Did you know how you decide to spend your leisure time after school can be a crucial component of your college application? Yes, we are talking about extracurricular activities here that can help you impress your dream colleges by coming across as a well-rounded candidate. Today’s post is regarding the same.

Here, you will find out about extracurricular activities, how they are important, their benefits, and how colleges evaluate them. Also, you will find out some of the best examples of extracurricular activities category-wise. At the end of the post, there is also a list of top activities you can choose for an impressive college application.
Let the scrolling begin!

What are Extracurricular Activities?

What do you like to do when you are not studying for school? Whatever it is, it can come under the category of extracurricular activities. In simple words, these are any activities that you like to do outside of academics. Some great examples of extracurriculars include sports like Soccer and Lacrosse, playing a musical instrument, participating in community service activities, joining a school club, taking up jobs/internships, etc.

While these hobbies/activities may be fun for you or something you are keenly interested in, they also help colleges determine you as a person. These are a great way of showing your dream schools what you deeply care about, and how committed you are to them. That being said, not all hobbies fall under the category of extracurricular activities.

For instance, what if you like watching movies in your free time. In such a case, it cannot be considered an extracurricular activity. However, what if keeping this interest in mind, you start a blog on movie reviews? This here is called blogging and is considered by various colleges as an extracurricular activity.

Thus, if there is a recreational activity that you just do for fun, and it does not contribute to your personal development, it is not an extracurricular activity. These need to have some concerted effort. For example, if you like playing video games, it can easily be an extracurricular activity. For it, you can start an after-school gaming club to review those games and even develop one yourself.

Why Are Extracurricular Activities Important?

Almost every good university and college all across the world looks for students who are not just academically qualified but also have great extracurricular interests. These extracurriculars help them stand out from other applications. Therefore, for most competitive colleges and universities, extracurricular activities are important.

After competitive schools, most students apply to large public schools or state universities. Like the former, these too receive numerous applications. While the main focus in these may be on the overall GPA, extracurriculars do not completely fall to the wayside here. Even though they focus largely on quantitative data, extracurricular activities on your resume can help you stand out.

It is because these give the admissions officer an overall view of what kind of a person you are apart from your GPA and test scores. It will show that you have a well-rounded profile, and are passionate about your interests. So, in addition to showing off your interests, extracurriculars also show your commitment to a topic or major.

Let us explain it to you using an example. For instance, you wish to apply to a pre-med school and have extracurricular activities like a medical club or hospital volunteering on your resume. In such a case, your application is sure to stand out over the others and these qualities may make you a valuable addition to the school’s student body.

Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

Now that you know the importance of extracurricular activities for college, let us look at their benefits for an individual. Here are some of the top benefits of extracurricular activities you must know:
● Extracurricular activities help students develop problem-solving skills.
● These teach students the importance of teamwork.
● Extracurriculars encourage superior academic performance.
● They enhance your college application portfolio.
● These help you develop closer friendships over shared interests.
● Extracurriculars help students develop emotional regulation.

How Do Colleges Evaluate Extracurricular Activities?

When you apply for a college, along with your high grades and SAT scores, extracurricular activities are a necessity. A strong list of these on your resume is sure to impress top colleges out there. However, when it comes to evaluation by colleges, you must know that more than their number, the activities that you take up matter.

Also, some colleges (especially the competitive ones) consider them while others do not. Along with this, there are numerous other factors like admissions requirements and student population that schools need to consider. If your dream college holds a high weightage for extracurricular activities, this is how they might evaluate them:

Type 1: Rare Extracurricular Activities
The extracurricular activities that show brilliant achievement or leadership qualities are highly accepted by colleges. These may include various prestigious achievements and awards, winning national competitions, etc.

Type 2: Little Common Extracurricular Activities
These extracurricular activities also showcase great levels of achievement and leadership. However, they are a bit more common than the rare extracurricular activities. Some examples of these include a leadership position at a well-known organization or club, sports distinctions, music distinctions, winning regional competitions, etc.

Type 3: Common Extracurricular Activities
These types of extracurricular activities are even more common than the above two types of extracurricular activities. However, they still show a student’s interest in that particular thing. These may be anything ranging from a minor leadership position at a well-known organization or club to a smaller distinction in sports or music.

Type 4: Very Common Extracurricular Activities
These kinds of extracurricular activities are the most common ones. Chances are that various applications may have these on them, and this the admissions committees see them often. These may be anything ranging from general roles in sports clubs, volunteering, theater clubs, musical memberships, etc.

While different schools and universities may have different policies regarding extracurricular activities, one thing is clear from here. To attain maximum benefit from your extracurriculars, you need to be exceptionally good at them. Also, the greater your position in the club or organization, the better it is for your college application.

