The 5 Extracurricular Activities Colleges Love Most

Application Strategies
September 19, 2019
As If Juggling Classes And College Applications Wasn’t Enough…

There’s no doubt that extracurricular activities hold a tremendous amount of importance during your high school career. When it comes time to apply to colleges, a solid lineup of extracurricular activities helps you stand out from the crowd and show off your skills to college admissions officers. Some example extracurricular activities for college applications include everything from sports to student council, theater to band.

On the surface, extracurricular activities may not seem very important. However, in reality they’re one more critical facet of your application, and can make the difference between a winning application and an average one. Extracurricular activities show your strengths, your leadership skills, and your passions.

Despite how important extracurricular activities are for college, you should still choose extracurricular activities that you’re genuinely interested in. The key, then, is balancing your passions with what colleges look for in extracurricular activities.

What You’ll Find In This Article:

Why You Have To Choose Your Extracurricular Activities Wisely

When putting extracurricular activities on your college application, you have an opportunity to tell a story about yourself. While your personal essay will reveal a lot about who you are, your extracurricular activities show what you really care about in day to day life in a powerful way.

If you’re using the Common App, the extracurricular section provides you with ten spaces, meaning you can put up to ten activities on the form. However, as strange as it may sound, you should rarely use all ten spaces. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should avoid putting down a wide range of extracurricular activities.

It’s great if you were active in multiple activities, because that shows you’re adaptable and willing to try new things. At the same time, however, try to find a common thread that connects all of your extracurricular activities. Maybe most of your activities involved your student council, or a local advocacy group. Listing all of those will give colleges the hint that you’re passionate about diplomacy and leadership.

It’s also important that your list of extracurricular activities ties in well with your essay.

If your essay focused mainly on your dream of becoming the President of the United States but your list of extracurricular activities suggests that you’re passionate about saving sea turtles, there’s a chance that you’ll confuse the admissions officer going over your application.

It’s no secret that college admission officers are looking for certain traits in your list of extracurricular activities like the ability to keep commitments, pursue your passions, demonstrate leadership, and grow as a person. While this may sound like a tall order, this is actually great news for you; it proves that you don’t have to be a groundbreaking leader in every school club you join to have a solid extracurricular activities section.

How To Use The Common App's Activities Section

If you’re using the Common App for your college applications, the “activities” section is where you’ll note all of your relevant extracurricular activities.

When you get to the activities page, there will be a drop-down menu for you to choose certain categories. Some of these include Academic, Environmental, Art, Music, Theater, and Humanitarian. Select the appropriate category for the activity you want to include in your application.

For example, if you were involved in a Science Club, select the category “Math/Science”. If you are unsure about which category to select for your chosen activity, always select the most specific and relevant one. Don’t be afraid to show a little variety. This will prove that you’re not afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, and that you have a teachable personality.

It’s important to note that the limit on activities you can list is 10. However, just because there are 10 spaces, don’t feel pressured to fill it in completely. Only put down relevant and credible extracurricular activities.

When it comes to this section of the college application, quality is better than quantity.

For example, if you were involved with your school newspaper, but quit after your freshman year, it probably isn’t relevant to your application.If you’re not interested in participating in that type of organization again, why would you put it down?

Instead, pay attention to the activities that you were consistent with. Maybe you played soccer all throughout high school, and even served as captain your senior year. This would be a credible extracurricular activity.

Within the “activities” section, you will also have a chance to briefly explain what your leadership roles were in each listed activity. There are word limits on these, so be concise and clear. Only include information that is relevant and that shows off your best qualities.

The Top 5 Extracurricular Activities For Impressing Your Dream College

When it comes to organizing your extracurricular activities, there are five distinct categories you can break them into. These five categories are the qualities that colleges look for in their applicants. By taking these into consideration, you’ll be assured that you’re covering all your bases and impressing college admission officers with your well-rounded experience.

The Top 5 Extracurricular Activities Colleges Love To See:

  • Academic
  • Leadership
  • Service
  • Career
  • Passion


When choosing your extracurricular activities, you should choose one activity that is academic-based. High schools have a club for nearly every subject, from literature to astronomy, so find an academic club that is genuinely interesting to you. You don’t want to invest time in something that you don’t care about. Think about your favorite subjects and go from there.

Some examples of academic extracurricular activities are:

  • Math Club
  • Robotics Club
  • Literature Club
  • National Honor Society
  • Peer Tutoring


Another extracurricular you should consider adding to your schedule is something that involves leadership. If leadership skills don’t come naturally to you, join a club or organization that is focused on training new leaders. Several high schools offer leadership programs in which their students go on trips, have specific book lists, and participate in group activities to foster natural leadership qualities.

Some examples of leadership activities are:

  • National Beta Club
  • School-sponsored peer leadership group
  • Student Council
  • Any club or sport where you served in a leadership position


An extracurricular activity that is service-oriented should showcase your ability to take direction from your leaders and mentors while giving back to other members of your community. The goal here is to highlight your compassion and desire to improve the world. This could take on the form of community service or volunteer hours.

Some examples of service activities are:

  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Local free clinics
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
  • YMCA


At some point during high school, you’ll probably start giving some thought to what career you’d like to pursue in the future. Trying out a career-based extracurricular activities will give you a clear picture of what you’d like to do for work. It’s best to start sooner rather than later, just in case it takes some extra time to figure out what kind of work you enjoy.

Some examples of career activities are:

  • The school newspaper
  • Student government
  • Junior ROTC
  • Band or Chorus
  • Internships in your career of interest

Your career activity could literally be anything; it just depends on what your interests are and what career you see yourself pursuing. If you want to be a film producer, then a film club would be your career activity. If you’re interested in finances, perhaps an internship with a local small-business would suit you.

Regardless of what career you see yourself in, choose a career activity that is relevant to what job you see yourself doing in the future. It’s okay if you change your mind, too. That’s the whole point of extracurricular activities: to explore different things and figure out what kind of work you enjoy.


Lastly, you should participate in an activity that you’re passionate about. This one is pretty straightforward: simply get involved with an activity that focuses on a cause or issue that you truly care about.

Some examples of passion activities are:

  • Animal rights clubs
  • Gay-straight alliances like GLSEN
  • Cancer awareness charities
  • Environmental clubs
  • YWCA and women’s rights associations

While these activities are good examples, virtually anything can be listed as a passion activity. As long as you can explain why you’re passionate about something and why that passion is meaningful to the world, then feel free to include any club, organization, or sport that you deem relevant.

Why Are Extracurricular Activities Important?

Extracurricular activities boil down to one thing: you.

This is why these activities are so important for your college application. Extracurricular activities are amazing opportunities to show who you are and what you’re passionate about. Of course, it’s important to approach this part of the college application as simply as possible. Just ask yourself what you like, what you don’t like, what you’re passionate about, and what career you see yourself pursuing.

If you’re still unsure what clubs or sports to join or what extracurricular activities to highlight on your application, our team of professional college counselors at WeAdmit would be happy to help. We understand how critical these activities can be to a successful application, and also how nerve-wracking it can be to choose just a few. If you’d like our help, feel free to reach out through one of our free consultations (after all, we help with more than just extracurricular activities too!)

The bottom line for which extracurricular activities to show colleges? Show off what makes you unique. Be specific, concise, and simple.

Above All, Tell Them A Story About Who You Are!



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