College Planning

The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities are a great way to learn about yourself, build new skills, and meet new people. They can also help colleges understand more about you and your interests when you apply. This post will tell you what extracurricular activities are, what they’re used for, and how they can show colleges the real you.

What’s an extracurricular activity?

An extracurricular activity is any club, creative outlet, volunteer opportunity, or job that doesn’t give you school credit. Extracurricular activities show colleges your interests, skills, impact, and community involvement. Note that the activity doesn’t need to be sponsored by your high school. If you want to highlight your music ability, shoot videos of the band you put together. To highlight leadership, keep a journal about volunteer work you do through a local organization.

Where can I find extracurricular activities?

The first place to look for extracurricular activities is your high school. High schools give you and your peers many chances to develop interests, invest energy, and display talent.

Clubs are one way to find classmates with similar interests. Some clubs are centered around a topic (history, chemistry). Others are centered around an activity (chess, robotics). A sports team is another type of club, one that lets you demonstrates team commitment and leadership.

Work, whether a part-time job or an internship, gets the message out to colleges that you have job dedication and can handle responsibilities. What’s more, a job proves you can maintain a busy work schedule while attending high school classes.

Volunteering through a religious community or nonprofit is an extracurricular activity that exemplifies how you give back to your community.

It’s crucial to balance schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Here are some tips:

  • Start slowly—don’t commit to working many hours immediately.
  • Plan class and work schedules in advance to avoid conflicts.
  • Use time efficiently (e.g., use downtime at a job for studying—if your boss has no objection).

Why do colleges value extracurricular activities?

Colleges want to know an applicant as a person, not as just a GPA or test score. Extracurricular activities show a personal side—what you’re interested in or passionate about. Joining clubs, volunteering, or holding a job shows your attachment to your community and desire to help others, as well as your sense of responsibility and time management.

Keep in mind that colleges understand the impact covid-19 may have had on your ability to volunteer, work, or otherwise take part in extracurricular activities. Colleges don’t have specific expectations regarding the extracurricular activities you take part in. They just want to see that you engage in activities that are authentic and meaningful to you.

Types of Extracurricular and Volunteer Activities to Join Now

During the covid-19 pandemic, it may seem challenging to give back while maintaining social distance.  Here are some recommendations from the Making Caring Common Project on how you can help your community during these challenging times:

  • Service and contributions to others
    • Tutoring others virtually through your high school, religious organization, or local community center
    • Supporting senior citizens such as writing letters, donating time or resources to your local elderly center or home, or delivering food
  • Family contributions
    • Looking after younger siblings
    • Caring for older or sick relatives

For specific resources and ways to get involved during covid-19, read our Help Others from Home: Volunteer Opportunities While Social Distancing blog post.


One type of activity isn’t superior to all others. Colleges look for applicants involved in work, hobbies, sports, and other activities outside of school. What’s most important is finding extracurriculars you enjoy—and that help you learn and grow and help others in your family, school, or community.

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