure your activity aligns with the college. Do your research so that you know what extracurricular activities are offered at the schools to which you apply.

If you are a virtuoso on the violin and your college application discusses your desire to continue violin in college, you’d better make sure the college actually offers opportunities for playing violin (or make sure the college has opportunities for you to start your own string ensemble).

Colleges aren’t simply looking for students with meaningful extracurricular involvement.

They are looking for students whose meaningful extracurricular involvement will be an asset to the school.

  • Leadership comes in many forms. Leadership in extracurricular activities doesn’t mean standing in front of a group and giving orders.

Leadership can involve designing the set of a play, being section leader in the band, organizing a fundraiser, starting a club related to the activity, designing a group’s website, or, of course, serving as an officer for a student organization.

  • Work experience counts. Finally, keep in mind that colleges are also happy to see work experiences on your application, and schools understand when your work schedule prevents you from being as involved in extracurricular activities at your school as other students.

Here, as with other extracurricular activities, some work experiences will be more impressive than others.

Have you won any awards for doing your job well?

Have you been promoted?

Did you accomplish anything innovative for your employer?

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Best Extracurriculars for College

What looks good on college applications? You don’t need to list every single activity you’ve participated in, but you might have trouble deciding which ones to include.

Any or all of the following are among the best extracurricular activities for college applications.

Leadership Activities

Leadership activities are some of the most important ones to put on your college application.

Many colleges look for leadership skills or leadership potential in college applicants.

Having activities on your application that show you’ve been in a leadership position can help you stand out among the competition.

Whether you’ve been the president of a high school club or other organization or the captain of your sports team, these activities provide colleges with evidence that you have what it takes to be in a leadership position.

What kinds of activities would colleges consider leadership experience? In addition to team sports and club presidents, other examples include being on the student council at your high school, being in charge of a school campaign, having a senior position at your job if you work, or heading a community project or volunteer project.

Colleges want to see that you have the initiative and confidence to lead groups or projects, which makes these kinds of activities ideal ones to include on your application.


Internships are a great way to show colleges that you have already gained some experience in your chosen field.

For example, business students might do an internship with a local company in their marketing department or another department, which should be included on a college application.

These activities illustrate your dedication to your field and provide evidence that you have had some hands-on experience on a professional level.

This can ensure that your application goes to the top of the pile when the admissions office looks for college applicants.

If you haven’t had any internship experience, don’t worry about leaving this off of your college application.

Not all high schools provide students with these kinds of opportunities. You’re more likely to have internship experience if you’re going back to college or if you’re working and applying for college in order to earn a degree for career advancement.

Internships are just one of many important extracurricular activities that you can put on your application.

Athletic Participation

Participating in sports shows colleges that you have a strong sense of commitment and that you’re willing to work hard to achieve your goals.

Playing team sports, such as football or basketball, also lets colleges know that you’ve been able to function as part of a team.

Athletic participation generally takes up quite a bit of time and requires significant effort to develop skills.

When you include your sports experience on your college application, admissions offices take note of this for these reasons.

Athletic participation also shows colleges that you know how to follow directions while working with your peers.

This illustrates that you have discipline and team-building skills, which are important parts of succeeding in a college environment.

If you have experience as a team captain, make sure you note this on your application, since this also highlights your leadership abilities.

You should also mention any championships or other awards you and your team won when you fill out your college application.

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Best extracurriculars for college
Best Extracurriculars for College

Work Experience

Work experience might seem more like something you would put on a job resume rather than a college application. However, including this kind of experience when applying for college is a smart move.

Having work experience, such as a part-time position, shows that you are responsible enough to hold down a job.

Work experience also means you’ve had to develop time management skills and learn to work with supervisors and fellow employees.

When you have experience at a job, you might also have gained valuable experience interacting with others as part of customer service.

You’ll have firsthand experience in a professional setting as well, which can give you an edge over other college applicants who have never had this kind of experience.

Make sure you note how long you’ve had your job and which positions you’ve had if you’re including work experience on your application.

If you don’t have a part-time job or if you haven’t had any work experience so far, keep in mind that colleges aren’t expecting to see much of it on applications, especially if you’re a high school student.

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Academic Teams and Clubs

Your college application is about a lot more than your grades. The best extracurriculars for college grades include clubs or teams you have been part of in high school.

