College Admissions: The Importance of a Resume and Extracurricular Activities

extracurricular activities

When a high school student applies for admission to college, there is a short list of items that are most important to the college. Colleges want to know how well you did in high school and what level of classes you took. The also want to determine how well you can write and who is recommending you. But aside from your grades and academic aptitude, college admissions officers want to know what else you did in high school besides study. Colleges value your extracurricular activities.

What are Extracurricular Activities?

College admissions officers view anything you do outside of regular academics as extracurricular activities. It can be school sponsored or activities not affiliated at all with your school. From your school’s French Club to your local recreation soccer team. Your activities can be formally guided or completely informal. Maybe you learned to write software code from YouTube videos and self teaching guides.

One of the main reasons colleges look at your extracurricular activities is because they want students who do things outside the class. Other activities build you as a person as you discover things you love to do and are passionate about. Those are the things in life that to which you will apply your academic knowledge.

What goes on a high school student’s activities list?

Consider this document a student’s first resume. You should list all your activities, in reverse chronological order, with start and end dates. Provide a brief description of each activity, demonstrating your involvement and understanding of the purpose of the activity.

These are activities that are (or should be) related to your preferred major in college. Obviously, not every activity you do will support a single major. However, if you’re going to major in Nursing or Pre-Med, interning at a local hospital will be relevant, but sports activities should also be included.

Choose wisely, because some college admissions criteria limit this list to only your most important activities.

How do College Admissions Officers evaluate Activities?

Extracurriculars should reflect your interests, hobbies, and passions. In other words, these activities should be things you actually want to do, rather than things you think will help you get into the school of your choice. These activities help college admissions officers determine what type of student you will be when you arrive on their campus. Just like any organization, every school is trying to build or maintain a certain culture. Your activities outside the classroom help them determine your fit for the culture they want to maintain.

In your freshman and sophomore years, you should try new things to see what you like. As you grow, you should be looking for leadership roles in the activities that you enjoy the most. This pattern demonstrates a progression in your life from “I tried something new. I liked it. I became proficient at it. Now I’m leading others.”

What do You do now?

Follow your interests. Join clubs and activities that will help you get better at the things you like to do. Make sure you have a balance between academics and extracurricular activities. And, finally and most importantly, keep some notes on your individual activities. We recommend you keep such notes because when you start applying for schools in your Senior year, it’s difficult to remember what you did in certain activities in your first two years of high school.