Extracurriculars For High Schoolers Interested in Studying a Social Science
The social sciences are a broad group of academic disciplines that encompass a great number of fields you might be considering pursuing in college like anthropology, economics, communications, library science, law, psychology, and more. With such diverse fields making up this category, it can be daunting to try to plan your college applications early on–especially if your passion lies in archaeology, for instance, but there are no archaeology courses available at your high school.
This is where your extracurricular activities come into play. Colleges have many more academic offerings in many more subjects than most high schools, so until you arrive on campus you might not have ever taken an academic course in your intended major. However, your extracurricular profile can demonstrate your passion for a subject and how your skills and qualities make you an excellent addition to any freshman class.
If you have your eyes set on a top-tier school, keep in mind that every applicant will have superb grades and test scores; having stand-out extracurriculars on your application will help your application similarly stand out.
The Four Tiers of Extracurricular Activities
There are ten spots for activities on the Common Application, so it can be tempting to go into high school with the mindset to join every club possible and see what sticks. This strategy would result in a full list of extracurriculars, but likely not a very thoughtful one. When college admissions committees are considering your extracurricular profile, they are looking to see where you spent your time, what you accomplished, and what qualities can they assume in you as a result. To better understand what these committees value most in the extracurricular profile, we’ve broken down your possible involvements into four tiers.
Tier four are activities that you might enjoy and spend some time on, but your contributions are generally shallow without any meaningful accomplishments. This could be general admission in a club or having a low-responsibility part-time job. You might be asking yourself why you would bother with a tier four activity at all, but don’t discount them. Tier four activities are a great way to add balance to your profile while highlighting a different side that might not come through in the rest of your application.
Tier three activities are a level above tier four activities, usually with some middle level of accomplishment. This would include activities where you hold some level of responsibility or have won some sort of accolade, but not the highest available. This could be mean being treasurer for Model UN or having a secondary role in the school musical.
Tier two activities are those that show a high level of accomplishment or leadership ability and are a great asset to your extracurricular profile. Being president of a well-known or respected student organization, leading a significant local volunteer effort, making all-state in sports or music, or founding a club with some notable achievement would all qualify as tier two activities. For most students, this is the top level of achievement you will see on your profile.
Tier one activities are the highest level of achievement, usually a nationally recognized accomplishment that demonstrate an exceptional capacity in that category. Winning a national science fair, being nationally ranked in a sport, or leading a volunteer effort that gets national media attention could all be tier one activities. College admissions boards look at them extremely favorably because true tier one activities are rare. Having one on your application will definitely help you stand out.
Extracurriculars to Consider for the Social Sciences
When you’re planning out your extracurricular activities, you will want to have a mix of activities of different tiers and types that show what you will contribute to a college campus. Aim for a range of activities that reflect your diverse and varied interests, with a deeper, higher tier involvement in a select few that you are most passionate about and/or that demonstrate why you would make an excellent fit for the social science you wish to study.
There are two main types of extracurriculars we’ll think about here that you might want to consider if you are considering the social sciences.
These clubs are exactly what they sound like: clubs that are based on a shared interest in a subject. Depending on what you wish to major in, you could see if your high school has a related club. If it doesn’t, you could look into starting one (which in most cases would be a tier two accomplishment).
- American History Club
- History Club
- Military History Club
- Mythology Club
- Psychology Club
- Renaissance Club
Academic Teams, Challenges & Competitions
There are generally fewer competitions geared toward the social sciences than other disciplines, but participating in a general knowledge academic competition or an academic team can speak to an affinity for interdisciplinary study that would benefit any social science major.
Academic Decathlon is a national team competition comprising seven multiple choice tests, two subjective performance events, and an essay that require knowledge in art, economics, language and literature, math, music, science, and social sciences. The decathlon is designed to include students from a range of achievement levels, making this a great extracurricular option if your GPA isn’t as high as you’d like as competition scores are based on GPA divisions.
The National History Day Contest encourages students around the world to conduct historical research on a topic of their choice, with local winners moving on to have an opportunity to advance to the national contest. This is a great way to dig deep into an interest you have and demonstrate your capacity for academic inquiry on your extracurricular profile.
Quiz Bowl is a quiz competition where two teams compete head-to-head to answer questions from academic subjects including history, literature, and science, as well as contemporary knowledge like current events, pop culture, and sports. Participation in Quiz Bowl can range from tier four—intramural events within your school—to tier one winning at the national level.
These extracurriculars are just some of the options available to you if you are considering a major in the social sciences. Look for activities that will help highlight your unique skills and interests and devote your time and energy to them so that you end up with a mix of activities from across tiers and types. At CollegeVine, we want to help you make the most of your college applications by combining data-driven research with proprietary tools that help with the admissions process every step of the way. Sign up for our email list today to get more extracurricular advice delivered directly to your inbox.
Want more college admissions tips?
We'll send you information to help you throughout the college admissions process.