The Top Extracurricular Activities for High Schoolers Pursuing Math

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Male student solving a Math problem on the board.

The Top Extracurricular Activities for High Schoolers Pursuing Math

When it comes to what admissions officers at top colleges and universities look for in a student’s undergraduate application, there is little doubt that academics take center stage. Admissions officers want to make sure that they are offering students spots in an incoming class who they are sure will not only survive but thrive within their school’s academic environment. Read on to know more about the best extracurriculars for students who want to study Math.

While a student’s grades and high school curriculum are going to play the largest role in telling the story of their academic interest and expertise, there are many more ways in which students can explore their passions inside and out of the classroom.

One of the most common is for students to pursue extracurricular activities that fall in line with their academic interests. That goes for students who are interested in science, writing, history, art, Math, and more.

If your specific academic passion is mathematics, you might be curious about what the best extracurriculars for students who want to study math are. If that is the case, then you have absolutely come to the right place!

At AdmissionSight, we work with high school students every year who have the goals of getting into some of the most competitive and prestigious schools in the country. As you likely already know, these highly selective schools – like Harvard, Stanford and Columbia to name a few – demand that students have incredible application resumes. Students who want to get into these schools not only have to be at the top of their class academically, but also have to commit their time outside of the classroom pursuing and expanding their passions. On top of that, specifical tools and strategies are often employed to help students get a leg up on the competition when it comes to getting into these ultra-competitive schools.

Female student writing on the whiteboard.

Our admissions consultants and the entire AdmissionSight team has made it our professional mission to offer these valuable tools and strategies, as well as years of combined experience within the admissions environment to help students achieve their college application goals and get into the schools of their dreams. When it comes to how successful we’ve been in our mission, we let the numbers speak for ourselves. 75.0 percent of the students that we have worked with have gone on to get into either an Ivy League school or a school that isn’t in the Ivy League, but is still firmly in the top 10 of school rankings in the country.

Given all that, it should not surprise you that we often help guide our students towards different extracurricular opportunities that will both allow them to pursue their passions and interests as well as stand out from the crowd once they are being evaluated by admissions committees at great schools all over the United States.

So, if you are a high school student looking for the best math-related extracurricular activities, or simply want to know what’s the point of extracurricular activities, well then we have good news for you! We are going to cover all that and more in this informational blog post.

Let’s get started!

What’s the point of extracurricular activities?

Before we started breaking down the best extracurriculars for students who want to study math, we wanted to first answer some key questions about extracurricular activities for high schools and why they are such an important aspect of the undergraduate admissions process.

View of a teacher teaching a student.

The truth is that extracurriculars are one of the most important single aspects of any student’s admissions chances at schools in the United States. The general belief is that extracurriculars – and how students choose to spend their time outside of the high school classroom – accounts for approximately 30.0 percent of their total application! That number could be even greater now at many schools, as a very large number of schools have decided to enact standardized test optional policies over the last several years.

So, can extracurriculars increase your chances of getting admitted to college? The answer to that question is a definitive yes!

But why are extracurriculars so important? The truth is that it is a multi-faceted answer. Here are the primary things that admissions officers look for in a student’s extracurricular pursuits.

  • They allow students to explore and pursue their interests: This is perhaps the most important aspect to keep in mind. The extracurriculars a student commits to help shine a light on what that student is uniquely interested in and passionate about. A very important lesson all high schoolers should learn is that admissions officers are never looking for specific extracurriculars. Instead, they are looking for how students commit to them. You can choose to get involved in sports, theater, science competitions, model UN and math clubs or groups, depending on what gets you excited. What matters most is that you do truly care about what you spend your time doing, because that will absolutely show in how much time you commit and what you are able to accomplish in those activities.
  • They demonstrate a specialty: Back in the day, it was believed that what admissions officers were looking for in students was a Jack or Jane of all trades, a student who could basically excel at whatever they put their minds to. However, we know that is not really the case for any student! We all have specialties and those are the things that make us who we are. It’s our specialties that help us determine how we want to spend our time, what we want to learn, and what we ultimately want to pursue as a career. Extracurriculars allow students to explore and demonstrate their specialties, and that is really useful information for admissions officers to have access to.
  • They allow students to take initiative and develop leadership skills: There is no way to say this other than as clearly as possible, colleges and universities – especially the top schools in the country – are looking for leaders. Leaders are people who fight for what they believe in, pursue goals and dreams even if they seem hard to reach, and are the people who really end up making a mark on the world. Every school is looking to educate those types of people, because those are the kinds of people that can end up boosting the level of prestige and reputation that the school itself has! Extracurriculars allow leaders to lead by making substantial change to the groups that they are a part of, their high school community, or their actual community at large.
  • They give students an outlet outside of the classroom: This goes for extracurricular activities that are both related or unrelated to your academic pursuits. Since we are focused primarily on math extracurriculars in this blog, let’s talk about how this works. For many students who are interested in advanced math, they find that they quickly outpace their fellow students in high school. In fact, some students do not find the challenges that they are looking for even if they are taking AP, IB or Honors mathematics courses. For those students, seeking out extracurriculars that are related to advanced math, or specific areas of math that they are uniquely interested in, can be a great way to both expand your mind and pursue your interests. It’s a total win-win in that way!

