Why Extracurricular Activities Matter

By IvyWise on Monday, November 16, 2020

Understand Why Extracurricular Activities Count and What You Can Do to Stand Out

There’s no denying that extracurricular activities are important: 81% of US universities assign some level of significance to a student’s after-school endeavors when it comes to making admissions decisions. Colleges want to learn about their applicants holistically, including the causes they are passionate about and what they enjoy doing in their free time. 

With grading systems and testing disrupted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, soft factors like extracurricular involvement are poised to be particularly crucial during upcoming admissions cycles. Keep reading to learn more about why these endeavors are so important and what you can do to ensure you stand out for all of the right reasons. 

Highlight the Impact You Will Make on Campus

While grades and test scores are important decision factors, admissions officers read applications in context and strive to paint a whole picture for each student they review. Particularly during an admissions cycle with limited testing options and course disruptions, admissions officers are going to look to extracurricular activity lists to get an idea of what students are passionate about. Colleges want to know exactly how you’ll fit in on campus; what kind of roommate will you be and what are the activities you’re likely to get involved in? Extracurricular activities can help admissions officers answer these questions.  

Demonstrate Your Ability to Adapt

With many extracurricular activities placed on hold due to COVID-19, how were you able to continue to learn and expand your skillset? While admissions officers certainly understand that activities like sports teams and theater needed to be placed on hold, they’re also looking for students who are resourceful and eager to learn, even when faced with challenges. Consequently, your extracurricular activity list can be an opportunity to showcase your ability to get creative so that you can continue to pursue your passions. Whether it’s launching a virtual concert series or creating a STEM curriculum for younger students, demonstrate your ongoing commitment to your interests. There are a lot of options to pursue independent projects and other extracurricular endeavors through mentorship.

Don’t Forget Quality Over Quantity

At the end of the day, it’s not about how many activities you can add to your list, but your expertise and commitment to a few pursuits that you are truly passionate about. Avoid listing clubs that you’d only occasionally attend meetings for or a sports team that you quit after freshman year. Instead, devote your energy towards a smaller handful of activities that truly excite you and highlight what you’ve done to deepen your expertise in these fields.

Showcase Your Leadership Skills

If you aren’t the student body president or the captain of your basketball team, don’t panic. While admissions officers look for students who are leaders, leadership itself can take on many forms. Maybe you’re the student working behind the scenes to make sure everyone has what they need or the dedicated athlete that serves as a mentor for rookie teammates. What’s most important isn’t the title you have but rather your ability to convey your leadership skills and highlight when you’ve been able to use them to make an impact

Convey Your Willingness to Commit

Instead of serial joiners, college admissions officers are looking for students who are dedicated and committed to their fields of interest. To highlight your ability to commit, draw attention to activities that you have participated in throughout your high school career. Students who’ve played on the same sports team or volunteered at the same organization for several years should emphasize these commitments and ideally describe how their role has grown and expanded. 

Although it may feel more challenging to keep up with extracurricular activities amidst ongoing disruptions, these endeavors are so important for the college admissions process. If you are getting ready to apply and looking for guidance on extracurricular activities, get in touch with our team of college admissions experts.

Want to learn more about what college admissions officers look for in applicants? Check out our Just Admit It! podcast.

Related Topics
12th Grade, Extracurricular Activities
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