Do Colleges Really Care About Extracurricular Activities?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Group of students walking on the school campus.

Do Colleges Really Care About Extracurricular Activities?

There’s so much involved in the college admissions process, making it difficult for high schoolers to know where to focus their limited attention and time. With so much on their plates, it’s easy for students to feel overwhelmed and uncertain.

It’s natural to seek out the areas that require a considerable amount of attention due to their outsized importance to maximize your efforts. On the flip side, it’s perfectly understandable to want to identify areas that don’t require so much attention or energy.

This understanding can make it easier for high schoolers to alleviate some of the burdens they’re feeling by freeing up some time. Unfortunately, these decisions are usually guided by poor information or misunderstandings altogether.

Students talking in the stairs.

A common question floating around high schools during college admissions season is “do colleges really care about extracurricular activities?” The implication is that high schoolers could ignore these after-school activities and focus more attention on their academics or other areas if extracurriculars weren’t important to colleges.

Getting this answer wrong could mean high schoolers are missing an important component of their applications, which could drastically hurt their chances of getting into the schools of their dreams. Here, we’re going to take a deep dive into this issue to finally answer the crucial question: do colleges really care about extracurricular activities?

Do colleges really look at extracurricular activities?

There’s a popular misconception floating around that colleges don’t look at extracurricular activities or don’t pay this portion of the application so much attention. So, do colleges care about extracurriculars? Or are applicants simply filling in this portion of the application as a formality of sorts?

In reality, colleges care a great deal about extracurriculars. Admissions officers aren’t just interested in what you’re doing in the classroom. They also care what you do out of school, and extracurriculars are an important piece of what high schoolers do with their free time outside of a strictly academic setting.

Many high schoolers operate under the assumption that their academic performance is the only truly important factor in their application. It’s the misunderstanding that a perfect GPA and excellent standardized test scores are enough to get into any university in the country no questions asked.

Students smiling at the camera.

The truth is that admissions officers want to know as much about an applicant as possible. Extracurricular activities provide some crucial information about applicants that other parts of a student’s background wouldn’t reveal.

As a general rule of thumb, if it’s on a college application, you should assume it will get considered by admissions officers. While specifics vary between each school, nearly all colleges and universities in the entire country will request to see your extracurricular participation. So, next time a fellow applicant wonders, “do colleges care about extracurricular activities?”, you can provide a definitive yes!

How much do colleges care about extracurriculars?

Now that you know that colleges actually look at extracurriculars, you’re probably wondering how much they care about these non-academic activities. How much of an impact do they really have on your overall application after all? A lot actually! Colleges care a great deal about extracurriculars for a few key reasons, and no answer to “do colleges care about extracurricular activities” is complete without mentioning these reasons.

Extracurriculars show how you spend time out of the classroom.

Admissions officers aren’t just concerned with how you perform in the classroom. If so, applications would only consist of academic-related content. However, admissions officers are just as interested in how you spend time out of the classroom. That’s where extracurriculars come into play. These activities can quickly reveal what applicants consider important.

Students walking around the school campus.

These activities can reveal more about you than other parts of the application.

Academic performance is a crucial part of the college admissions process which receives some of the most scrutiny and consideration when admissions officers are sifting through applications. However, GPAs, test scores, and other academic-related metrics can’t reveal much about an applicant’s personality and background. On the other hand, extracurriculars can give admissions officers deeper insight into the person behind an application which makes it easier to differentiate between different candidates.

They show your level of commitment and perseverance.

Nobody thinks that pursuing an extracurricular consistently throughout high school is a piece of cake. Quite the contrary, admissions officers understand it’s a difficult and challenging process that requires a lot of dedication and determination. That’s precisely why they prefer to see applicants who have made the effort to achieve this feat.

Are extracurriculars really necessary?

Yes, extracurricular activities are necessary for any college application. It doesn’t matter where you’re applying, how strong your academic performance is, or anything else about your background. Extracurriculars are an indispensable component of an application. That’s why the overwhelming majority of schools require this information on their applications.

Students who don’t end up taking extracurriculars in high school will struggle to get into the university of their choice. Admissions officers at a prestigious school might not even consider an application without extracurriculars no matter how stellar the academic performance.

Four club members holding their folders on a room.

It’s important to remember that your application is being compared against thousands or even tens of thousands of other applications. The overwhelming majority of high schoolers take part in some extracurricular activity. Your application will stand out in a bad way without this inclusion. But that’s not all to keep in mind.

Admissions officers don’t just care if you participate in an extracurricular activity. They also want to see high performance and development over time, just like in your academics. Simply joining an extracurricular isn’t enough to capture their attention. Students need to develop new skills, improve their knowledge, and advance overall.

