How Many Clubs Should You Join in High School?
- How Do Colleges Evaluate Extracurriculars?
- How Many Clubs Should You Join for a Competitive Profile?
- How to Decide Which Clubs to Join
Barack Obama played basketball in high school. Tina Fey was, unsurprisingly, in drama club, among other clubs. Diane Sawyer served as the editor-in-chief for her high school yearbook and wrote for the newspaper.
Extracurricular involvement shows that you excel not only in the classroom but in real-life contexts, too. It demonstrates that you have interests and ambitions beyond your coursework.
Where do you find these opportunities? One of the most obvious places is right in front of you: your high school. And for many students, high school clubs are a starting point, the building blocks for a stellar extracurricular profile.
How Do Colleges Evaluate Extracurriculars?
Colleges typically evaluate extracurricular activities according to four tiers, each indicating its strength and rigor.
The top tier represents exemplary activities. These are rare — adcoms encounter them only on the most exceptional of applications. For example, you might be a nationally ranked athlete or a musician who has won prestigious accolades at a high level. Maybe you’ve placed first in, say, the International Biology Competition.
Completing a project that has earned national recognition also qualifies as a tier 1 activity, whether it’s a blog, a work of art, a website, an application, or even a well-followed social media account.
Tier 2 includes highly prestigious activities, although they are slightly more common than those in tier 1. You might hold a high-ranking leadership position in a nationally recognized club, such as Science Olympiad.
Or, perhaps you’ve been commended at the state level. For instance, you could make your all-state band or win a state or regional competition.
This tier includes activities that are less prestigious than those in the higher tiers, but they’re still useful in helping colleges see your potential and interests. These are fairly common on applications — a minor leadership position, like secretary or treasurer, in a club like the debate team or team captain of your high school’s sports team, for instance.
Tier 4 activities are very common in college applications. They might include club membership, for instance, without holding a leadership position, or taking music lessons.
While these activities don’t have the same level of impact as those in the higher tiers, they are still important. It’s difficult to have more than a couple of high-ranking activities without overextending yourself, so adcoms will expect to see some lower-ranking activities, which can demonstrate your interests and complement the rest of your extracurricular profile.
Remember, too, that you should aim to have at least a couple of tier 1-2 activities, along with a handful of tier 3-4 activities, to be competitive for selective colleges.
If you’re not sure where your extracurriculars fall among these tiers, try our chancing engine. This will help you group your activities and better understand your odds of admission to specific schools based on these and other factors.
How Many Clubs Should You Join for a Competitive Profile?
There are no absolutes when it comes to clubs. You should, however, have enough activities, including clubs, to demonstrate a spike — a well-developed interest in one or two areas — as well as a couple outside of that specialization. Rather than “tacking on” clubs, try to show investment in just a handful. That way, you can truly commit and become deeply involved, even gaining leadership positions.
Most competitive applicants have a total of 8-10 extracurriculars on their applications, although some are seasonal, and many don’t take place for all four years of high school.
How to Decide Which Clubs to Join
Your Profile and Interests
Of course, the first item on the agenda to consider is your interest. Which clubs do you actually want to join? Perhaps you’d like to explore a budding passion or further commit to a well-developed one.
There’s also the rest of your profile to consider. While not every single club has to align with your spike, you should aim to group these and other extracurriculars around one or two interests.
The Reach of the Club
Some clubs are nationally recognized, with local chapters, while others are school-specific. Generally speaking, clubs that are well known throughout the country are considered more prestigious, although you may well have organizations unique to your high school that are well-regarded, too, especially if you were instrumental in starting them.
Are there avenues for growing into a leadership role in the club? This is important for colleges, so consider whether you might be able to obtain an officer position or be on the board of a particular club.
Your Other Commitments
You’ll also need to consider your other commitments — extracurricular, academic, and personal. Think about how a club will fit into the bigger picture of your life. Will you be overextending yourself? Are you able to give it your full attention? If you’re not actually going to be able to commit, then it’s not worth joining at all. You don’t want to put in minimal effort — this won’t reflect well on your application, either.
Clubs have additional benefits beyond impressing colleges. They give you a chance to explore your interests early on, allow you to spend time with like-minded peers, and work toward something outside of the classroom. This is all on top of preparing you for college, where you’ll have even more opportunities to dive deep into your passions.