These academic groups have provided you with a way to deepen your understanding of a certain subject or pursue an interest, such as chess clubs or science Olympiads.

When you include these academic clubs and teams on your application, it shows that you have a strong interest in that particular subject or that you’re eager to improve certain skills.

If you have been in several academic teams and clubs, should you include all of them on your application?

While it might be tempting to do so, it’s better to only choose the most relevant ones to put on your application.

For example, mention academic teams and clubs that tie into the degree or career you’ll be pursuing. You should also include information on your role within these groups, especially if you were a captain or leader.

Creative Pursuits

While it’s important to include extracurricular activities that are related to your chosen field or area of academic interest, colleges also want to see that you’re well-rounded and have a wide range of interests.

Putting creative activities on your application is an effective way to show this. For example, if you’ve been part of a theater group or other performing arts group, you should mention this on your college application.

These kinds of interests can show that you have a lot of curiosity and are open to new experiences that don’t necessarily have anything to do with your main area of interest in school.

Creative pursuits can also show colleges that you have the dedication needed to develop your skills and talents.

Keep in mind that it takes effort and discipline to excel in these kinds of activities. Depending on the kind of activity you’ve done, this might illustrate how well you’ve been able to work as a team, such as if you were part of a dance group that had to put on a recital.

Technological Skills

Technological skills are another important extracurricular activity to include on your college application. While colleges generally expect students to have certain basic skills, such as typing skills, online research skills, experience with commonly used software programs, and knowledge of online etiquette, other skills can help you stand out.

For example, you should mention any experience you have with technological skills that aren’t common knowledge, such as computer programming.

Having technological skills means that you’ve put in the time and effort to learn something challenging.

These skills can also be useful in college, especially if you’re planning to pursue a degree in computer science.

Including technological skills in your application helps show colleges that you’re willing to learn new skills, which is a quality that admissions offices tend to look for when reviewing applications.

Political Activism

Being politically active can help you gain attention from college admissions departments when you include this information on your application. Student activism has been on the rise among high school students and in local communities.

If you’ve been active in student government or participated in political activism in your community, you should include this on your college application.

These kinds of extracurricular activities show colleges that you keep up with current events while also being willing to stand up for your beliefs and rights.

When you include political activism on your application, make sure you discuss why it’s important to you and what kinds of activities you participate in.

For example, you might want to mention a rally you’ve organized at your school or any other events you’ve been active in within your community.

 You can also discuss the kinds of political issues you’re involved in the most and what motivates you to take action on these issues.


Including travel experiences on your college application can be a good option depending on the kinds of travel you’ve done.

While a family vacation might not give you the right kind of experience to discuss on your application, going abroad to study or volunteer can be a great way to include travel when applying for college.

If you’ve traveled to other countries or parts of the world, you can discuss your experiences in terms of learning about another culture or gaining new skills, such as learning a new language.

Travel essays for college applications should help colleges see you in a positive light.

You should avoid coming across as bragging about all the travel experiences you’ve had, for example.

Focusing on what you learned from traveling or how it has impacted your life are good ways to talk about these experiences on your college application.

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Best extracurriculars for college
Best Extracurriculars for College

Final Thoughts:

In the end, our advice on extracurricular activities is simple: Do what you love. Stick with it, make meaningful contributions, and take on leadership roles too.

Whenever possible, earn honors and recognition for your talents. Ideally, at least a couple of your extracurricular activities will be related to your college major and career goals.

Colleges want to see that you’re an individual. They want to know that you’ll make a difference on their campus and—eventually—in the wider world. Your extracurricular involvement gives you a great opportunity to demonstrate who you are and what you have to offer!

Related FAQs

1. What are extracurricular activities most impress colleges?

  • Cheerleading
  • Dont ask and I wont tell xD but like seriously dont ask
  • Ok fine ill tell you, As a kid I really loved gymnastics. I joined Cheer for all the stunts that they do. …
  • Drama Club
  • Freshman year… Oh yes we performed an original play called: Clued In. This was a mystery play kinda like the game clue, Hence the name

2. How many extracurriculars should I do for college?

Ways to contribute at school/within an organization include:

  • Starting your own club (if something you want to do isn’t already available)
  • Planning special events
  • Introducing new ideas or projects
  • Solving a problem
  • Recruiting new members
  • Run a committee and/or lead meetings

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