The Top Extracurricular Activities for High Schoolers Pursuing Engineering

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of students walking in the school campus

The Top Extracurricular Activities for High Schoolers Pursuing Engineering

For students, a big part of their undergraduate education is to learn what they want to pursue in terms of their major, minor and eventual career path. However, there is a rather lucky group of students who have a really good idea of what they want to pursue both in school and in terms of their career when they are in high school. Take a pick from the best extracurriculars for students who want to study engineering.

In fact, students who have a solid idea of what kind of job they want to end up having after they graduate college may have an easier path to actually getting into the undergraduate programs that they have at the top of their list for one specific reason. That reason is that they can build both their academic path and extracurricular activities around those interests. And if you are a student that is interested in pursuing engineering, then you would be very wise to start researching some of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study engineering.

But what’s the point of extracurricular activities? And can extracurriculars increase your chances of getting admitted to college? At AdmissionSight, these are the kinds of questions that we get all the time from the students that we work with. As admissions consultants, we make it our primary goal to help the students that we work with get into the schools of their dreams. While many of the students that we work with come to us right before they begin the actual application process itself, there are many other students who we start working with in the very early days of their high school education.

Two people talking and discussing while sitting on a table.

For those students, we help them with everything from choosing what kinds of advanced and honors classes to enroll in to what kinds of extracurricular activities to pursue. Essentially, our job is to help these students create as compelling and convincing an application profile and story as possible.

While it is not necessary that a student has a good idea of what kind of major and career they want to pursue in the future in order to tell that compelling story, it can certainly help them in achieving that goal!

And in terms of the question of whether or not the tools and strategies AdmissionSight offers its student actually work, consider the fact that 75.0 percent of the students we have worked with have gone on to either get into an Ivy League program like Harvard, Columbia or Yale or a top 10 school that is not in the ivy League like UChicago, MIT or Stanford. We believe those numbers absolutely speak for themselves!

But what about those students who decide to go it alone? After all, no matter how useful working with an experienced admissions consultant can be, the vast majority of students opt to lean on their parents, peers, high school faculty and high school counselor to offer them the assistance and guidance that they need to get into the schools they dream of going to. Well, just because we are not going to work with those students does not mean we don’t want them to achieve their own college admissions goals.

For that reason, we have decided to break down some of the most important facts regarding extracurricular activities as well as list some of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study engineering so that you can start looking out for some great opportunities that are available to you outside of the high school classroom.

So, if you have questions about what kinds of extracurriculars you should look for as a student that is interested in engineering and careers that have to do with engineering then you have absolutely come to the right place! Let’s start breaking down all of these important questions together.

What’s the point of extracurriculars?

Depending on how much you know about the college admissions process, you might be wondering what the point of extracurriculars even are and if they can really help a high school student get into some of the most prestigious and competitive universities in the country.

The simple answer to that question is absolutely yes. In fact, the extracurricular activities that a student invests his or her time in during high school are believed to account for approximately 30.0 percent of their total application profile once their application and resume is looked over by admissions officers. Now that a lot of schools have adopted a standardized test optional policy (meaning that students are no longer required to send in an SAT or ACT score as part of their application), that 30.0 percent could actually be even higher!

Two women talking on a table.

If that seems a bit high to you, you might not have a complete idea of just how much admissions officers lean on the kinds of extracurriculars a student invests their time in to learn about who that student is and where they might be headed.

In order to clear that up for you, we’ve decided to break down the most important things that admissions officers look at when analyzing a student’s extracurricular pursuits in high school. Let’s get into it.

