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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
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A Guide to Extracurricular Activities: Grade 11

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If you’ve been following the CollegeVine blog, you’ve likely already seen our posts on managing your extracurricular activities in 9th, 10th, and 12th grades. Besides being a fun and engaging way to socialize and interact with other high school students, extracurriculars are an extremely important part of your high school record, and their impact on your future college applications is something you should already be keeping in mind.


Your extracurriculars can teach you useful skills, provide leadership opportunities, and allow you to pursue your interests in ways that stretch far beyond the classroom. 11th grade — the last full year of high school you’ll have to show on your college applications — is a particularly significant time for your extracurriculars, and you’ll need to keep a careful eye on how you develop your involvement during this school year.


Interested in learning more about how to strengthen your extracurricular activity resume in 11th grade? Below, we’ll go over what makes 11th grade special, what to expect in 11th grade, and what you should aim for when considering your 11th-grade extracurricular involvement.


What’s so special about extracurriculars in 11th grade?

As you’ve most likely already heard, 11th grade is a very important year for your future college applications. This is true for two reasons.


One reason is that once you reach 11th grade, you have a great deal more experience than you did when you started high school, and your potential for achievement is much higher. With your accumulated experience, you’ll have the opportunity to become a leader, take on additional responsibilities, and perhaps even create lasting change in your school or community.


Your accomplishments during this time period are significant for your personal development, but they’re also highly useful when you apply to college. College applications will require you not only to list your activities, but to detail your involvement in each extracurricular. Your achievements and the roles you take on during your junior year can demonstrate to colleges that you’re dedicated, hardworking, and proactive in pursuit of your passions.


The other factor contributing to the importance of 11th grade to your applications is simply that the timing of the college application process places special emphasis on your junior-year record. Assuming that you’ll fill out your college applications in the fall of 12th grade, 11th grade will be the most recent full academic year for which colleges are able to see your academic and extracurricular performance.


Because 11th grade is quite important, it’s likely to be a busy year for you. Not only will your classes be more challenging, but competition among students for high grades and class rank can get fierce. You’ll also get started in earnest with the process of applying to college, which is no simple task.


In 11th grade, you’ll typically take the PSAT, even if you’ve already taken it once for practice. Your 11th-grade results will help determine whether you enter the National Merit Scholarship Program, as we’ve described in the recent CollegeVine blog post How to Qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. You may take some AP courses and exams, and you’ll certainly have to start planning your SAT, SAT II, and/or ACT testing schedule.


If you’re thinking about applying to college through an Early Decision or Early Action program, which we’ve discussed in several CollegeVine blog posts in the past, this whole process will be accelerated. You’ll need to have a solid resume ready to submit by October of your senior year at the latest.


Keeping on top of your extracurriculars while you manage these other tasks can be difficult, but maintaining and growing your extracurricular involvement is essential during this time. Remember, high grades and test scores alone won’t get you admitted to colleges, especially those with selective and holistic admissions policies.


What can I expect from extracurriculars in 11th grade?

As we mentioned above, once you’re in 11th grade, you can anticipate facing higher expectations from those around you, such as your coaches, advisors, or teammates. You’ll also have higher expectations for yourself. If you made it to the state tournament in tennis last year, for example, maybe this year your goal will be to reach the final round in that tournament. Your coaches or advisors can help you determine what goals are appropriate and how to set goals in a strategic, constructive way.


Meeting these new, higher expectations from yourself and others will take time. Unsurprisingly, you can expect your time commitment to your extracurriculars to increase, especially if you take on greater responsibilities and leadership roles. Between spending time with friends and family, working at a part-time job, and getting a good night’s sleep, your days will be fuller than ever.


The increased time commitment for your extracurriculars, along with the responsibilities of keeping up your grades and starting the college application process, means that you’ll have to develop your time-management skills to a higher degree. There are only so many hours in a day, and you’ll need to use those hours strategically.


Some people find that they need to reduce their total number of extracurricular activities in order to fit them into the available time. Others may decrease their involvement with one activity in order to prioritize another. It’s up to you to decide which of your extracurriculars are the most important — something we’ll address below — and create the right balance.


