Which Extracurricular Activities Should I Do?

We get this question a lot, and there is no one size fits all answer here. We understand that at its core, what this question really asks is how students can best position themselves to get into college. The truth is that there is no one club that sends your application straight to the accepted pile.  

Before you go down the dark path of joining every club on earth in a panic, you should know that generally speaking colleges are not impressed by resumés that are bursting at the seams with extracurricular activities that you haven’t contributed much to. It’s not that impressive to be a member of the robotics club, model UN, the French club, and the environmental science club if you haven’t taken any of those activities a step further. This is not to say that you can’t join multiple clubs that you genuinely enjoy, but what colleges are looking for is a sustained interest in a specific field that you’ve nurtured over the years.

With that being said, the best extracurricular activity to do is the one that you care about the most. There is not a certain field or academic discipline that is better than another. The goal is to show passion, discipline, and follow through. However you choose to do that, and whatever field that happens to be in, is up to you.  

Look for extracurriculars that you can take a few steps further. In other words, sitting in a classroom twice a month after school talking about environmental science with your peers and one professor isn’t enough. For example, let’s say you join the environmental club your freshman year. That’s great, but certainly not a good way to show your dedication to environmental matters. Find something specific that you care about within a cause. Maybe you live in New York City and your building doesn’t recycle, so you start a program in your building. Then you get other schools and buildings involved. A logical next step would be a summer program at a college, research with a professor, or an internship.

While we fully support you deciding on your own what your passion is, we would be remiss not to mention that in recent years colleges are trending towards admitting students that show interest in academic fields as opposed to student entrepreneurs. If you do want to build a business, aim to build a real business. It could be something charitable, but selling jewelry or baseball cards is not enough. Colleges believe in academia (they are academia), so start by exploring your academic interests.

If you like English or history, think of ways that you can express that in the form of an extracurricular activity. A good way to start is by reading books. If you’re a history buff, pick up or download books and delve deeper into time periods or historic figures that pique your interest. Reading helps us realize if there’s a truly sustained interest. If you actually like history, you’ll like reading the books. You might find something you want to take a class on, and if so Coursera is a good place to start.

If you’re someone who only likes hanging out with your friends, start taking notice of the kind of things you do and talk about. Usually, there’s something you gravitate towards. (There’s nothing wrong with hanging out with your friends, but if that’s all you do you need to find a way to create some structure around the way you spend your time.)

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and create your own opportunities. If there’s a computer science class offered in your town that you’re interested in, enroll and then ask the teacher if you can be their aid. If you love going to museums and studying art, look for clubs and pitch an internship to the museum director. The most important part of the extracurricular search is clearly defining an interest that you actually want to explore.


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