How Many Extracurricular Activities Should You Take Up?

Typically, a strong college application should have between eight to ten extracurricular activities on it. That being said, the thing you must remember about these is – quality over quantity. Rather than trying to do everything, it is best to achieve depth in one to two fields at first. While doing so, if you have more time, you can take up other extracurricular activities.

Also, when we say 8-10 extracurricular activities, this might seem like a lot. However, since numerous available activities are seasonal, you can fit these into your schedule. For instance, if you take up 3-4 extracurricular activities each year of your high school, by the time you graduate, you will have plenty on your list.

Also, trying out only limited things at first will give you an idea about what you love doing and what more you can do. Next year, you can stick to the extracurricular activities you like, and in place of others, take up something new. Also, make sure that your extracurricular activities are a mix of rare and common ones. All of this will show you real passion, devotion, and development.

Category-Wise Examples of Extracurricular Activities

Here are some great extracurricular activities examples that you can choose from depending on your areas of interest. We have sorted these examples based on their categories. Have a look:

These extracurricular activities in this category are based on an academic subject. Some examples of it are as follows:
● Astronomy Club
● Biology Club
● National History Bee
● Literature Club
● Math League
● Physics Club
● Robotics Club
● Trivia and Quiz Clubs
● Academic Decathlon
● Science Bowl

The next category in our extracurricular activities list is art. It has activities that allow you to express yourself artistically. Some examples of this category are given below:
● Drama Club
● Photography
● Art Club
● Animation
● Theater Program
● Fashion design

Cultural and Language
The extracurricular activities of this category can help students reconnect with their roots. These will help them experience the world’s diversity without leaving home. Some of them include:
● Chinese Club
● International Food Club
● Latin Club
● South Asian Student Society
● Spanish Club

This category of extracurricular activities will help you get involved in your community. Some of its examples include:
● Community Festivals
● Do Something
● Kids Helping Kids
● Leo Club
● Mountaineers Club

If you are among those who wish to make a difference through policy be it in your school, community, or on a large scale, government-related extracurricular activities are for you. These will also help you judge if this can be a career interest for you. Here are some of the examples under this category:
● Student Council
● Community Government
● Community Youth Board
● Student Government

For the students who are natural leaders, and are skilled at guiding, motivating, and inspiring those around them, extracurricular activities related to leadership are the best. Here are two of them that you can choose from:
● National Beta Club
● Peer Leadership Group

The extracurricular activities of this category are for those who love writing and communicating. Here are examples of some activities they can get into to get involved in a media activity at their school:
● School or local magazine
● School or local radio station
● Work on a movie
● Yearbook Committee
● School or local newspaper
● School or local television channel
● School or local website

For those who want to learn about teamwork, discipline, and leadership, military-based extracurricular activities are the best for you. Some of its examples are:
● Civil Air Patrol
● Junior ROTC

The next category of extracurricular activities is music. It is for everyone interested in wanting to learn singing or even try playing an instrument. Its examples include:
● Any musical interest clubs
● School Choir
● Community/Church Choir
● Singing Lessons
● Jazz Band
● Solo music
● Your band

Performance Art
If your dream is to make an audience laugh and cry with you, there are plenty of extracurricular activities for it under the performance art category. some of the examples for it include:
● Comedy Club
● Choreography
● Film Club
● Dance
● Puppetry
● Slam Poetry Club
● Theater Group

This category of extracurricular activities includes the following examples that you can find in your community:
● Youth Groups
● Church groups
● Jewish Student Union
● Missionary work

If you are someone who has a keen interest in Roleplaying and Fantasy genres, you will be elated to know these can also be an extracurricular activities. Some creative activities under this include:
● Gamers Club
● Dungeons and Dragons Club
● Live-Action Role Playing
● The Civil War Reenactors

Sports and Recreation
This category has the most common extracurricular activities that students can take up. Be it the common sports like baseball, basketball, football, and golf or lesser-known sports like climbing, ping pong, fencing, and skateboarding, you can choose anything. Some examples of this category include:
● Bodybuilding
● Cheerleading
● Gymnastics
● Intramural Sports
● Lacrosse
● Track & Field
● Frisbee Club
● Water Polo
● Yoga Club

Social Activism
Is there a cause that you are passionate about? If yes, extracurricular activities related to social activism might be for you. Some of its examples include:
● Animal Rights Club
● Environmental Club
● Gay-Straight Alliance
● National Organization for Women
● Breast Cancer Awareness
● Cancer Foundation

Special Interest
If you like something that does not already have a group, you can try making it. These days, it is also possible to find communities related to the same online. Some extracurricular activities under this category are:
● Chess Club
● Entrepreneurship Club
● Boy Scouts
● Girl Scouts
● Horticulture Club
● Quilt Making
● Model Railroads

