Do Clubs Look Good on College Applications?

If you’re looking to try to optimize your college admissions chances, you might be wondering if you should join clubs in high school. At Signature College Counseling, our students often ask if belonging to clubs will look good on their college applications and if they need to participate in a variety of activities. Our simple answers to these questions: yes, and not necessarily. Let’s explore this topic deeper.

The College Resume

For each of our students, we develop a student resume with them. This resume includes all their activities, informal or formal, that they do outside of their academics. We strongly recommend that you start tracking your activities as soon as you begin your Freshman year. It will make it so much easier when the time comes for filling out those college applications, when you need to provide the name of the activity, the dates you participated, and the number of hours per week and weeks per year you participated – yes, you do need to provide all of this information. Activities can include:

• Honors and accomplishments, including academics, sports, music, drama
• Activities outside of your academic curriculum
• Community service, work or internships
• Leadership activities, clubs
• Athletics, in school or outside of school
• Religious activities
• Hobbies and interests
• Special Accomplishments (such as being 1st clarinet chair or selected as MVP or Chess Team Captain)

Quantity vs Depth of Club and Activity Participation

Many students question if they are really heavy in one area, like music or athletics, do they need to do volunteer work or join a variety of clubs so that they can check the box for all the different activity areas. Our response to them is do what you enjoy and do more of it. This is what is important to college admissions officers. When reviewing an applicant’s activities and resume – about 80% of schools allow you to upload a resume – they are looking to see if there is a trend. By that we mean, can they easily glean what a student is actually interested in and passionate about. For example, if you love music, even if you’re not going to be applying as a music major or theater major, and your resume demonstrates that you participate in a variety of music activities, it’s clear that’s a passion of yours. Or, if you are a three season athlete participating in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, and you’ve been doing it for all four years and you also volunteer in that capacity as well, this shows that you are passionate about those sports.

What Colleges Are NOT Looking for When It Comes to Activities

Ideally, you don’t want to check the box for the sake of checking the box, saying to yourself, “Well, OK, I did one volunteer activity, one season of soccer, and one year of band and that’ll be good enough because that way I’ll be able to put something in every category of activities on my college applications.” This is not what college admissions counselors are looking for. They are looking for depth over breadth.

Going back to the question of whether clubs look good on college applications, yes, they do, but we recommend that you think about the types of clubs you want to join that will make you happy and do more of those. Join a club that you’re very interested in and participate in it over the course of many years. And if you obtain a leadership position, whether it’s a treasurer, vice president, or president, and can grow in that organization, that’s wonderful. It shows your interest and your depth.

This is better than participating in a club for one year and then quitting that club and joining a different club the next year, which indicates neither rhyme nor reason and fails to demonstrate a trend for the admissions officers. Following this path doesn’t mean that you won’t get into college, but it can affect your chances depending upon the colleges you’re applying to, what the other applicants are like, and what the college is looking for.

So when considering joining clubs, think about what interests you, what you are passionate about. Your activities tell your story. What story do you want to tell?

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Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.