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Although grades and SAT scores are important, don’t forget extracurricular activities. If you engage in activities outside the classroom, you meet people and learn skills. Plus, it tells colleges more about you when you’re applying. This post will break down 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, 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 provide many opportunities to develop interests, invest energy, and display talent.

Clubs are a way to find classmates with similar interests. Some clubs are centered around a topic (history, chemistry), others around an activity (chess, robotics). Sports teams are another type of club that demonstrates team commitment and leadership.

Work, whether it’s 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, your job proves you can maintain a busy work schedule while attending high school classes.

Volunteering through a religious community or nonprofit is another 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 for schoolwork—if your boss has no objection!).

 

Why do colleges value extracurricular activities?

Colleges want to know an applicant as a person, not as 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.

Conclusion

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.

Visit BigFuture for more free, comprehensive college planning resources.