6 Business Extracurriculars for High Schoolers
- Established Clubs
- Start a New Club
- Summer Programs
- Self-Driven Projects
- How Do Extracurriculars Impact Your College Chances?
If you are fascinated by investment profitability, enjoy learning about trends in the economy, or simply want a job that enables you to be your own boss, you are probably thinking of studying business. An education in business offers incredible opportunities, but you need to work hard and plan carefully to achieve your dreams.
The top US undergraduate business programs are highly selective. You’ll need strong grades and high test scores to be considered at these schools, but you will also need to show admissions officers that you have the personal qualities that make for a successful businessperson—leadership skills, strong communication, the ability to commit to and complete tasks, and dedication to your community.
Extracurricular involvement is an excellent way to highlight these qualities. Read on to learn which extracurriculars show that you’ve got what it takes to succeed as a business student.
1. Established Clubs
Clubs are a popular extracurricular activity because they bring together students with similar interests to achieve tangible goals.
Some clubs that might be offered at your school:
- Business Professionals of America
- Economics Club
- Entrepreneurship Club
- Future Investors Club
- School Store
- Women in Business
- Young Entrepreneurs Club
Additionally, The National Business Honor Society, an official division of the National Business Education Association, is an honor society open to any high school junior or senior who has completed or is enrolled in their third business course and has a 3.0 overall and 3.5 business course GPA.
Joining NBHS can highlight your commitment to business and the depth of your business coursework. If you take on a leadership position and attend national conferences, participation in NBHS could be impactful during college admissions.
2. Start a New Club
At CollegeVine, we encourage students to start a new club if their school doesn’t offer a club that is specific to their interests. Specifically for business students, starting a new club will show admissions officers that you are willing to take on a challenge, able to follow through on long-term goals, and know how to communicate with others effectively. These are the fundamental tenets of being a good businessperson.
“Business” is a very broad term, but through your club, you can bring together students who want to focus on the ins and outs of a specific market or sector. If you want to found a new club, start by deciding on a specific concentration within “business” that interests you. Concentrations include:
- Investments/Stock Market
- Supply Chain Management
- Venture Capitalism
- Global/International Business
- Business and Law
After you pick a concentration, find a mentor with expertise in that concentration, apply to be officially recognized at your school, make a budget, build a membership base, and start achieving your goals (whether that be building a product, educating your members on relevant topics, or a philanthropy initiative).
3. Summer Programs
There are many summer programs offered for aspiring business majors. Some take place on college campuses, others in individual communities, and, nowadays, there are even fully virtual summer programs. Find just the program for you!
Some of the more selective (and, also, more affordable) summer business programs include:
Students learn about a variety of business fields through this selective summer program. Participants are provided with a broad overview of the business world and have the opportunity to meet executives from well-known and successful enterprises such as Travelers, Chick-fil-A, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Students also get a sample of college life—living in the University of Georgia’s residence halls, eating at the dining halls, and listening to lectures from faculty.
During this free two-week in-person program, rising seniors who have a strong interest in pursuing a career in business will take college prep and business fundamentals courses taught by Penn State faculty. The program is residential and provides students with a clearer picture of college life.
Offered by the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute at George Washington University, Caminos al Futuro is a three-week intensive residential program for talented students who have demonstrated a commitment to service and leadership within the Hispanic/Latino community. It is a fully-funded (i.e. free) opportunity to hear from leaders in various fields and bring their own projects to life.
This free one-week residential program at Washington State University in St. Louis is aimed at teaching low-income and first-generation college-bound students from the Midwest about business and entrepreneurship. Participants will learn about college business programs and fields of study within business. Participants also meet with Olin Business School faculty, students, and alumni.
Many colleges also offer larger residential programs (characterized by substantial tuition and fees), where high school students come together on a college campus to take business-centered courses. Some of these programs include:
- Wharton Leadership in the Business World Program
- NYU Summer at Stern
- Berkeley Business Academy for Youth
- Babson Summer Study for High School Students
- Georgetown Entrepreneurship Academy
- Exploring Entrepreneurship at Fordham University
- Finance Institute: Wall Street in the Classroom at Fordham University
- The Michigan Ross Summer Business Academy
- USC Exploring Entrepreneurship Program
Another way to spend your summer preparing for a future in business is with a summer leadership program. These programs vary in length, with some lasting a few days and others weeks, and price, some are free opportunities while others you have to pay to attend. Regardless, they provide a chance to hone your leadership skills and make connections.
- Young Women’s Leadership Institute
- Bank of America Student Leaders Program
- University of Notre Dame Leadership Seminars
- Sadie Nash Leadership Project Summer Institute
- Mercy College – Summer Leadership Academy
- Bella Abzug Leadership Institute Summer Program
- Subiendo: The Academy for Rising Leaders
- Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project – Los Angeles Institute
- MIT Leadership Training Institute
Finding an internship in the business world will show your commitment to your future. You can start by scouring the internet for companies actively seeking new interns. Make sure to search specifically in your area or for internships that can be completed virtually.
