5 Tips to Approaching Extracurricular Activities in High School

Extracurricular activities are a crucial part of the college application process that students need to think about well before their senior year of high school. Unfortunately, most students don’t realize how important extracurricular activities are until they start filling out their college applications. Don’t let that be you! Here are 5 tips to approaching extracurricular activities:

(1) Show Dedication

You must show dedication to any activity you decide to pursue. If you start participating in 5 clubs at your high school during your senior year, colleges will see right through you. But if you’ve been involved in activities for a number of years, that will demonstrate to college admissions committees that you really do enjoy these activities. Even if your extracurricular activity is underwater basket weaving, if you’ve show a passion for that activity — it will impress college admissions officers.

(2) It’s About Quality, Not Quantity

When applying to college, many students try to fill their activity list with as many clubs, sports, and community service events as possible. Colleges know when a student is just trying to fill up the page. Instead, focus on a few core activities that your really enjoy — and do those well! College admissions officers know that high school students are busy, and that participating in 10 different organizations just isn’t realistic. But being heavily involved in a handful certainly is.

(3) Don’t Fake It

Lying is the biggest blunder you can make on your college application. And the easiest place to do it is on the section that asks about what activities you have been involved in. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to conveying what activities you were involved in, what positions you held, and how many hours you dedicated to those activities. If a college finds out that you lied about anything on your application, they have the right to rescind your admission. And even if a college doesn’t find out, it’s simply not worth compromising your morals.

(4) Community Service & Leadership

No matter what activities you are involved in, there are two things that stand out to college admissions officers — community service and leadership. Colleges want their students to be outstanding citizens and leaders in the community. One way to measure this is to see how much of a leader you have already been and how much you have already given back to the community. This really goes hand in hand with showing dedication to an activity (#1). The longer you have been involved with a particular organization, the more likely you will have a chance to go from a member to an officer to possibly president! You will also have more time to setup community service events (i.e. fundraisers, soup kitchens) with any organization you are a part of — even if it is not a community service specific club.

(5) Choose Wisely 

Finally, a word to the wise: don’t let extracurricular activities compromise your academics. Too many students spread themselves too thin. Sports, clubs, and community service can sometimes leave little time for homework and studying. But remember, colleges value your academic record above all else. So if you find that your grades are suffering because of the number of activities you are involved in, maybe it’s time to have less on your plate. Time management is key, and there is no better time to learn it than in high school.

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Shaan Patel, who scored a perfect 2400 on the SAT, is the author of McGraw-Hill’s bestselling SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps and co-creator of Veritas Prep SAT 2400.