The Top Extracurricular Activities for High Schoolers Pursuing Computer Science

November 17, 2022
By AdmissionSight

The Top Extracurricular Activities for High Schoolers Pursuing Computer Science

These days, one of the most common academic and professional pursuits that students from all over the world take part in is computer science. Without a doubt, students interested in computer science have an incredible amount of freedom in the job market and can end up working for some of the most important and influential companies in the world. For that reason, if you are a high school student that is already interested in computer science, then you are on the right track to future success both when it comes to getting into great undergraduate programs and getting great jobs further down the line! If you have plans to pursue computer science, then you are definitely going to want to make the most of that by seeking out some of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study computer science.

Depending on where you are in your high school education, however, you might be wondering what’s the point of extracurricular activities? After all, isn’t the one thing that matters most when it comes to your ability to get into the best colleges and universities in the country your academic record and grade point average?

Three students talking while using a laptop.

The truth is that there are many more components of a student’s undergraduate application profile on top of just your grades, and extracurricular activities are one of the most important factors.

Can extracurriculars increase your chances of getting admitted to college? They absolutely can and do.

At AdmissionSight, we make it our top priority to help each and every student that we work with get into the schools of their dreams. Unsurprisingly, many of the students that we work with have some of the most prestigious schools in the world.

When it comes to how much the strategies and tools that we implement actually help, we believe that the numbers speak for themselves. 75.0 percent of the students that we have worked with in the past have gone on to either get into an Ivy League school like Harvard, Columbia or Yale or a different top 10 school that isn’t in the Ivies like Stanford, Caltech or UChicago.

So, when we say that extracurriculars can – and do – play a major role in any student’s ability to get into a fantastic and highly competitive school, we know what we’re talking about.

View of college students studying in a room with a table.

So, if you’re getting started in your high school education and want to learn more about some of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study computer science, or simply want to get a better understanding of what’s the point of extracurriculars in general, then you have absolutely come to the right place!

Let’s start breaking all that down and more in what we hope will be an informational and helpful blog post.

Let’s get started.

Can extracurriculars increase your chances of getting admitted to college?

While we work with most of our students specifically on the college application process, a lot of our students also start their working relationship with us very early on in their high school education. In fact, AdmissionSight even offers admissions consulting to students prior to starting their high school education.

The truth is that these days, when schools continue to grow more competitive, and more students are applying to the top schools in the country now than ever before, there is never too early a time to get started on planning for your future and setting yourself up for success when it comes to applying to colleges and universities.

View of a young woman browsing through books.

So, how much do extracurriculars really matter when trying to get into a great school? You might be surprised to learn that extracurricular activities on a student’s resume, and how a student took advantage of opportunities in their school and community to pursue their interests and passions end up accounting for about 30 percent of a student’s overall application!

That number might be even higher these days now that many of the schools across the United States have adopted a standardized test optional policy, meaning that the SAT and ACT are no longer required components of an application.

It might surprise you to learn that they are really considered that heavily, but when you think about why, it starts to make a lot more sense. After all, grades really only tell one part of the story, and schools are not interested in accepting a student because of their grades alone, but rather for what that student seems capable of achieving now and in the future. How a student chooses to spend their time outside of the classroom can say a lot about a student’s interests, goals, leadership qualities, and much more.

So what are admissions officers specifically looking for when they are reviewing a student’s list of extracurricular activities. There are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Admissions officers consider the quality of the activity: Now, it is really important for us to make clear that when we say quality of the activity we do not mean that admissions officers consider one kind of extracurricular to be more impressive than the next. Instead, we mean that admissions officers look for how deeply invested and immersed a student was within that activity. Admission departments would rather see a student with 2 or 3 activities over a 4 year period than 12 activities, which they didn’t immerse themselves in at all. A student who was involved in a club for years or played a sport for their 4 years of high school, the admissions department will look favorably on this activity. For that reason, you should feel completely encouraged to pursue the things that really interest you as deeply as possible. Whether you’re a star athlete, leading actor, or a wiz computer scientist! Use your extracurriculars to get deeply involved in your national passions and interests and
  • Admissions officers looking for impactful involvement: If you decide to really pursue your passions and get involved in a few different groups or clubs really deeply, you should be able to walk away from the experience by the end of your high school education with some pretty meaningful relationships and experiences. Admissions officers absolutely look for proof that students were able to gain something personally (whether it be a new skill, new point of view or new experience) or were able to give something meaningful to someone else. After all, a really important aspect of extracurricular activities in general is the community involvement aspect. Admissions officers want to find students that they believe will have a positive and meaningful presence on their school’s campus. What better way to predict that than by looking at the positive impact that they had on their high school community?
  • Admissions officers look for leadership: This is a big one, and it is important to keep in mind that there are different kinds of leadership. Of course, the most obvious kind of leadership is becoming a captain, leader, president or founder of something like a club, sports team, academic competition team, the editor of your school paper, or something like that. However, there are many other kinds of leaders as well, and even if you do not have an official role of leadership in one of your extracurricular activities, there are definitely ways to lead and have a role of great impact. Being able to write about that in your college application. The fact that leadership is so important is just another reason why committing to fewer activities over a longer period of time and more deeply is the much better way to approach extracurriculars rather than taking part in a larger number of activities less deeply. You can really only earn roles of leadership if you are strongly committed.
  • Awards and recognition received: Students who have received awards, trophies or accolades for their achievements will want to share that with admissions departments. They do care about outside awards and appreciation you’ve received for your activities. It shows that you have been recognized by others for your achievements, which means you’ve excelled at the task or activity. However, with that in mind, it is good to know that a lot of really fantastic extracurriculars don’t necessarily even offer the chance to win awards or competitions (community service, school plays and certain student clubs come to mind). Don’t feel like you only should pursue extracurriculars that offer the chance for you to win awards, because this is not what admissions officers are going to look at first and foremost. It certainly can help sweeten the pot, though!