Also, keep in mind that pretty much everything around you is a business—the restaurants you eat at, the coffee shop you study at, the library you check books out from, and more. Reach out to these local companies, as well as start-ups and non-profits in your area. Small organizations always need help and will often take on interns/volunteers even when they don’t have open positions.
When you reach out to companies, be prepared to explain exactly what you will offer to their business. Are you able to balance their budget? Do you have an idea of where they can decrease costs? How can they increase profits? Do you have a new marketing initiative you think their business will benefit from? How? Make them think your ideas are invaluable.
Lastly, let the people closest to you know that you are looking for opportunities in business. You may be able to get an informal internship or shadowing position with a friend, family member, or family friend.
5. Self-Driven Projects
The most popular self-driven project for business-minded students is a pitch or business plan for a startup. The steps for starting your own business include:
- Develop an idea for a business
- Decide your company values and mission statement
- Create a staff structure and business model
- Identify your target market
- Brainstorm marketing strategies
- Predict your financial future, revenue, and growth potential
- Get funding
Keep in mind that teen businesses are successful on varying scales. Some students will start online shops that, through personalization, marketing to their target audience, and popups, will become extremely successful on a local or regional scale. Other students will discover groundbreaking technology that wins startup competitions and secures substantial funding on a national scale.
Don’t compare your business to other businesses. Rather, constantly focus on how to improve your own business.
Even if your new business doesn’t make the headlines, rest assured that it will make for engaging essay and interview content during the college admissions process. Your ventures will lead to increased technical knowledge about business. You will also experience adversity and figure out how to overcome it.
Competitions are a fun way to demonstrate your knowledge of and fervor for business. Some popular business competitions for high schoolers include:
Hosted by the Council for Economic Education, the National Economics Challenge is an annual competition with rounds covering microeconomics, macroeconomics, international and current events, and critical thinking. Awards include cash prizes, trophies, and medals. Strong placement in this challenge can help you demonstrate that you’re able and eager to put your economics knowledge to use.
This is a virtual entrepreneurship competition that any high schooler can participate in. Students submit pitches for their businesses, which are narrowed down to the Top 100, Top 30, Top 10, and then Winners. Business plans are judged based on creativity and innovation, impact potential, technical feasibility, commercial viability and scalability, and presentation. Cash prizes are offered to winners.
DECA is a nonprofit with the mission to prepare “emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.” With over 200,000 members, the organization hosts annual leadership summits, competitive events, and educational conferences. You can compete in regional, state, and international competitions that are well-respected by admissions officers.
Future Business Leaders of America is the largest student business career organization in the world. Their national awards program hosts competitive events in a broad range of business and career-related areas at the state and national levels. Strong placement in national- or state-level competitions or holding the top leadership position within FBLA is impressive during college admissions.
Diamond Challenge is a virtual startup competition that offers cash prizes to students with extraordinary business ideas. The Diamond Challenge “focuses on unleashing creativity, encouraging a mindset of abundance and self-determination, and promoting purposeful entrepreneurial action.” The challenge culminates in a summit.
How Do Extracurriculars Impact Your College Chances?
To understand how different extracurriculars affect your undergraduate business application, we use a conceptual tool called The 4 Tiers of Extracurricular Activities. The 4 Tiers are as follows:
- Tier 4: These activities show up most frequently on applications and have the weakest impact on your application. Your involvement in Tier 4 activities is peripheral—you participated but never gained leadership positions or recognition. These activities won’t make your application “pop,” but they can establish your interest in a given field.
- Tier 3: These activities are slightly more impressive. Tier 3 activities involve some level of distinction or achievement, like a small award or leadership position (things like being treasurer of your school’s finance club). Tier 3 activities highlight skills in a particular area, but they aren’t especially unique or exceptional.
- Tier 2: For many students, Tier 2 activities show their highest accomplishments. Tier 2 activities are accompanied by impressive achievements and establish your skills, dedication, and leadership (things like placing in a startup competition or being on the national board of NBHS). Having two or three Tier 2 activities on your application will help you stand out.
- Tier 1: These activities demonstrate the highest level of achievement. They involve truly extraordinary accomplishments (things like earning a spot at a highly prestigious summer program or founding a highly profitable business). Few students achieve Tier 1 accomplishments, which makes this sort of exceptional accomplishment likely to catch admissions committees’ attention.
As you choose your extracurriculars, think about what will stand out to admissions officers and what will showcase your dedication to business. Additionally, put your extracurriculars into CollegeVine’s free chancing engine, which will tell you how specific extracurriculars will affect your admissions chances at specific business programs.