Which Extracurricular Activities Help Your College Application Stand Out

Learn what colleges look for to differentiate students from the rest of the applicant pool and which activities are better than others.

Colleges are looking for people who excel in multiple arenas, rather than in academics alone. The type of extracurricular activities you choose to do and how well you perform them is a good way to make yourself stand out to a college.

There has to be a balance between academics and extracurriculars; you shouldn’t sacrifice one for the other and ideally, you want to perform at the highest level you can in both.

One way to make your extracurriculars stand out in your college application is in how unique the activities are. Your extracurricular activities tell as much of a story about you as your academics do.

For example, if you lived in Alaska and you were involved in the local Eskimo community to help the population to better integrate into society, how many others can say they did that?

Maybe you’re from Guam and helped a fishing village increase their monthly catch by designing something that would make their nets work more efficiently.

On a less “exotic” scale, perhaps your childhood day camp was encountering funding issues and facing a potential shutdown when you rallied the local community to help keep it solvent and help it flourish.

If you can tell a unique story through your extracurriculars while maintaining a high level of academic achievement, it makes your application, at the very least, more memorable.

Another way to make your extracurriculars noticeable to colleges is the level of performance or achievement within that activity.

With the two examples above, the unique nature of the activity means that there aren’t a lot of other applicants to compare to in that area. Meanwhile, the traditional extracurriculars that students usually participate in are things like sports, student government, music, and special interest clubs.

Given the number of students who participate in these types of activities, it’s much harder to tell a unique story through these activities.

If you think about it, how many “first chair violinists” are there? How many “baseball team captains” are there? How about “student body presidents?” Because there are so many students with similar extracurricular profiles every year, colleges will look for high levels of achievement to differentiate students from the rest of the applicant pool.

For example, if you came in first at a state-level track event, or had the fastest 100m swim time, that would make your extracurriculars stand out. If you achieved something in a larger region – nationally or internationally – even better!

One important thing to remember is that extracurriculars are not meant to be a list of things to “check off” in terms of applying to college.

If you wanted to show “well-roundedness” by volunteering at an animal shelter an hour a week, playing piano an hour a week, having a very limited role in student government, and signing up for seven different clubs while letting your grades drop, that is absolutely not a good strategy to stand out.

Extracurricular activities stand out to colleges when you show passion, dedication, and a high level of achievement – not when you’re checking something off an imaginary “college admissions checklist.”

At the end of the day it’s about quality, not quantity!

Since 2006, Stratus Prep’s team of expert College Admissions Counselors have helped aspiring candidates gain admission to their dream schools.

Sign up for a free consultation today to learn more about how Stratus Prep can help you with your college application process.

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