Choose extracurriculars that strengthen your college applications

June 30, 2022

Everyone says they’re well-rounded, but extracurriculars are a way to prove it

College admissions officers want to get to know you. They’re trying to figure out what makes you a good fit for their program. Not just a list of test scores, but a comprehensive view of the person you are now and what you hope to accomplish with a degree. 

Stand out from the crowd of candidates claiming to be well-rounded but not showing any evidence! If you’re just starting high school, it’s worth deliberately thinking about the type of activities or clubs that you’d most likely stick with until (and maybe beyond) graduation. 

Extracurriculars can be sponsored by your school (e.g. soccer team) or completely unrelated (e.g. lawn business). This might sound obvious, but you should spend your time in activities that fit your interests. Don’t try to become captain of the chess club if you have no interest in the game. Many students join clubs just because they heard it looked good on a college application. The fact is that admissions officers want to know the real you, not phony you. 

Crimson Education reminds students that choosing the right extracurricular activities will set you up for the workplace after graduation. You’ll develop important skills that employers look for:

  • Goal setting
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Prioritization
  • Problem-solving
  • Analytical thinking
  • Leadership
  • Public speaking

Things to consider when comparing your options

The folks at College Vine have some great suggestions for categorizing extracurriculars. You might want to make a simple matrix to see which ideas check different boxes for you. 

  1. Something you enjoy
  2. Something you care about
  3. Something challenging
  4. Something useful to you
  5. Something useful to others

While you’re thinking through these categories, you’re probably going to realize you’re already spending a bunch of time on activities you didn’t realize would be important to track and later include in applications. Surprising? Prep Scholar suggests making a list of the following:

  • How you spend your time during lunch
  • What you do after school
  • What you did last summer
  • Hobbies you spend time and money on

Choosing the extracurriculars that make a college application pop

Remember the best extracurriculars you can choose are the ones that align with your interests, demonstrate the type of person you are, and show you’re capable of both service and leadership. Here are some ideas from Plexuss:

Volunteering & Philanthropy

Volunteering at a soup kitchen, tutoring, fundraising, etc.


Playing on a school or community sports team, coaching a sports team, etc.


Debate team, mathletes, Science Olympiad, student government, French club, school newspaper, etc.


Crocheting club, anime club, piano lessons, musical theatre, etc.

Religious & cultural

Teaching/leading kids at your religious institution

Finally, here’s a helpful video from a college admissions tutor. Hope it helps!