How many extracurriculars should a student be involved in?

Now that you have a much better idea of what admissions officers look for in extracurriculars, we wanted to answer just one more really basic question before getting into the best extracurriculars for students who want to study computer science, we wanted to quickly just establish how many extracurricular activities students are encouraged to get involved in these days.

While at one point, students were encouraged to take part in as many extracurricular activities as they could fit into their schedule, students are now much more encouraged to limit their list of activities to 3-5 total. Anything more than that and it will be really hard for a student to invest enough time necessary to really have an impact and get anything meaningful out of the experiences themselves.

Two female students reading on a table.

With that in mind, students are also encouraged to take part in various summer programs during their high school years to further explore their interests and passions. In all, there should be a high level of cohesion from one school year to the next, signifying that you are keeping up with your primary interests.

Beyond that, it is important to keep in mind that if you have family responsibilities such as working a part-time job to help with expenses or taking care of your siblings while your parents work, those are fully acceptable to list (and discuss in your personal essays) as out of school activities.

What are the best extracurriculars for students who want to study computer science?

So, we’ve covered a lot of the basic information regarding extracurriculars, and we can finally move on to some of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study computer science. Here are some of our favorites:

Hackathons

If you know anything about the computer science community, then chances are good that you are already well aware of hackathons. In fact, at this point, getting involved in hackathons might actually be a bit too obvious. However, for younger students who are just getting into computer science and coding, hackathons are incredibly valuable experiences and resources for helping you improve and accelerate your knowledge and skills.

A lot of hackathons are still in person and offer incredible networking opportunities for students to get to know other people their age who are interested in the world of coding, but a lot have actually decided to go remote as well. That means that you can attend many more these days thanks to remote invitations.

Join a coding club

There is a common misconception among people not involved in coding that it is a highly isolated and sometimes even lonely world. Coders know that coding is incredibly collaborative, with some of the biggest companies in the world employing hundreds – if not thousands – of coders who all work together to accomplish a common goal.

For that reason, it is really important for young people who want to one day enter the job market as a computer scientist to know how to work with other coders. Coding clubs at high schools or offered outside of school are incredible ways to meet other coders, learn new skills, and learn how to better work within a team. Beyond that, joining a club will also offer you both the freedom and resources to pursue some really creative ventures.

Build a website, smartphone app or software

The beauty of learning how to code is that it can give anyone the tool to really create things from the ground up all from the comfort of their own home. While we would not encourage students to take part in extracurriculars that they do on their own, there is also nothing wrong with committing a lot of your time and energy to a singular and lofty pursuit such as building out your own site or smartphone app.

An open laptop placed on top of a table near a window of a computer science student,

In fact, some of the most used and impactful apps were started by students when they were either in high school or undergraduate school. Taking this kind of undertaking on is not only going to allow you to show off your immense skill, but it will also allow you to prove your initiative and maturity!

Apply for an internship

Another great opportunity for high school students to take advantage of are internships. The best way to get linked into these opportunities is to research different tech startups in your home town and see if there are any that may be looking for some free or cheap labor.

Find the email addresses to recruiters or engineers at those companies and reach out to them, explaining your goal, passions, skills and why you want to intern with them. Not only will you undoubtedly learn new skills thanks to your internship, but you will also get first-hand experience when it comes to running and working in a tech startup.

Contribute to open-source software

If you were not already aware, open-source software has a source code that anyone in the world can gain access to, analyze, and modify. For example, Linux, Android and Firefox are all open source!

Working on an open source is one of the most effective ways that new coders can get better at coding quickly. It can also help you get a nice foundation needed to one day pursue a career in coding.

On top of that, you will get the chance to become part of the open-source community and gain valuable feedback from members of that community. You’ll also be able to get advice and learn first hand from professionals on how to become a better coder.

AdmissionSight can help you choose extracurriculars

You know, we have a great idea of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study computer science, but we really just scratched the surface! On top of that, you may want to learn about other extracurricular options that have nothing to do with coding or computer science. After all, you are absolutely encouraged to pursue not just one, but all of your top interests and passions during your high school education and beyond.

AdmissionSight is here to help! If you are interested in learning more about what kinds of activities you can take part in that can really help you get into the schools of your dreams, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

 

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