  • Admissions officers seek out students with specialties: One of the most common misconceptions – as well as one of the most important ones to debunk – is the belief that admissions officers at top colleges and universities are looking for students who are well-rounded and are Jacks or Jills of all trades. While it is absolutely true that admissions officers always have the goal of building well-rounded and diverse (both in terms of representation and interests) graduating classes, they do that by accepting students who are very different from one another.
  • In fact, one of the best ways to convince an admissions officer that you would be a great addition to a well-rounded and diverse student body is to have incredible specific interests and specialties yourself. While students can definitely pursue their interests inside of the classroom, extracurricular activities are often an even better opportunity for seeking out groups, clubs and teams that deal specifically with your unique interest. Students interested in robotics or self-driving cars might not be able to learn about that in their high school classroom, but they can definitely seek out one of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study engineering that have to do with those precise areas of engineering.
  • Admissions officers love to see students pursuing their passions: It is important to keep in mind what when admissions officers are looking at a student’s extracurricular activities, they are not rating them based on what they are as much as they are rating them based on how much time and energy the student invested in them.
  • Truly, a student can take part in anything from sports teams to their school band, engineering to a local theater troupe, and anything in between as long as they do it passionately and with determination. You should feel that you have the freedom to openly pursue the things that interest you in your time outside of the classroom. After all, the things that you pursue in high school will shine a bright light on what you might decide to pursue once you get to college. That will help admissions officers determine who invested in the campus community you will be and how you will contribute to the overall culture of the school.
  • Admissions officers are looking for leaders: It’s really as cut and dry as that, admissions officers at all schools – but especially at some of the more competitive and prestigious schools – are looking for young folks who know how to lead and have ample experience leading their peers.
  • Extracurricular activities are without a doubt the best way for high school students to prove that they are natural leaders. While becoming a team captain or president of some organization or group you are a part of is certainly the most straightforward way to prove that you have taken on leadership roles, you can also prove that you have led from within the group by mapping out how your presence in a given team, group or club dramatically changed and improved the trajectory of that group.
  • This is one of the most important reasons why committing to a smaller number of extracurriculars is considered more valuable than being a surface-level participant in a larger number of extracurriculars. Typically, only people who are deeply invested and highly involved can earn leadership roles, whether they be official or unofficial. For many, this means getting involved in the first year or two of high school and remaining involved until graduation.
  • Admissions officers want to see how students get involved in their community: We’ve touched on this a bit already, but we wanted to finish up this list by really hammering home just how important this aspect of any student’s college application is. Admissions officers are not only looking at a student’s application to see how well they might perform in college and what kinds of classes they might enroll in once they get there. They are also looking for how those students will contribute to the community of the school both during and after their years of education. The way in which you get involved in your community and engage with your fellow students in high school will shine a big light on how you’ll contribute to your college community once you enroll.

How many extracurricular activities should a high school student take part in?

This is a question that our admissions consultants at AdmissionSight often get from students that we work with. While some students head into high school believing that the more extracurriculars the better, the truth is actually quite different from that. Admissions officers have a much heavier depth of investment rather than breadth of investment. This means that they want to see students get deeply involved in less activities rather than maintaining a surface-level investment in a large number of groups.

So, what is the actual number? We advise that our students invest heavily in three to five extracurricular activities during their high school education. On top of that, students often also take advantage of the opportunity that the summer break presents by taking part in summer programs that are offered all over the country.

Group of student working 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.

The best extracurriculars for students who want to study engineering

Now that we have covered some of the most important basics regarding extracurriculars, let’s now get into the specifics of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study engineering. Some of these options are just as fun and informational as they are impressive in the eyes of admissions officers everywhere!

View of a male student studying in front of a laptop.

Odyssey of the Mind

This highly popular and longstanding creative problem solving competition offers students the chance to engage in not only engineering and STEM skills, but also performance skills, art and history.

Students will get involved in projects such as inventing a new kind of factory machinery, building a mechanical dinosaur that can walk and roar, construct a new type of vehicle or even write a new chapter of a classic American novel, design a new video game and so much more. Not only does Odyssey of the Mind offer students passionate about engineering to learn new skills and engage in fun and challenging activities, but it also offers a great opportunity to meet new friends, learn from new mentors and more.

International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition

This is a real opportunity for students who are interested in medical and genetic engineering and really gives students the chance to learn about the cutting edge of these types of engineering. Students get the chance to build genetically engineered systems using BioBricks. Not only that, but students get the chance to compete against other high schoolers and win prizes and recognition on an international platform.

Fire Robotics Competition

This extracurricular offers competition for both technical and non-technical levels The competitions begin by competing locally in a round-robin style and then progress to the regional, state and national competitions. Fire Robotics Competition is known as being incredibly fun but also incredibly challenging.

The Future Problem Solving Program International

This is an annual conference that is specifically designed to “develop the critical and creative thinking skills necessary to adapt to a changing world.” Not only that, but it offers a competitive component for students as well. There are four separate competitive components including: Global Issues Problem Solving, Community Problem Solving, Scenario Writing, and Scenario Performance.

These competitions give students the chance to highlight their problem-solving skills without requiring students to have a great deal of technical knowledge on the topics that are covered. The program has a major goal of allowing students to build and flex their muscles on the four C’s – Creativity, Critical thinking, Communication and Collaboration.

VEX Robotics Competition

At this competition, teams of students get the chance to design, build and code robots that compete in a game against other robots designed by other teams of students. Tournaments are held year-round with the world championship taking place every April. While this competition is deeply rooted in STEM subjects, teamwork, leadership and communication are also key to success.

Popular Engineering Clubs

Along with the aforementioned groups, there are also a number of clubs related to engineering that are quite popular amongst high school students. Those include the following:

  • 3D Printing Club
  • Aeronautics Club
  • Aviation Club
  • Ham Radio Club
  • Robotics Club
  • Rocketry Club
  • Rube Goldberg Club

AdmissionSight can help you choose extracurriculars

You know, we have a great idea of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study engineering, 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 engineering. 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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