What Counts as an Extracurricular Activity for College Admissions?

Every student who applies to a college is going to have to list their activities on some level or another on their applications. But what exactly do college admissions officers consider to be extracurricular activities?

The Standard Activities

When you think extracurricular activities, of course the standards come to mind:

• Athletics (JV, Varsity, Travel Clubs, and Recreational)
• School Clubs
• Academic Competitive Teams
• Clubs Outside of School (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, Habitat for Humanity, etc.)
• Religious Affiliation Memberships
• Jobs

And speaking of jobs, we visit a lot of colleges and speak to admissions officers, and we can’t tell you how often we hear them say that there’s so few kids that have a job. So we strongly recommend that you get a job during the summer, if possible, as it can make you stand out. If you attend camp, be a counselor in training, or a counselor, which can be a positive add to your application.

Informal Activities

An extracurricular activity is really anything you participate in outside of your academics. Such common informal activities that come to mind include:

• Playing an Instrument
• Art Classes
• Singing in a Choir or Band
• Community Theater
• Social Activist Causes
• Volunteer Activities
• Other Hobbies

Activities Bring Your College Application to Life

The activities you participate in, along with your primary essay and supplemental essays, are ways for your application to come to life. Certainly the first thing that college admissions officers are going to look at is your transcript, but they also look at the activities in which you participate to balance out the rest of your application.

It’s always beneficial when admissions officers can look at a student’s resume and learn what they’re passionate about, whether it’s music, athletics, clubs, or a cause that they’ve tried to further. And we can’t stress enough that activities are NOT about breadth, meaning you don’t have to check the box for all different types of activities, but about depth. For example, if you’re a three season athlete and you don’t have time to volunteer for a local organization, that’s OK. Or maybe you want to volunteer as a coach or be a referee, and that’s good too. If you love music then do more of it. If you love your sports, then do more of it. If you have a cause that you want to further, then do more of it. If you’re passionate about children with special needs then volunteer more in that area. Remember, don’t just check off the box. Do activities that you enjoy and do more of them.

TIP: We always have our students create a student resume because there are many colleges that allow you to upload a resume with your application. This serves as a dual purpose to both help you list your activities on the applications that you’re submitting, as well as having the ability to upload a resume to those schools that asked for it.

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.