How many extracurriculars should a student have?

This is a question that we get quite a lot, and we want to make it clear that in no part in your college applications, no matter where you are applying, should you be valuing quantity over quality.

Admissions officers are looking for deep investment from students, and that sometimes means that students get involved in less extracurriculars. Typically, it is advised that students invest in somewhere between three and five extracurricular activities during the year and then another handful during their summer months in the form of summer programs or activities. In all, there should be a pretty high level of cohesion from one school year to the next, signifying that you are keeping up with your primary interests.

Three students talking while writing on the board.

Of course, if you end up discovering a new passion at any point during your high school education, you should be fully willing and able to pursue it. Remember, these activities are primarily for you and your growth, and you should not be basing your life decisions on how you think an admissions officer at a college or university may perceive it!

The best extracurriculars for students who want to study Math

So, now that you know that answer to the question, “what’s the point of extracurricular activities?” Let’s start shifting our focus to the main course of this blog! What are the best extracurriculars for students who want to study math? We’ve broken down some of the most exciting and useful things that students all over the country – and world – have gained major benefits from!

Below, you will find various groups and clubs that high schoolers from all over the country can join with ease. With that in mind, it is important to remember that there are many other options and opportunities that you can (and should) explore. This is simply a list to get you on the right track and prove to you that there are a lot of great opportunities out there for students who are particularly interested in math!

So, let’s get into it.

Odyssey of the Mind

One of the most exciting aspects of this program is that it is not only available to students in the United States, as it is actually an international program geared towards helping students improve and explore their problem-solving skills. Teams are school sponsored and have the option to take part in exciting competitions, though participation in these competitions is not required to be a part of Odyssey of the Mind.

You can either join your school’s team if one has already been established, or work with your school and the program itself to establish one.

Future Problem-Solving Program

This is another one of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study math, as it works hard to encourage members to develop both critical and creative thinking skills to help solve some of the biggest problems that the world faces today. There are both competitive and non-competitive aspects to this program, so students get the chance to work on their problem-solving skills in both quite casual and competitive environments.

Math League

Math League is one of the most popular math-oriented extracurricular activities for high schoolers and actually offers students from elementary school to high school the chance to get involved at their own level.

Male teacher solving a Math problem while teaching students.

As you might expect, the high school level is by far the most popular, and students get the chance to take part in one of the six yearly competitions either as individual competitors or as members of a team.

Students involved in Math League can win recognition and awards at both the state and national level, which offers the chance to gain major recognition. While students should not get involved in something like Math League solely because there is a chance that they might be able to win or finish with honors at either level, it is definitely an added benefit!

Math Olympiad

Math Olympiad is a two-day competition that is put on by the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad and offers high school students from all over the country to test their mastery of different math-related problems.

In order to qualify for the exam, students have to take an exam and score highly enough to be invited. Beyond that, the top 12 scorers are invited to participate in the Mathematical Association of America’s Olympiad summer program. The top six performers in this round go on to represent the United States at the International Mathematical Olympiad.

View of students working on their desks while in a classroom.

While finishing in any of these top tier groups is incredibly impressive and will absolutely help you gain some positive attention when your application is being looked over by admissions officers, simply taking part in the competition is a great achievement as well!

Destination Imagination

This is another really popular and exciting competition opportunity for high school students to take part in. It’s geared around students being presented with challenges that they have to solve. What is unique about Destination Imagination is that instead of the competition taking part at a single time and place, students actually get to rehearse and perform their solutions for two to four months before they take part in local tournaments.

Overall, the goal of Destination Imagination is to offer students the chance to flex their mental muscles in a number of different topics including technical, scientific, service learning, fine arts and more! This is not only popular among students who are interested in math, so it is a great opportunity for students to meet both like minded students as well as students who are interested in completely different topics!

Math Honor Society

While the majority of the programs that we have discussed up until this point are geared around competitions and tournaments, Math Honor Society is more of a group that celebrates math itself without having to pit students against one another.

Math Honor Society – or Mu Alpha Theta as it is also called – is an honor society for students and two-year college students. It boasts members from all 50 states in America as well as 23 international countries. Its main goal is to recognize and celebrate the achievements of students who excel in many different subjects related to math.

It is also geared towards inspiring and increasing interest in math worldwide.

In order to be considered to join Math Honor Society, students have to complete at least two years of college preparatory mathematics, such as algebra and geometry, and have at least a 3.0 in math courses to join their high school chapter. The society offers national scholarships and awards to students and faculty advisers.

Other fantastic STEM extracurriculars

One of the best things about loving math and pursuing a degree and profession related to mathematics is that so many different doors open in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related pursuits.

For that reason, we wanted to simply list some other extracurriculars that may not be exclusively related to math, but are definitely deeply related to STEM. Take a look, below:

  • Robotics Club
  • Research Science Institute
  • Science Olympiad
  • Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science
  • Clark Scholars Program
  • Stanford University Mathematics Camp
  • Girls Who Code
  • Environmental Volunteering
  • Program for Mathematics and Young Scientists

AdmissionSight can help you choose extracurriculars

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