The Top Extracurricular Activities for High Schoolers Pursuing Science

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of Science students working on the laboratory.

The Top Extracurricular Activities for High Schoolers Pursuing Science

Though there are many students who enter their undergraduate education with no real sense of what academic subjects they want to focus on primarily and pursue, there are some who know exactly what subjects they are interested in focusing on inside and outside of the classroom. Let’s learn more about the best extracurriculars for students who want to study science

Whether it is mathematics, business, science, writing, or anything in between, there are ways for high school students to explore their passions outside of the classroom during their high school education that will not only help them better explore their passions but will also help them set themselves up for great success once they begin the journey of applying to colleges and universities. 

One of the most prominent ways to do all that and more is to engage in extracurricular activities that have to do with the subjects and areas of academia that you as a student are most interested in. If science is what gets you most excited in the classroom, then you are absolutely going to want to look for the best extracurriculars for students who want to study science.

You might have more questions about extracurriculars – and more specifically science extracurricular activities as well – such as what’s the point of extracurricular activities? Or, can extracurriculars increase your chances of getting admitted to college?

If those look like questions you have either asked yourself, your parents or your high school counselor, and teachers then you have absolutely come to the right place! At AdmissionSight, we work with highly determined and intelligent high school students every single year to help them make sense of the college admissions process in the United States.

View of a Science student using the microscope.

While we often do work specifically with students who are already on the cusp of starting their own application journey, we also regularly work with students for years starting in their freshman year of high school, or before! When working with students in this long-term facility, a major part of our work as admissions consultants goes towards helping students prepare for success both in the classroom and outside of it. 

As you might have expected, a lot of that has to do with helping them map out their extracurricular pursuits and commitments. This includes both responsibilities during the school year and during the summer months. 

Over the years, we have proudly offered tools and strategies to help the students that we work with succeed in getting into their dream schools, even when those dream schools are some of the most prestigious and selective undergraduate programs in not only the United States, but also the entire world! In fact, 75.0 percent of the students that we have worked with through the years have gone on to get into either an Ivy League school such as Harvard, Columbia or Yale or a non-Ivy school that also ends up in the top 10 of university rankings in the country like Stanford, MIT or Caltech. For that reason specifically, we feel quite confident that the strategies and experience we offer every student we work with help vastly improve their chances of getting into the schools of their dreams. 

So, where do you come in? Even if you decide to go it alone and not work with an admissions consultant – which is obviously the norm for the vast majority of students – we wanted to offer some of our expertise and knowledge to you so that you can set yourself up for success whenever your college application journey begins! 

The great news is that if you have already identified an academic subject that you are most passionate about in school, then you are already far ahead of the vast majority of high school students your age! Most students really don’t figure out what they are truly passionate about until undergrad starts, so you’ve got a big leg up on the competition in that respect. The other really good news is that if you are already trying to learn about some of the best extracurriculars for students who want to study science, then you surely already know about how important extracurriculars truly are to ensure success when applying to schools.

But how important are they really? Let’s break it down together!

What’s the point of extracurricular activities?

Before we start looking at some of the best science-related extracurricular activities that high school students can get involved in outside of the classroom, we first wanted to answer one of the most basic questions regarding extracurriculars overall. 

Group of student working on a table.

What is the point of them and can extracurriculars increase your chances of getting admitted to college?

It may surprise you to learn that extracurricular activities of all kinds are truly one of the single most important aspects when it comes to a student applying to, and getting into colleges and universities throughout the United States. There is a general acceptance that extracurriculars are going to account for approximately 30.0 percent of a student’s college application no matter where they are actually applying to! If you think 30.0 percent is high, consider the fact that that number might be even higher now considering the fact that countless schools all over the country have established a standardized test-optional policy in recent years. 

Beyond that, a general trend in recent years – especially at the most prestigious schools – has been to try to find and identify intangible aspects of a student’s application profile that makes them special. Admissions officers at these top schools want to know what makes a student tick, what they’re passionate about, and how they’ll utilize the school to continue to pursue those passions.

After all, these schools have a pretty concrete expectation of what a student has achieved and is capable of within the classroom. Something close to a 4.0 grade point average is essentially the expectation. It’s what a student has proven capable of alongside that kind of academic success that can really end up getting an admissions committee at a top school like Princeton or University of Chicago intrigued and excited. 

