Extracurricular activities are anything outside of your school’s required classes to graduate. These can range from community service projects and school clubs to an after-school job and a hobby. They’re an incredibly important aspect to your college application and are looked at just as seriously as your grades.

Extracurricular Activities and College Admissions

Everyone talks about extracurricular activities and how important they are for your college applications. And they are. Showing colleges that you have interests outside of sitting in class and doing your homework lets them know you have a pulse. Not sure how your interests will impress or make a difference in the admissions process? We can help show you what message you’re sending to colleges and which ones will be interested in you.

So why are extracurricular activities such a big deal? They show colleges that there’s more to you than sitting in class and doing your homework. They also show an awareness of the world around you and desire to be an active participant in that world. Colleges are also able to see the following traits in you when looking at your list of extracurricular activities:

  • Balance. There used to be a lot of hype about being “well-rounded” and that’s still true. So make sure to spread out your extra-curriculars between school-based and community ones to really stand out to the admissions committee.
  • Dedication. You don’t have to switch up your activities every year. If anything, playing an active role in a club for years or studying ballet since you were three or having the same job since you were 15 is impressive to colleges. It’s even more impressive if you have a couple of activities with years of involvement. Commitment is attractive to an admissions board.
  • Impact. Do your extracurricular activities make a difference in someone’s life? Were you able to get more of your classmates or friends to participate in a community service project or fundraise for your local animal shelter? It’s important that your spare time make a positive impact on your school and your community.
  • Initiative. Have you started a club at your school to cut back on bullying? Began a neighborhood recycling initiative that didn’t exist before? If not, could you? Showing that you’re not afraid to create something is important. It shows an awareness of the world around you and that you’re willing to step up.
  • Leadership. If you join a club as a freshman and became vice-president or president by the time you’re a junior, colleges are going to take notice. They’ll also be impressed if up are captain of a school sport. Displaying leadership qualities shows that you’re responsible and respected by your classmates.
  • Passion. Participating in extracurricular activities is your chance to show off what excites you. Colleges love to see what makes you tick and how you immersed yourself in that activity. Love animals? Show that by volunteering at your local zoo, participating in an animal rescue group, and holding a fundraiser at school. You can even flaunt your entrepreneurial spirit by selling baked good and donating the proceeds to your city’s animal shelter. Whatever it is, show it off.

You don’t need to be involved in a million extracurricular activities to make a difference or to catch the interest of a college’s admissions committee. In fact, you can make a bigger impact and a better impression by pouring your heart and soul into a few, carefully selected extracurricular activities than spreading yourself too thin. Keep that in mind when you’re reading the list below.

Examples of Extracurricular Activities You Can Participate In

Here you’ll find a list of activities you can get involved in, ranging from clubs to community involvement. They’re organized by category so you can quickly find what interests you. Can’t find one of the extracurricular activities you wanted to participate in? You can always start your own.

Academic Clubs

  • Astronomy Club
  • Biology Club
  • Chemistry Club
  • Computer Club
  • Engineering Club
  • History Club
  • Math Club
  • Mu Alpha Theta: Math Honor Society
  • National Honor Society
  • Peer Tutoring
  • Robotics Club
  • Science National Honors Society

Academic Competitive Clubs

  • Academic Triathlon
  • Caribou Mathematics Competition
  • Clean Tech Competition
  • Creative Communication Poetry Contest
  • FIRST Robotics Competition
  • High School Innovation Challenge
  • Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
  • Math League
  • National History Bee
  • National Spelling Bee
  • Odyssey of the Mind
  • Poetry Out Loud
  • Quiz Bowl
  • Science Bowl

Athletics

  • Archery
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Cheerleading
  • Dance
  • Equestrian Team
  • Fencing
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics
  • Hockey
  • Intramural Sports
  • Lacrosse
  • Martial Arts
  • Skiing
  • Softball
  • Soccer
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Track & Field
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Volleyball
  • Water Polo

Community Activities and Volunteering

  • 4-H
  • Adopt-a-Highway
  • Animal rescue
  • Boys & Girls Club
  • Breast Cancer Awareness
  • Cancer Foundation
  • Church groups
  • Church outreach
  • Community Festivals
  • Do Something
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Hospital volunteer
  • Jewish Student Union
  • Key Club
  • Kids Helping Kids
  • Leo Club
  • Mentoring
  • Missionary work
  • Mountaineers Club
  • Red Cross Club
  • Sisters on the Runway
  • Tutoring
  • UNICEF High School Clubs
  • Volunteer Fire Department
  • Work with a local charity
  • Work with a local soup kitchen
  • Youth Groups

Cultural and Language Clubs

  • African American Student Alliances/Clubs
  • American Sign Language Club
  • Chinese Club
  • French Club
  • German Club
  • International Food Club
  • Latin Club
  • Pacific Islanders Club
  • Russian Club
  • South Asian Student Society
  • Spanish Club
  • Student Diplomacy Corps

Government and Political Extracurricular Activities

  • Amnesty International
  • Animal Rights Club
  • Community Government
  • Community Youth Board
  • Environmental Club
  • Fair Trade Club
  • Gay-Straight Alliance
  • Girls Learn International
  • NOW – National Organization for Women
  • SADD – Students Against Destructive Decisions
  • Save Darfur
  • Student Council
  • Student Government

Music and Performing Arts

  • Chamber Music Group
  • Choreography
  • Church Choir
  • Comedy Club
  • Community Choir
  • Community Theater
  • Dance
  • Drama Club
  • Ensembles
  • Film Club
  • High School Theater Group
  • International Thespian Society
  • Jazz Band
  • Marching Band
  • Orchestra
  • School Choir
  • Slam Poetry Club
  • Solo music
  • Tri-M Music Honor Society
  • Your own band

Visual Arts and Media

  • Anime/Manga Club
  • Art Club
  • Art (drawing, painting)
  • Ceramics
  • Fashion design
  • Graphic Design
  • Jewelry Making
  • Photography
  • School or local magazine/journal
  • School or local newspaper
  • School or local radio station
  • School or local television channel
  • School or local website
  • Sculpture
  • Sewing
  • Video Game Development
  • Weaving
  • Woodworking
  • Yearbook Committee

After-school Jobs

Some people disregard after-school jobs when they talk about extracurricular activities, because you’re getting paid. Here’s the thing; helping support your family shows maturity and responsibility at an early age. Admissions committees understand that having a job means you can’t be as involved with other activities. It’s not like you’re just hanging out with your friends instead of being in clubs or sports after school. Being able to hold a job while going to school and doing a couple of other activities is just as impressive as being in a sport or being in multiple clubs.

As long as you’re spending your time outside of class on something other than homework, colleges will be paying attention. There is a growing activity gap, because of finances and if you fall into that category, don’t worry. It just means you need to be a little more creative when it comes to your extracurricular activities. This is your chance to show off how balanced, dedicated, and passionate you are when you’re not in the classroom. And remember, quality over quantity.

Have a question about extracurricular activities? Worried you’re choosing the wrong ones or that you’re off-track? Leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help!