College Tips - Extracurricular Activities


Participating in extracurricular activities is an important aspect of the high school experience. What qualifies as an extracurricular activity and why is participation important? Let's dive deep into extracurricular activities and examine the benefits, both personal and as they relate to the college application process.

What is an extracurricular activity?

Extracurricular activities are basically anything that falls outside of the regular school curriculum.Participating in them shows that you are going above and beyond the basic requirements, engaging in something additional. Extracurricular activities typically require a time commitment and initiative. So, no, playing video games with friends on your time off, while fun, does not fall under the extracurricular umbrella.

Why are extracurriculars important?

There are many benefits to extracurricular activities, ranging from improved academic performance to higher self-esteem. They also provide the opportunity for self-discovery as well as social interaction.

Academic Performance

How can participation in extracurricular activities help academic performance? Wouldn't they get in the way? Sure, you don't want to fill every waking moment with an activity, but providing just the right balance of school and extracurriculars can actually help in the academic realm. Participation in activities allows individuals to learn valuable skills such as time management, as well as increasing stamina, focus and concentration. These skills are carried over into school work, improving academic performance.


Participating in something that you are passionate about leads to improvement in that field. Doing well in an area of interest builds confidence and boosts self-esteem. Building confidence allows kids to take more risks in other areas of their lives, helping them face challenges with a positive outlook rather than an attitude of defeat.


Participating in extracurricular activities allows students to try different things and discover what they are good at and passionate about. Experiencing various clubs, sports, and activities encourages participants to learn things they may not have known about themselves, which could lead to future endeavors and even careers. Participation also provides the opportunity to diversify interests and broaden a worldview. These are all important aspects, especially as students prepare to apply for college and share with admission committees all they can about themselves.

Social Opportunities

Being social is a crucial part of high school. Most kids love hanging out with peers and chatting about similar interests. Extracurricular activities allow students to expand that social network, make new friends, and build those relationships outside of the activity itself. These friendships are not only great for social aspects, but can also come in handy down the road as networking possibilities. Building friendships in extracurricular activities also encourage you to get even more involved.

What does this have to do with college?

Colleges look at extracurricular activities for a few reasons.


First, depending on what you plan to major in, the admission committee may look to your activities as support for your intention. Are you hoping to have a career in medicine? What opportunities have you taken in your high school years that support that desire? Research opportunities, hospital volunteering and additional clubs all play a role in whether the committee views you as a strong applicant.


Colleges will also look at your leadership ability. No, you don't need to be president of every team or club in which you participate, but was there growth in your participation throughout the years? Did you start as a team member and then make your way to team captain? Did you try out a new club sophomore year and decide to take on the role of secretary your senior year? Dedicated participation shows passion and commitment, two things that stand out to college admission teams.


Lastly, did you stick with certain activities throughout high school or try a whole smorgasbord of activities? Believe it or not, having a ton of activities does not always bode well. The student who participated in three teams, clubs, or organizations throughout high school while building their depth (longevity and leadership) in each compares much more favorably to that student who tried a new club each year and never really clicked with any of them.

Next Steps

Obviously, we are in a very different world of extracurricular opportunities these days. Participating in extracurricular activities is proving difficult amidst a pandemic and numerous cancellations. With many schools continuing virtual learning, the clubs and activities in which students typically participate are not an option. Even those schools that have opted for on-campus learning have cancelled the athletic season for the foreseeable future. How then can you support your children and encourage them to try new things and build participation?

Be sure to check out our next blog post for suggestions on how to navigate extracurricular activities during COVID. As always, we are here to help you through this process. Please do not hesitate to reach out!