What are Extracurricular Activities?

Think About Everything You Do When Applying to College


When you are completing application forms to apply to college, it may seem like you are answering the same questions over and over again. The colleges want to know your school history, family background, and financial information. Applicants complete similar college essays, with their own take on answers.

So how do you make yourself really stand out? One way is through your extracurricular activities.

Yes, of course you want to mention your sports teams and the clubs you belong to at school, but there could be other things in your life which contribute to your overall personality. They could be activities which make you look more well-rounded than the thousands of other eager high school students filling out the very same application. Here are some ways you might want to think about extracurricular activities that could make a big difference for you:

  • Religious Background: Don’t shy away from this area of your life if it is important to you. Have you participated in a youth group or mission trip where you gained valuable insights? Did you help prepare lessons for younger children? Have you performed charitable acts? These all speak to important aspects of your character.
  • Family Activities: You might think it is part of being in your family, but look at what you do in a different light. Do you care for an elderly loved one or younger siblings? Does the family take an annual trip somewhere that challenges your athletic abilities or provides you with a greater understanding of our world? Describe these activities in a positive light to show what you learned from them.
  • Not a Joiner: If you are not a joiner, you might feel like you are left out from this part of the application, but think about how you like to spend your time. Are you outside photographing flowers or wildlife? Do you write songs or poetry? Introspection and creativity are not negative personality qualities; they are ones that many colleges appreciate.
  • Put a Positive Spin on What You Do: It is possible to find some good in everything you do. If you really enjoy playing video or online games, that pastime could be described as learning about a career path you might be interested in pursuing. If you hang out and play basketball with your friends, you are learning about building teamwork.
  • Think About Everything: It doesn’t have to come under the guise of an official club to be an extracurricular activity. Did you help out in the school office or bookstore? Were you involved in a yearly carnival for the community? Look back on your life and you might be surprised at how much you have accomplished.
  • I’m Too Busy: If there is a legitimate reason you did not have time to participate in extracurricular activities, make sure you explain this as well. If you were employed, explain how many hours you worked and talk about the skills you gained or money saved. If you faced medical or health challenges, include that to show how you persevered through difficult times.

We all have to account for our time in some way. If you like to read, list out your favorite authors and explain why you like their style. If you’re a dreamer, talk about what those dreams mean to you.

You don’t always have to be the star athlete or the leader of the group; it looks just as good to say that you tried something and improved yourself, or were able to help others participate.