What Are Colleges Looking for in Extracurriculars?

what-are-colleges-looking-forIt’s no secret that extracurriculars serve as a foundation for growth among high school students. As the race for college acceptance becomes more competitive, high school students are looking for ways to distinguish themselves on their college application. One way this can happen is through what they’ve done outside the classroom.

Extracurricular activities—what are colleges looking for in today’s students?

While it’s been rumored that some very specific extracurricular activities and the title you’ve earned—such as captain of the football team—may be more favorable to admissions officers, that’s not necessarily true. According to Peterson’s, “[c]olleges aren’t terribly picky about how you spend your down time, as long as you’re doing something meaningful. They won’t know if you spend hours upon hours playing video games; they will certainly notice a lack of notable activities on your college application.” So if you weren’t elected class president, but you’re still focusing on building your skills through other activities, don’t be so hard on yourself. A college or university doesn’t add up every activity in which you participate. In fact, admissions officers would rather see you demonstrate a commitment to just a couple of activities, rather than dabble superficially in many. What’s important is that your involvement aligns with your interests and the program to which you’re applying. For example, if you’re applying to college with a focus in environmental studies and you’re a dedicated member of the environmental club, the admissions office is likely to notice that connection.

While an extracurricular activity alone isn’t enough earn a college acceptance letter, it will help if you have a strong GPA and can demonstrate other self-starting initiatives. Admissions officers are often asking these questions when reviewing applicants: Can you demonstrate growth and potential? How can you contribute to the campus community? Involvement in an extracurricular activity can help shape a strong applicant—one admissions officers are looking to add to their list of accepted students.

Be sure to demonstrate your commitment to whatever you do, from extracurricular activities to your academics. Doing so will not only help shape your personal statement, it will also help you shape who you are now and who you’ll become in the future.