Your Complete List of Extracurricular Activities

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The best colleges aren’t just looking for students with 4.0 GPAs and high test scores. After all, just about every person applying to Harvard or Yale boasts these qualifications. If you truly want to make an impression on admissions committees, you’ll also need a strong extracurricular profile. 

 

Along with showcasing your ability to commit to a hobby or passion, extracurricular activities help convey who you are as an individual, in a way that grades can’t. Keep reading to find out why extracurriculars matter and discover which ones to pursue, based on your interests.

 

What Are Extracurricular Activities? 

 

Extracurriculars refer to activities pursued outside of the classroom. Examples of extracurricular activities are: being a member of a sports team, serving as chief editor of your school newspaper, or playing in a regional orchestra. Working a part-time job and volunteering also count as extracurriculars.

 

However, students need to understand that not all hobbies count as extracurriculars. In general, it’s best not to include recreational activities like watching movies or playing video games. This is because extracurriculars should also involve some concerted effort and contribute to your personal development. So, while playing video games might not be an extracurricular, if you take your passion for video games to another level and program plugins for your game, that would count as an extracurricular.

 

Wondering if a hobby you enjoy qualifies as an extracurricular activity? Find more information in our post Breaking Down the Four Tiers of Extracurricular Activities

 

How Important Are Extracurricular Activities? 

 

Most schools are at least somewhat interested in the types of extracurricular activities a student pursued in high school. However, extracurriculars are especially crucial for students applying to top 250 colleges and universities. In fact, our data reveals that 30% of an admissions decision is based on a student’s extracurricular profile. That leaves 25% for essays, 20% for grades, 15% for test scores, and 10% for recommendations.

 

For less competitive schools, such as large public institutions, extracurriculars are generally regarded as less significant. Because most state universities receive thousands of applicants annually, less time goes into reviewing students individually. These schools are more likely to make decisions based solely on grades and test scores.

 

Why Are Extracurricular Activities Important in College Admissions?

 

Extracurricular activities help colleges gain a deeper understanding of an applicant than can be gleaned from their coursework and test scores. By presenting a robust, diverse extracurricular profile, you show admissions officers that you’re a passionate, dedicated person who will prove a valuable addition to the college campus.

 

Additionally, extracurriculars can showcase your ability to succeed in your chosen major. For example, students need to show initiative if they hope to pursue a career as a doctor. You can show an adcom that you’re up for the task by volunteering at your local hospital as a candy striper or attending a summer camp for STEM.

 

How Many Extracurricular Activities Should You Do? 

 

The most desirable applicants feature 8-10 extracurricular activities on their resumes. This might sound impossible to juggle, but keep in mind most activities are seasonal. For example, if you play tennis, competition season is only in the fall, which frees you up a little more in the winter, spring, and summer. 

 

However, it’s important to balance extracurriculars for both number and depth. In other words, you shouldn’t list dozens of activities in which you’re only a casual participant. The goal is to show true dedication and passion for the activities that you do pursue. 

 

Students should also avoid taking on too many activities. The last thing you want is for your grades to suffer because you didn’t have enough time for homework and studying.

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Complete List of Extracurricular Activities

 

Wondering what types of extracurricular activities to choose? Below is a complete list of activities for students with different talents, interests, and abilities:

 

Academic Societies and Competitions

  • Academic Decathlon
  • Clean Tech Competition
  • Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge
  • C-SPAN StudentCam competition
  • Davidson Fellows competition
  • Envirothon
  • Google Science Fair
  • Imagine Cup
  • National Academic League
  • National Geographic Bee
  • National History Bee
  • National Mock Trial.
  • National Ocean Sciences Bowl
  • Neuroscience for Kids Competitions
  • Odyssey of the Mind
  • Questions Unlimited
  • Quiz Bowl Tournament of Champions 
  • Scholars’ Bowl
  • Stemanites Research Competition
  • The National Honors Society
  • USA Brain Bee

 

Pre-Professional Groups

  • Academy of Law and Criminal Justice
  • Doctors Without Borders
  • Entrepreneurship Club
  • Future Pharmacists Club
  • HOSA
  • Medical Explorers
  • Nursing Students Association
  • Pre-Med Club
  • Society of Women Engineers
  • Women in Business

