Extracurricular Activities

Colleges look at more than just grades and SAT or ACT scores when reviewing a student's application. They want to know what your child does outside the classroom, too.

Fast Facts

  • Extracurricular activities include any activity your child’s involved in that isn’t directly related to their coursework.
  • Colleges look at a student's activities for signs of leadership, initiative, a willingness to take risks, etc.
  • Colleges also want to know about students' internships, volunteer work, or part-time jobs.
  • A student's level of involvement is more important than how many activities they participate in. Make sure your child doesn’t overextend themselves.

More Than Hobbies

Colleges are interested in your child’s activities because they provide a clearer picture of who your child is and what their strengths are.

For example, if your child is captain of the football team or the editor of the school newspaper, they’re displaying strong leadership skills.

Many activities your child enjoys can enhance their college applications. If they love to make pottery and create new bowls every week, this shows dedication, persistence, and creativity.

Jobs and Volunteer Work

If your child has a part-time job or does volunteer work, make sure they include it on their application.

Holding down a job while going to school or during summer break shows that your child is responsible and has strong time management skills. Students need those traits to be successful in college.

Similarly, doing volunteer work—like stocking shelves at a food pantry or reading to preschoolers—is a good indication of a student’s involvement in their community. This shows colleges that the student will be an active, valuable participant in campus life.


How can my child find activities in our area to participate in?

If your child isn’t interested in school activities, they can check out your local YMCA or community center. Your child may discover different sports (like fencing),  art classes (like pottery), or musical opportunities (like a songwriting class) that they'd like to try.

Your child can also ask their friends, teachers, and school counselor about extracurricular activities outside of school.

Religious organizations are a good place to find out about community service opportunities, as are groups like Boys & Girls Clubs of America. And of course, a quick internet search may turn up an activity your child will love.

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Should I encourage my child to be involved in lots of activities?

Not necessarily. If your child has too many activities, it'll be hard for them to focus on any of them. Most colleges would rather see a student be a leader in one or two activities than be an occasional participant in four or five.

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Are there any activities that colleges prefer to see on applications?

No. Whether your child is into sports, music, writing, or volunteering, colleges can learn more about their interests and their abilities. Admission officers are looking to see dedication and hard work, regardless of what the activity is.

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