How to optimize your extracurricular performance.

1. Test out a bunch freshman year.

Most high schools have a litany of extracurriculars from which high schoolers can choose. What’s more, many high schools allow students to start their own clubs if nothing piques their interest. This leaves high schoolers with potentially limitless options, making it difficult to choose the best extracurriculars in which to participate.

Students playing frisbee in a field.

Given this impressive variety of options, it’s advisable for high schoolers to take the first half of their freshman year to test out various extracurriculars to see which piques their interest the most. You won’t have a better opportunity to test the waters than your first year of high school, so make it count by trying out as many extracurriculars as you want.

2. Excel in one or two extracurriculars.

When testing out a bunch of different extracurriculars during your freshman year, you’re bound to come across a handful that captures your attention. You might feel compelled to continue pursuing a handful of different activities throughout the rest of high school, but you don’t want to spread yourself too thin.

It’s better to perform at a high level in a single extracurricular than to do mediocre in half a dozen. That’s why we advise students to choose one or two activities to pursue for the rest of their time in high school. Admissions officers love to see applicants who have developed specific skills and committed themselves to a single pursuit for years.

3. Choose something aligned with your intended major.

Extracurriculars are different than academic activities, but they’re not completely separate. The whole point of attending college is still to pursue a specific degree in a field of interest. As a result, it’s advantageous to choose an extracurricular that aligns with your intended major. For example, a student pursuing a degree in criminal justice might join a mock trial club.

Pursuing an extracurricular related to your major accomplishes a few things. First and foremost, it looks great on your application since it shows admissions officers that you’re serious about your intended major and willing to pursue it even outside of school. Plus, it helps you further develop your skills and knowledge to become better prepared for collegiate classes.

4. Find something you enjoy.

Extracurriculars are often considered more enjoyable than academics because students have the opportunity to choose what activities they pursue. And that’s true! Extracurriculars should be enjoyable. It’s important to find something that lines up with your intended major, and it’s crucial to perform well in this activity. But, don’t let those requirements distract from the enjoyment.

That’s why it’s smart to take your freshman year to explore the various extracurriculars offered in your school and local community. You never really know whether or not you’ll enjoy something until you try it. With so many extracurriculars available, you’re bound to find something you really enjoy doing. Once you find it, stick to it!

5. Don’t let your academics falter.

Extracurriculars can eat up a lot of your limited time and energy, even if you just focus on one or two. Although it’s important to excel in extracurriculars to improve your application, you don’t want to excel at the expense of your academic performance. Admissions officers won’t care how impressive your extracurricular participation is if your academics aren’t up to snuff.

We advise students to create a calendar clearly outlining their responsibilities for both academics and extracurriculars. This way, you know precisely how many hours each week you’ll need to commit to each and when potential conflicts arise. When you can maximize your performance in both areas, you’ll really increase your chances of getting into your top-pick schools.

6. Convey their value in your application.

Extracurricular activities should have a positive impact on you overall. Whether you developed professional skills, received hands-on experience, gained a deeper understanding of a certain subject, or benefited in any other way, you need to successfully convey this in your college application. You’ll have opportunities in essays and other sections to go into detail about the impact of extracurriculars.

Admissions officers are smart, but they’re not going to be able to read into the specific benefits conferred by your extracurricular activities. Not only is it unique to each person, but they also want to know how these experiences have uniquely impacted you. Take your time on these answers as they can add a lot of personality to your application, helping it stand out from the crowd.

7. Participate in competitions or events.

When responding to the question, “do colleges care about extracurricular activities?”, it’s important to consider related factors they might consider. Many extracurriculars have associated events or competitions where students have an opportunity to put their knowledge and skills to the test in events against other schools or teams.

Although scoring the highest is ideal, you don’t need to come out on top for these events and competitions to have a positive impact on your application. The mere willingness to put your skills to the test is enough to boost your application in the eyes of admissions officers.

8. Work with a college admissions specialist.

One of the best ways to improve your extracurricular performance is to work with a college entrance consultant. These experts can help you choose the best extracurricular activities based on your specific goals, academic interest, and personal strengths. They’ll even help you balance these activities with your academic responsibilities for a stronger application overall.

What are some examples of extracurricular activities?

You know colleges care about extracurricular activities, but you might still be wondering what these activities actually look like. Before we dive into some specific examples of extracurricular activities, let’s review the various types to give you a better idea of what you can pursue in high school:


This one is pretty straightforward. If you find yourself in the upper echelon of a particular sport by the time you get to high school, you might consider going all-in to see if you can’t get a scholarship for playing. Keep in mind that only a small percentage of student-athletes achieve this.