 

Sports 

  • Baseball and softball
  • Basketball
  • Cheerleading
  • Cross Country
  • Cycling
  • Dance team
  • Equestrian club
  • Fencing
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics
  • Hiking club
  • Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Martial arts
  • Skateboard club
  • Skiing or snowboarding
  • Soccer
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Track and field
  • Ultimate Frisbee club
  • Volleyball
  • Water polo
  • Yoga club

 

STEM

  • Astronomy club
  • Biology club
  • Chemistry club
  • Chemistry Olympiad
  • Clean Tech Competition
  • Engineering club
  • Psychology club
  • Robotics club
  • Science Bowl
  • Science National Honors Society
  • Science Olympiad
  • STEM summer programs

 

Foreign Languages

  • American Sign Language club
  • Foreign language club
  • International food club
  • Latin Honor Society
  • Student Diplomacy Corps
  • Tutoring students in a foreign language

 

Writing and Media

  • Blogging
  • School or local magazine/journal
  • School or local newspaper
  • School or local radio station
  • School or local television channel
  • Science fiction club
  • Shakespeare club
  • Creating films
  • Yearbook Committee
  • YouTube Channel

 

Arts and Drama

  • Anime/Manga club
  • Art club
  • Cartooning
  • Ceramics
  • Classic film club
  • Comedy club
  • Community theater program
  • Congressional Art Competition
  • Dance
  • Drama club
  • Dungeons and Dragons club
  • Film Production club
  • High school theater program
  • International Thespian Society
  • LARPing (Live Action Role Playing)
  • Photography
  • Sculpture
  • Standup comedy

 

Music

  • Any musical interest club
  • Chorus
  • Church choir
  • Concert band
  • Jazz band
  • Marching band
  • Orchestra
  • Singing lessons
  • Solo music
  • Your own band

 

Government, Politics, and Social Activism

  • Amnesty International
  • Animal rights club
  • Breast Cancer Awareness
  • Civil Air Patrol
  • Community Youth Board
  • Debate club
  • Euro Challenge
  • Foreign affairs club
  • Forensics Team (public speaking)
  • High School Democrats of America
  • High School Fed Challenge
  • Junior ROTC
  • Junior Statesmen of America
  • Mock trial club
  • Model Congress club
  • Model United Nations
  • National Speech and Debate Association
  • NOW – National Organization for Women
  • SADD – Students Against Destructive Decisions
  • Speech club
  • Student government
  • Teenage Republicans
  • Young Democrats of America

 

Jobs

  • Babysitting/childcare
  • Internships at local hospitals, labs, and businesses
  • Running an online business (eBay, Etsy, etc)
  • Service industry job (restaurants, retail stores)
  • Tutoring

 

Community and Volunteer Work

  • 4-H
  • Boy Scouts
  • Church outreach
  • Community festivals
  • Do Something
  • Girl Scouts
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Hospital volunteer
  • JUNTOS
  • Key Club
  • Kids Helping Kids
  • Literacy projects
  • Make A Wish Foundation 
  • Mentoring
  • Missionary volunteer
  • Red Cross Club
  • Special Olympics
  • Tutoring
  • UNICEF High School Clubs

 

Affinity Groups

  • Asian Students’ Union
  • Black Students’ Union
  • Christian Student Organization (CSO)
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • Gay Straight Alliance
  • Gender and Sexuality Awareness 
  • Jewish Student Union
  • Latino Students’ Association
  • Muslim Students’ Association

 

Personal Projects

 

As self-driven projects, the below activities may seem a little off the beaten path. However, they can add breadth to your extracurricular profile while showcasing positive qualities such as initiative, drive, and leadership. The key is to focus on those activities where you can achieve something significant and quantifiable.

 

  • Build a computer
  • Film a movie
  • Host a charity event or fundraiser
  • Host a podcast (multiple episodes)
  • Run a marathon
  • Start and run a club at your school
  • Teach classes in your community
  • Write a novel 

 

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April Maguire
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.