Speech and Political Interest
For all the students who are good at having strong opinions in an argument and recognizing faulty logic, some great extracurricular activities include:
● Speech Club
● Debate Club
● Foreign Affairs Club
● Forensics Team
● Mock Trial Club
● Model United Nations
● Teenage Republicans

With the modernization of the world, knowing about technology can take you far. If you are interested in it, why not take it up as an extracurricular activity? Also, for this kind of activity, you will not need a fully-fledged school-sponsored club. Only, an internet connection would do. Some of its examples are:
● Blogging
● YouTube Channel
● Personal Website
● Social Media

The last category of extracurricular activities that we have today is this. Volunteering is for those who wish to make a difference in the local community. Here are some of the examples that come under it:
● Animal rescue
● Hospital volunteer
● International volunteer program
● Mentoring
● Red Cross Club
● Tutoring
● Work with a local soup kitchen
● Work with a local charity

Top 7 Extracurricular Activities for College Applications

Now that you have your answer to what extracurricular activities are, their benefits, and their importance in college, let us see which of them are the best for your college application. Have a look:

Leadership Related Activities
When it comes to extracurricular activities that are the best for college applications, leadership activities top the list. Most competitive and even non-competitive colleges look for college applicants that have potential leadership skills. Thus, having a leadership role in your extracurricular activity is sure to help you stand out for your college admissions.

If you are wondering what kind of activities fall under this category, the choices are plenty. You can be the captain of a sports team at your school or the president of a well-known school or community club. Alternatively, if you work, having a senior position there makes you fit for this category. You may even be leading a community or volunteer project.

That’s true, internships are also counted as extracurricular activities. These are the best way to show your dream college how dedicated you are to your chosen field. Also, these help you gain experience in the same. For instance, if you are a business student, it would be great for your application to have an internship in the marketing department of a local company.

Having such a role not only shows your dedication to your field but is also clear evidence of your hands-on experience. While internship experience is sure to get your application to the top of the pile, you do not have to worry if you do not have it. In such a case, you can take up any other extracurricular activity related to your field of interest.

Athletic Participation
Sports are the best thing you can have as extracurricular activities on your college application to make it shine. Participating in any sport is a clear way to show your dream school your commitment, will to work hard, and dedication to achieve your goals. In case you play team sports like football, it also depicts how well you can work as a team.

As a team, you can show colleges that you know how to follow directions even when you work with your peers. In case you are the captain or co-captain of a sports team at your school, it can become an added benefit. It shows your exceptional leadership and team-building skills – both of which are crucial for succeeding in a college environment.

Academic Teams and Clubs
If you are good at academics and think that the only way you can shine in college is with good grades, you may be wrong. As someone great at academics, the best extracurricular activity for you would be joining academic clubs or teams. These will not only count as extracurriculars but also deepen your understanding of the subject you chose.

Now, what if you are good at more than one subject and are on a team for all of them. In such a case, would it be good to mention all your academic teams and clubs on your college application? Well, we think you should not. Only choose the subjects most relevant to the course you want to pursue. Make sure to mention if you are the captain or leader of the group.

Creative Pursuits
Earlier, we mentioned that you must include extracurricular activities related to the field you want to pursue in college. That being said, it is always a good idea to mention extracurricular activities related to your creative pursuits too.

For instance, if you were in the performing arts group of your school, make sure to mention it on the college application. It is a great way of showing your curiosity and how you are open to new experiences. Depending on the extracurricular activity, it is also a great way to showcase the skills you learned for the same.

Technological Skills
The next extracurricular activity you can choose is anything related to technology. This kind of activity is sure to look impressive, especially with the fast-growing technology. Make sure to mention whatever you are good at. It may be anything from basic skills like typing and online research to technical skills that are challenging like a new computer language.

For instance, if you want to study computer science in college, technological skills are a great way to prove your dedication to the same. Similarly, media students can take up extracurricular activities related to blogging, social media, etc.

Political Activism
The last category of extracurricular activities you can choose from is politics. This is the best for students who wish to benefit others via policies. The others here may be anything ranging from something as small as their class or school community to something as big as their city or even country.

Also, when you have political activism on your college application, make it a point to mention how and why it is important to you. Along with this, do mention all the activities you participated in – big or small.

Final Thoughts

So, this is all you need to know about extracurricular activities and their importance for college applications. In case, the examples in the post do not cover the activities you want to take up, it is nothing to worry about. You can always create your own! Yes, you read that right. Owing to technology today, it is possible to turn almost every hobby into an extracurricular activity. Whatever you choose, make sure it shows your passion, creativity, and leadership. Good luck!