The Extracurricular Section on College Apps

Ashley Yakish
Published on
May 18, 2021

1. What counts as extracurriculars?

Extracurriculars are not limited to just clubs and organizations. You can add your part-time job, sports team, competitive activities, hobbies, and more. Anything you do out of school counts as an extracurricular.

For example, you weightlift 2 times a week to become more healthy and create meal plans for your family throughout all 4 years of high school. That would count as an extracurricular because you continually invested time into the activity.

Admission officers understand that some students cannot join clubs because they have to work. A part-time job shows that you are mature and independent enough to juggle your school life and work life.

What does not count as an extracurricular:

Academic awards. If you are accepted into National Honors Society, for example, but are not involved in their meetings or volunteer activities, then this would go in the awards section. If you have been involved in their meetings and continuously contributed to their organization, you can list it as an extracurricular. Middle school activities also do not count for college applications.

2. Finding the Right Extracurricular for You

Whether you are looking for an extracurricular to boost your college application, resume, or just for fun, it is important to know what is the right choice for you. Extracurriculars are not supposed to be dreading and stressful. Do what you really love or are passionate about. Insincere activities are not good for your application as well.

Additionally, irrelevant extracurriculars for your application will barely add anything. For example, if you are applying to medical school, having an internship at the local pharmacy or volunteering at a local hospital would connect more to your future career than volunteering at a local elementary school.

3. Show Commitment

You may think joining 15 different clubs and organizations will make you standout but in reality, showing your commitment and dedication is what makes you unique. For example, applicant A has 15 different extracurriculars which she simply just participated in.

Applicant B, on the other hand, was in 3 different clubs but was the President of the key club, won a state competition in her math club, and earned a gold medal as a girl scout member which she has been a part of for 12 years. Most certainly, applicant B will be chosen. The take-away from this is that quality is better than quantity.

4. Info you need for your extracurriculars

List out all the extracurriculars you’ve done in the past 4 years in high school. Then list all of the following info for each extracurricular:

-The name of the organization or the name of your project/activity
-A description of what you did (ex: Did you manage your club’s budget or website? Did you attend their events or meetings?)
-Leadership roles, achievements, or special responsibilities
-Dates that you participated in the activity and hours per week you were involved. Hours are all the hours you invested time into the activity. For example, if it takes you 1 hour every day to go to your soccer practice and 1 hour to go home, then those hours would count towards the activity.

5. Order your extracurriculars

If you have multiple extracurriculars to list on your application, the order you put them in is very important. As a rule of thumb, you want to list your most outstanding activities on top, such as Student Body President. You should do most to least rewarding or significant (such as competitions on top, small clubs on bottom.)

Each college application has a different extracurriculars section. For example, Common App gives you room for 10 activities while Coalition gives you room for 8 activities. This does not mean you have to fill out every slot the application gives you. 3-4 extracurriculars you really invest your time in would leave the best impression on admission officers.  

On this website, you can find the exact way to list your extracurriculars by using a point system.
Simply add up the points for each activity and list it in the order from greatest to least points.

5. Other things to make sure

Some schools allow you to attach your resume or cover letter– make sure to check the school’s policy when you are filling the application and utilize that space. If you are in a leadership position, make sure to list that and be specific: what did you do as your position? How did you make an impact? Here are two websites that have give excellent advice on what makes a good extracurricular activities list: Crimson Education and College Vine

For Common App, their application has an additional info section where you may elaborate more on an important extracurricular or other significant things such as your financial situation or family circumstances.

Read the next article in our college application guide: How to Create a Theme in Your College App

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