Overall, you should not be resistant to the idea of reducing your commitments in some area if you feel overwhelmed. Your mental and physical health should always take precedence over academic and extracurricular obligations. 


Your school or your guidance counselor may offer resources to help you manage your busy schedule and reduce your stress level as you work toward your college ambitions. Different methods work for different people, so be prepared to try several different paths to find the best one for you.


As you move through 11th grade and strengthen your extracurricular involvement, you can even start thinking about your long-term impact on your activity or organization. Even if you don’t take on a formal leadership title, you may be called upon to coach, manage, and set a good example for younger participants. You’ll have opportunities to shape your club or group and set it up for a successful future, with long-term plans and goals to aim for.

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What should I be aiming for in my junior-year extracurriculars?

First of all, you need to be aware of how your extracurricular involvement will look on your college applications. Of course, there are many other reasons to get involved in extracurriculars other than to improve your applications, but if you intend to apply to college, your resume will inevitably have an impact upon your eventual college options.


If you haven’t already done so, you should create an up-to-date resume for yourself. (We’ve covered how to do this in a number of past posts on the CollegeVine blog.) Think about how to succinctly but accurately describe the activity itself, what you actually did in that activity, and any special roles or responsibilities you held, as well as any awards or honors that you’ve received so far.


11th grade is the time to develop and deepen your skills in your extracurriculars. In recent years, colleges have preferred to see applications that are specialized — in other words, applications that display a deep commitment to a few key passions rather than shallow involvement in a large number of different activities.


If you enjoy a particular activity, you might think about also becoming involved in related activities in order to help demonstrate that specialization on your application. For example, if you love performing with the Drama Club, you might also strengthen your skills and your college applications by becoming involved in the local spoken-word poetry group, or become a news presenter for your school’s student news channel.


Obviously, you should take on leadership positions and additional responsibilities when possible. It’s also necessary to take these commitments seriously; they will require your time and effort to do well. Success in leadership positions not only demonstrates that your peers like and respect you, but shows colleges that you’ll have the dedication and the skills to make the most of the more independent opportunities that will become available to you after high school.


For competitive activities, you need to put significant work into analyzing and preparing for competitions. Being a member of the team is far from all that matters, and on your resume and college applications, you’ll be expected to describe what you actually accomplished in as concrete terms as possible. It’s difficult for colleges to place the quality of your extracurricular involvement on an objective scale, but your success in competition offers one small way to quantitatively determine your success.


If your extracurricular activities include athletic involvement, and you’re an especially talented athlete, you’ll need to learn about the athletic recruitment process (if you haven’t already done so) and determine whether it might play a role in your college application process. You can check out our CollegeVine blog post on getting noticed by athletic recruiters for more advice about this process, and of course, your coach will be there to assist you if you’re eventually recruited by one or more colleges.


For any extracurricular, you’ll also need to start thinking about whether and how you plan on continuing that activity in college. Not every college offers every extracurricular, of course, and if you are strongly interested in continuing your involvement past your high school graduation, you’ll need to check the opportunities available at each school before you decide to apply.


The coach or advisor of your extracurricular should be able to help you determine which schools are well-known for your chosen activity and whether the college version of that activity suits your other plans for college. You might also try getting in touch with alumni of your high school who were high achievers in your extracurricular and ask them how they navigated the transition to college.


Here at CollegeVine, we certainly don’t want to overwhelm you or stress you out with this assessment of your 11th-grade extracurricular involvement. However, it’s important that you understand that 11th grade is a special year, one that can have a significant impact upon your future. This impact deserves your intention not only within the classroom, but in your extracurricular activities.


In 11th grade, you’ll face not only increased demands on your time and responsibility, but some fantastic opportunities to create change, achieve high-level goals, and make a name for yourself through your extracurriculars. With the help of your counselor, advisors, coaches, and other supporters, it’s up to you to figure out which extracurricular path to take in order to best prepare you for the future.


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Monikah Schuschu
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.