Extracurricular Activities: How To Outshine The Competition
A question that burns in most minds when thinking about getting ready for college is, 'what are some examples of extracurricular activities?'
How do you start? Where do you look? Do I found a club? Run a campaign? Organise a competition?
The key is authenticity – a good extracurricular activity idea includes your genuine interests and passions.
You should think about what really excites you and build that into an activity that makes a positive difference to the community.
This blog will set up some guidelines when choosing your extracurricular activities. Then, we'll dive into some practical examples to help kick start your college application.
Extracurricular activities guide
Your extracurriculars need the right blend. These guidelines aren't a definitive list, but a rule of thumb. They'll help you structure your passion, your ambition and your goodwill in a way that resonates with admissions officers.
Three important extracurricular activities examples for college admissions.
You need to show you can take initiative and improve the community across a variety of fields. So, your extracurriculars can include:
- career activity
- community activity
- the ‘You’ activity
First, the career activity
This extracurricular is related to what you hope to study in college and shows the admissions team that you are extremely excited about studying your course.
Schools want to admit students who are hard-working and passionate about their field. You need to show that your field isn’t just for the money or prestige; you’re going for it because without that degree, you couldn’t be you.
Communications: Work for or start the school newspaper.
Applied Mathematics: Become a Mathlete or an Olympiad.
Computer Science: Build an app.
Medicine: Volunteer: at a hospital.
Second, the community activity
This extracurricular shows that you give up your time to help the community or people in need. It shows admissions officers you proactively care and want to make changes in the world.
Showing that you can take charge when something concerns you and you’re willing to put in the time demonstrates initiative, dedication, and perseverance – all attractive attributes.
Ensure you choose something that is important to you and that you commit enough time to make an impact – at least 12 months or more. The longer you participate, the more you contribute and your progress will strengthen your application.
Working in community service reinforces what you’ve already learned and develops valuable college-level skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, while demonstrating your civic responsibility.
A simple search on Google regarding your interests is the easiest way to get started. A quick phone call also produces similar results.
Hospitals – To study medicine, enjoy fast-paced work.
Schools – Working with teenagers and kids, and enjoying creativity and teaching.
Animal Shelters – Loves animals and considering a career in animal care.
Nursing Homes – Strong personality and likes senior citizens.
Food Banks – Cooking and gardening, wanting to help those in need, and would rather work behind the scenes than face-to-face.
Libraries – Enjoys reading, working with kids, and have great organisational skills.
Parks – Interested in the environment or love the outdoors.
Finally, the ‘You’ activity
This is the big one! The one that screams your personality and shows the admissions officers what makes you tick.
Often, this will be tied to your career or community activity, which means you’ll be covered. For example, you want to study medicine so you volunteer at a hospital and at a research lab.
Or, it can completely divert from the narrative in your other activities to give a better picture of you as a whole. For example, you create YouTube videos in your spare time (which you also use as a platform to promote your community activity).
The ‘You’ activity has an element of surprise, because it doesn’t necessarily align with your other pursuits; rather, it reflects your excitement for life – it should show that you live your life in a proper and ethical way. It will show that there’s more to you than just study and you’re motivated by more than just your future career or field.
The activity cannot be something self-involved, like being a diamond-ranked Starcraft player or building 10,000 followers on Instagram.
So, in summary - this extracurricular should:
continue your personal narrative of ethical community activity, and pursuing your career will make a positive difference
divert to exhibit your uniqueness, your meaningful and sustained contributions, your ability to work with others, and that you work with people from all races, cultures, and class.
You’re a maths wiz, but you also dance competitively in a different cultural scenario to your own.
You’re passionate about economics, but you also teach kids to free dive.
You plan to become a lawyer – but you have also built your own video game.
You’re passionate about the English language, and you’ve started to teach people English as a second language for free.
You have also started your own business, but you also volunteer at the local animal shelter.
Let’s consider Student A
Here is an example of one student’s extracurricular activities that they put on an application.
COMMUNITY ACTIVITY – I speak English as a second language and tutor others in English to improve their confidence and their ability to take opportunities in the English-speaking world.
CAREER / YOU ACTIVITY – Built a prototype mobile app (because I want to study computer science). This app connects people to ‘on-call’ psychologists (I want to improve the community’s mental health, which affects my close personal friends).
This candidate has shown:
P – Passion for using their talent to improve the community’s mental health
I – Initiative in tutoring others in English
E – Empathy for those who suffer from mental illness.
They are proactively improving the community and showing that their day-to-day conduct is to better the world. Notice the clear, consistent, personal narrative and how the extracurriculars all work together. Also, notice the ‘less-is-more’ approach with extracurricular activity.
This candidate is likely to be considered by many top colleges.
The best extracurricular activity examples
Are you worried about whether your extracurriculars are telling your personal story?
Here are the key qualities to an extracurricular that make them effective. They can be any hobby or activity as long as they show these qualities.
|Practising a hobby or activity for several years||Commitment, passion|
|Taking the initiative, getting things done||Leadership, gets results|
|Increasing your responsibility, expanding your role||Work ethic, passion, initiative, willingness to be challenged, gets out of comfort zone|
|Mentoring other people||Positivity, you have peer respect, ability to foster relationships, making an impact, contributing to the future|
|Making something from scratch||Entrepreneurial spirit, self-starter, leadership, drive, passion, initiativ|
The importance of extracurricular activity is clear: admissions officers use them to assess your passion, your responsibility and your ethics.
A good guideline to follow is choosing extracurricular activity around your career, your community and your passion - or combine them all into one super extracurricular. Then we listed a plenty of examples to inspire you.
We actually covered this topic in our eBook, which you can download for free here.
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