Student Government

Running for president or another position within your high school’s student government is a great way to illustrate your drive, leadership, social skills, perseverance, and vision.

Community Service

Not all extracurricular activities need to be academically focused. If you have an organization or cause that you feel strongly about, you can commit yourself to this pursuit throughout high school and count it as an extracurricular activity on your application.


Professional extracurriculars are a bit tricky. Unless you’re able to land a role that directly relates to your intended major or area of academic passion,, it’s advisable to focus on other activities. However, students who can land an apprenticeship or internship can make their application stand out.


If you’re a talented artist that can’t find a good club or activity to support your medium, you can focus on this pursuit yourself. Just be sure to engage in meetups, competitions, and other pursuits to show to colleges that your focus on the arts wasn’t merely a hobby.


This is what most high schoolers think about when considering extracurricular activities. These clubs are usually hosted after school where students pursue a certain academic or non-academic interest in greater depth.

Here, we’re going to share some examples of potential extracurricular activities which can greatly improve your chances of getting accepted into your dream school when done well.

  • Associated Student Body (ASB)
  • Junior State of America (JSA)
  • Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA)
  • Interact Club
  • Red Cross
  • Thespian Society
  • Model United Nations (MUN)
  • Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA)
  • Amnesty International
  • Student Council
  • Chess Club
  • Academic Decathlon
  • First Robotics
  • Quiz bowl
  • Science Bowl
  • Math Team
  • Vex Robotics
  • Science Club
  • Science Olympiad
  • Yearbook
  • National Honor Society
  • Music Honor Society
  • Science National Honor Society
  • National Art Honor Society
  • National Business Honor Society
  • National Technology Honor Society
  • Math Honor Society
  • Spanish Honor Society

Get into the university of your dreams.

Now that we’ve set the records straight on the common question, “do colleges care about extracurricular activities?”, we might as well clarify another common misconception. Many high schoolers, unfortunately, assume that their dream university is simply too far out of reach no matter how hard they try.

It’s sad that so many students are reducing their expectations just because they hear from somebody that their goals are too ambitious or not realistic enough. This is further complicated by the fact that there’s not much accurate information out there to help high schoolers master the college admissions process. That’s where AdmissionSight can help!

For over a decade, we’ve helped high schoolers just like you get into the schools of their dreams. And we’re not just talking about any random school. In fact, 75% of the students we work with end up getting accepted into an Ivy League or Top 10 university. We specialize in getting high schoolers into the best schools in the country, and our results speak for themselves.

How do we do it? That’s a great question. First and foremost, we’ve developed an in-depth understanding of the college admissions process and what it takes for applicants to stand out. We know precisely what admissions officers are looking for, and we offer a suite of services to help high schoolers cater their applications to these demands.

Here are some of the impactful college admissions services we offer:

Academic Planning – Taking the right courses is key to optimizing your application. We’ll help you find the right balance between challenging yourself and ensuring you can handle the workload. Our team will take your intended major, unique strengths, and personal preferences into account.

Extracurricular Selection – Colleges care about what you’re doing outside the classroom. We’ll provide some suggestions based on your specific goals and interests to help you figure out the best extracurricular activities to boost your application’s appeal.

College Interview Practice – Many schools require applicants to undergo an interview with a representative at some point in the application process. Our team can prepare you in terms of what to wear, what to say, how to act, and what questions to anticipate. This way, you can blow it out of the water.

ACT & SAT Preparation – Standardized tests have been an essential part of the college admissions process for decades, and these exams aren’t going anywhere soon. We’ll help you prepare for these tests to maximize your scores. The higher the score, the better chances you’ll have of getting accepted anywhere.

Essay Editing – Essays are a crucial part of the college admissions process. Not only are there standard application essays, but many schools require applicants to fill out additional prompts. We’ll help you answer these questions perfectly to greatly increase your chances of getting accepted into your dream school.

Summer Program Selection – As mentioned before, college admissions officers care how applicants spend their time out of the classroom. This extends into the summer too. Luckily, there are countless programs offering students hands-on, real-world experience in their field of interest. We’ll help you choose the best summer program based on your needs and goals.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we offer high schoolers to help them improve their applications. With these services, you can drastically improve your chances of getting into your top-pick schools whether that’s an Ivy League school, a Top 10 university, or anything else. No goal is ever too high.

Feel free to contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We’ll be happy to answer all of your questions and explain how our services can help you reach your academic goals. We look forward to hearing from you.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.