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:

  • Extracurriculars shine light on how students pursue outlets outside of the classroom. It’s important to keep in mind that this applies to extracurriculars that both apply and do not apply to a student’s academic pursuits. If you’re really passionate about science, and even feel really strongly about your desire to pursue an area of scientific study as your eventual undergraduate major and career, then finding out what the best extracurriculars for students who want to study science are makes a ton of sense. But don’t feel like all of your extracurricular activities have to be related to academic pursuits. You can absolutely make time for sports, creative outlets and anything in between if that’s how to keep yourself excited and engaged. 
  • Extracurriculars give students the chance to take initiative and develop leadership qualities. One thing that colleges and universities love to see on a high school student’s resume are indications that the student has learned how to take initiative and be a leader within their community. Every school is looking for leaders, because it is leaders who can help create and uphold community and culture on campus. 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. That is just one of the reasons why it is so important for students to pursue their national passions. It is really only in these circumstances in which students will feel compelled to keep returning year after year while also trying to take on a role of impact and leadership within those communities. 
  • Extracurriculars give students the chance to develop and demonstrate a specialty. Did you know that back in the day, students were advised to find ways to show admissions officers at schools that they were Jacks or Janes of all trades? It was believed that what schools wanted most was students who were well-rounded and who could excel in all matters of study. That may have been true then, but it is most definitely not true now. As the world continues to become more and more specialized in terms of what people are expected to do in their careers, the focus on specialized individuals has also taken center stage in the undergraduate admissions ecosystem as well. Extracurriculars allow students to explore and demonstrate their specialties, and that is really useful information for admissions officers to have access to. 
  • Extracurriculars give students the chance to explore their natural passions and interests. This is arguably the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to extracurricular activities in general, and you would be surprised by how many students that we work with have to be reminded of this simple fact. Far too many high schoolers believe that they should be looking for extracurriculars that they think admissions officers at their dream schools will be impressed by. This, sadly, sometimes leads students to invest their time and energy into groups, teams or activities that they are not naturally drawn to. This is the best way to ensure that the previous three points can be applied. Beyond that, the truth is that admissions officers look much more closely at how students got engaged and what they accomplished within those extracurriculars rather than what those specific activities were. 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.

How many extracurriculars should a student invest in during high school?

 The very last thing we want to discuss before breaking down the best extracurriculars for students who want to study science to consider, we wanted to very quickly cover the rough number of extracurriculars that the typical high school student who has goals of attending a top college or university should consider taking part in. There was a time when students believed that quantity over quality was the name of the game, but that is no longer the case. 

Three students walking in front of a school building.

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. Beyond that, it is really 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 science

So, now that you finally know the answer to the questions about extracurricular activities, and whether can extracurriculars increase your chances of getting admitted to college, we are finally ready to break down the best extracurriculars for students who want to study science. The truth is that there is a rather large range depending on what specific area of the sciences you are personally interested in. For that reason, we’re going to break down some of the most common, as well as the ones that can benefit students the most when they are applying to schools. 

Let’s get started! 

Science Olympiad 

This team-based competition is a general science competition in which competitors participate in 23 separate events that cover various scientific fields. Subjects range from Anatomy and Physiology to Forensics to Mechanical Engineering and more and are tested in a variety of ways. Teamwork, problem-solving and quick-thinking skills are often some of the most important aspects of any team’s success. 

View of two students working with a project.

Chemistry Olympiad 

This is a science competition that is concerned solely with the subject of chemistry. While the name may indicate a similar structure to Science Olympiad, you would be wrong to assume that the format is anywhere near similar. In fact, the competition of the Chemistry Olympiad is held over a series of exams. The top qualifiers of those exams then move on to the next round. Students can gain anywhere from district, to state, to regional and national awards for their accomplishments in the Chemistry Olympiad.

Physics Olympiad

Yes, another Olympiad. Another science competition that is based on exams. Physics Olympiad  has students take part in two separate exams. What is really exciting about the Physics Olympiad is that the top 25 finishers of the second level exam get the chance to take part in an intensive study camp and eventually represent the United States at the International Physics Olympiad. Keep in mind, it is not only worthwhile to take part in these competitions because you can win. Taking part in them and achieving any kind of recognition will demonstrate both a personal passion on your end as well as a level of proficiency in the subject itself. 

Intern at a local college or university lab

One of the most exciting aspects of science for so many students is that it gives them the opportunity to come with, and test, real theses. While few high school students will get the chance to do that outside of the classroom, there are often opportunities that high school students can take advantage of at local four-year colleges or universities or community colleges. Get in touch with lab administrators in your area and find out if there are internship or volunteer opportunities available for high school students. 

Two students working on the laboratory.

Compete in a science fair 

No, we’re not talking about your regular old science fair, instead we are talking about many of the science fairs that students can take advantage of that come with quite a lot of prestige, such as the Google Science Fair. The rules are generally the same, but the level of competition, prestige of gaining recognition and awards vary substantially. 

Other great extracurriculars for students who want to study science

  • Astronomy Club
  • Astrophysics Club
  • Chemistry Club
  • Earth Science Club
  • Future Scientists
  • Oceanography Club
  • Physics Club

AdmissionSight can help you choose extracurriculars 

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



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.