The competition for admittance to many colleges and universities is intense. There are simply more applicants than the spaces available in post-secondary degree programs.
Admissions officials consider numerous issues in deciding which students to select. Grade-point average, SAT and ACT scores, essays, and other factors are important. Some students overlook the value of including extracurricular activities on their applications.
Why Extracurricular Activities Matter
Many colleges look favorably on those who took part in activities outside the classroom during high school. These experiences offer opportunities to grow in ways that book learning does not provide.
You can become more well-rounded by getting involved in a wide range of endeavors. In addition to gaining knowledge and experience, you learn teamwork and social skills. You grow as a person as you develop patience, humility, and other attributes.
The extracurricular activities you choose demonstrate your interests. Admissions officials want to see that you are a social person who is passionate about something other than academics.
The sorts of extracurricular activities available are numerous and varied. Among the most popular choices are high school sports like football, basketball, volleyball, track, baseball, and softball. Depending upon the region where you live, there could be hockey, soccer, tennis, lacrosse, gymnastics, and other types of sports teams.
Students who are more artistically inclined join bands, choirs, and other musical groups; take part in theatrical productions; or make art like paintings and sculptures. Some create yearbooks and work on student newspapers as writers, photographers, and editors.
Student clubs provide opportunities to pursue special interests with others. Common clubs are devoted to debate, speech, chess, math, film, language, and mock trials. There are also clubs related to sports and art, and others involving certain ethnic groups.
Having been in clubs shows admissions officials that you are a curious person with interests beyond the classroom. Involvement in student government, or planning and organizing groups like the prom committee, also makes an impression.
Colleges are interested in how applicants spent their time outside of high school. Part-time jobs are excellent opportunities to learn and gain skills. Even simple work, such as retail jobs, provide an education in many areas involving the business world and interpersonal communication. It is even better if you are able to find work related to the subjects you plan to study in college.
Another option is to serve as volunteer in the community. Many towns and cities have volunteer centers that offer a range of choices. You might be able to do something that not only helps others, but also is relevant to your academic pursuits. Homeless and domestic-violence shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, animal-rescue shelters, and other operations are frequently in need of unpaid help. You may be able to provide tutoring services, or assist a charitable organization in raising money.
Community clubs, teams, music ensembles, theater and dance groups, and church-based organizations are generally open to young people. They may give you a chance to meet, and learn from, local folks who are fascinated by some of the same things that intrigue you.
How to Find an Activity
Whether you are looking for an extracurricular activity at school, or a work or volunteer opportunity in the community, there are resources available to help in the search.
You can check print publications and bulletin boards, listen to local radio and television, visit websites, talk to teachers and counselors, go to a volunteer center, email the chamber of commerce, and look into church activities.
If you have a special interest, but cannot find an organization to join, consider starting your own group. Put up fliers, place notices in the student newspaper, and conduct other outreach efforts to find others with similar interests.
Explain Your Involvement
Do not just list your activities on the college application. Admissions officials are more interested in the depth of your involvement than the number of pursuits. Anyone can sign up for a lot of things, then have minimal participation.
Describe how you contributed, or made a difference, in your extracurricular efforts. Provide details about the things you did in organizations, jobs, and volunteer work. Describe what you learned, and the skills you obtained, from these experiences.
If you were elected club president, named team captain, or won an award for your community service, do not be bashful about it. Get letters of recommendation to include in your application packet.
Your record of extracurricular activities gives college admissions officials a glimpse into your character. How you spent your time outside the classroom during your high school years helps to illustrate the sort of person you are. Getting involved in activities helps you learn and grow, while also making you more likely to be accepted by the college you wish to attend.