What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Affordable + Free High School Extracurricular Activities

What’s Covered:


Colleges like to extracurricular activities on students’ resumes, and indeed, most schools/communities offer a wide variety to choose from. You can be a part of the well-known school band, orchestra, theatre, sports team, etc. You can also join some more niche clubs like drawing club, anime club, or even video game competitions. 


Regardless of which extracurriculars you choose, your extracurricular involvement will be an indicator for admissions committees of what you’re interested in, what kind of workload you’re able to handle, and what you’ve achieved throughout your high school career.


Unfortunately, extracurriculars aren’t accessible to everyone. So, what can you do if you can’t afford them?


Are Extracurriculars Expensive?


There is one catch to extracurriculars that some students and parents don’t often consider: the cost. When you think of student clubs and activities, you don’t think of them as something that would cost your family a lot of money. However, even the little costs of pursuing a student’s interest can add up. 


Think about it: some activities have dues or fees just to enter, with additional fees for special perks like club trips and competitions. Also, many activities require uniforms, equipment, or instruments all of which are not cheap. There are also the inherent costs of time and money that come from transporting a student to and from these extracurricular activities. Many parents are surprised to find that, at the end of their student’s high school career, they’ve spent thousands of dollars in extracurriculars. 


Of course, there are ways around these costs. For example, many students borrow/rent equipment and uniforms, or they buy them secondhand from a former student. This can seriously reduce costs. It’s also possible to make these extracurriculars more time-efficient for the family by working with other parents to organize carpool and ride sharing for the students. Finally, many coaches and extracurricular leaders are willing to create a payment plan or even waive the participation fees for extracurriculars if the family has financial need. After all, they know how expensive it is to be involved in high school activities, and most of them want to give as many students an opportunity to participate as possible. 


Luckily, it doesn’t always have to be that expensive to participate in extracurricular activities. In fact, there are some activities that would look great on a high school resume and don’t require any time and money from the family at all! Which amazing extracurriculars are perfect for a family on a budget? Read on to find out. 


Affordable and Free High School Extracurricular Activities 


Note: several of these extracurriculars may be canceled due to the current pandemic. We have a whole post on affordable remote extracurriculars, if you need more ideas.


1. School Choir


School choir is one of the more mainstream activities that one can participate in in high school, but it’s one of the more inexpensive ones. You don’t have to rent any equipment to participate – it’s just your voice! Of course, there might be the occasional fee for competition or performance outfits, but these don’t happen as often as they do in other activities. So if you have a decent voice and you want an affordable extracurricular, school choir may be a fit!


If you’d like to participate in band or orchestra, this can also become more affordable if you borrow instruments from your school. You may also be able to get free music lessons through community organizations. Ask your school music teacher about the options available.


2. Cross Country and Track 


The only thing you need to do in cross and country and track is run, and doing so only requires some good running shoes and an open space. While running shoes can be expensive, you can usually find good shoes on sale (online or in-store), and you can also consider buying lightly-used shoes secondhand. The student won’t usually have to pay for their uniform if it’s loaned to them by the school. There may be a small entrance fee for participation or meets, but these can usually be waived if you speak to the coach. Plus, these running sports are great for a student’s endurance and overall health, so it’s a win win!


3. Volunteering 


Students are almost always welcome to help out in their community, and you will rarely find entrance fees associated with this. Depending on what type of volunteering the student is doing, you may need to wear specific attire or drive a certain distance, but these are minor costs that won’t break the bank. Plus, colleges love to see that students were involved in their community and gave back in some way, so this a great extracurricular activity for any high school student. 


4. Student Council/Student Government 


Many high schools have some form of student council or student government that makes decisions on behalf of the student body and sometimes plans important events like prom. There isn’t usually a fee to be on student council; however, students often have to be elected in order to serve. Thus, the only big cost will be for campaign posters so that your student can come out on top. 


5. Creating Content 


In today’s digital age, any student can publish content in many forms. Now, let’s be clear: we do not advise students to count their personal Instagram or TikTok as an extracurricular activity. However, if a student publishes content with an intellectual spin on it, it can usually count as an extracurricular. For example, if the student posts memes in a popular group page, that’s not extracurricular-worthy, but if they create a blog in which they offer some sort of knowledge like cooking, that would count. 


Ideally, the student should have something to show from this content creation extracurricular besides the content itself. It’s far more impressive to a college if you were able to take a blog or a YouTube series and amass a large following or monetize it in some way. In other words, the impact of the content matters just as much as the content itself. 


6. Jobs and Family Responsibilities


Let’s not forget that many students have pressing responsibilities at home that keep them from pursuing traditional extracurricular activities. Whether it be a sick relative to take care of or a job in order to contribute to the family rent, students should absolutely count these as extracurriculars and include them in their college application. Colleges see these circumstances often, and they definitely take them into account when evaluating a student’s application. It will not count against you and, in fact, it might help your application stand out. 

Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!