Extracurriculars to Consider if You Plan to Study Computer Science

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Computer science is becoming an ever-popular major for incoming college students. With the continuous rise of the tech industry in the United States and the rapid speed at which innovation is changing the world, students with programming, data analysis, and other compsci skills are currently in high demand in most job sectors. 

 

If you think that this lucrative field might be for you, you’re certainly not alone. The computer science major itself is challenging, and gaining admittance to schools with top computer science programs is no piece of cake either. Not only will you need strong grades and high test scores, but you will need to demonstrate that you are both interested in, and have experience with the technical programming skills you will be learning. 

 

With that goal in mind, you ought to consider getting involved in some extracurricular activities that will teach you some powerful programming, data analysis, or other computer skills. Which extracurriculars will show admissions committees that you have a knack for computer science? Read on to find out.

 

The Four Tiers of Extracurricular Activities 

 

Before you choose which extracurricular activities (ECs) to participate in during high school, you should have a comprehensive understanding of how your extracurricular involvement will be evaluated during the college admissions process. 

 

We at CollegeVine like to use a big-picture framework to help determine the impact your ECs are likely to have on your admissions chances. We use Four Tiers of Extracurricular Activities to illustrate how an admissions committee is likely to view your accomplishments relative to other applicants.

 

We’ll start with Tier Four activities. These are the extracurriculars that admissions committees see most often on a college application, so they are unlikely to make your application really stand out. These are the activities that you participated in without really taking up a leadership position or making a deep impact. That said, these activities are still useful to your application, as they showcase your interests to admissions committees. Examples of these include being a member of the robotics team, volunteering with the National Honor Society, or playing in the school orchestra. 

 

Tier Three Activities, on the other hand, are where your accomplishments start to shine. These are activities where you have achieved some sort of honor or leadership position, like placing at a Debate Tournament, being the Treasurer of your school club, or being a finalist at a school competition. These are certainly accomplishments, but they are still seen often among candidates in the college admissions process. 

 

Now, Tier Two Activities are where most students really stand out. These are more impressive accomplishments like becoming class president, leading a fundraising effort, or making the all-state orchestra. These accomplishments show dedication, leadership, and great social acumen. They are usually the peak of most student’s accomplishments, and two or three of these on your application are likely to impress an admissions committee. 

 

Tier One Activities are rare in college applicants, as they are truly extraordinary accomplishments that most applicants can’t boast. These are achievements like winning a national Mock Trial competition, gaining admission to a highly prestigious summer program, or being a finalist at the Google Science Fair. Most students will not have an achievement like this on their application, but such accomplishments will definitely gain the attention of an admissions committee.

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Extracurriculars For High Schoolers Interested In Studying Computer Science 

 

With those tiers in mind, let’s explore some unique clubs and activities you could consider joining or starting in high school. Keep in mind that these clubs are usually Tier 2-4 activities, depending on how deep your involvement in the club gets. The following clubs are great for Computer Science majors as they will introduce you to popular concepts and technical skills that are necessary if you want to study Computer Science: 

 

3D Printing Club

Artificial Intelligence Club

Computer Science Club

Cybersecurity Club

Electronics Club

Ham Radio Club

Information Technology (IT) Club

Makerspace

Programming Club

Robotics Club

Video Game Design Club

Web Design Club

 

There are also some cool competitions that might interest you as a future computer science major:

 

  • The American Computer Science League is an international organization that organizes computer science competitions on the elementary, junior, and senior high levels. Each competition involves a written part and a programming part, covering a range of topics including digital electronics, Boolean algebra, computer numbering systems, and graph theory. 

 

  • CyberPatriot is a national youth cybereducation program aimed at directing students towards a career in Cybersecurity. Every year, they host the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition for high school and middle school students, where teams have to identify known cybersecurity flaws in a virtual image representation of an operating system. 

 

  • First Robotics is an international robotics competition where students build game-playing bots that can perform a series of tasks like scoring balls into goals, balancing on a balance beam, and hanging on bars. Each team consists of students, teachers, and mentors, and students have the opportunity to build the robot using both provided parts and parts that they develop themselves. 

 

  • VEX Robotics has been named the largest robotics competition in the world. It is open to students from the elementary to university levels, but students are separated into different levels of competition based on their age and grade. In this competition, students build their own robot based on a set of challenges provided to them by the competition itself.

 

Of course, your extracurricular profile should be based on your interests and passions. This list is just to give you an idea of the kinds of clubs and competitions out there that could help you learn about computer science and get introduced to the hard skills involved. Your ultimate goal in pursuing any of these extracurriculars should be to move up the tiers of extracurricular activities through your accomplishments within the organization/competition, so be sure that no matter which activity you choose, you are prepared to really commit to it. 

 

Ready to get more support on your high school academic and extracurricular journey? CollegeVine was created to level the playing field and offer every student, regardless of their school or background, the chance to gain expert insight into the college application process. To take advantage of all that CollegeVine has to offer you, be sure to subscribe to our email newsletter, the best place to get timely updates on what’s new in the college admissions space.

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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
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!