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Extracurricular Activities Colleges Like the Best!

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Madeline Riley

High school is the perfect time to explore activities that catch your attention, and to collect experiences that will from you into a more interesting, fulfilled, and focused person. Taking part in extracurricular activities will also allow you to translate your interests, passions, and personality into a college application.

When you’re are already very busy with classes, and there are so many clubs, sports, and volunteer opportunities to choose from, how should you decide which options to commit to? The following suggestions should help students narrow down what they want to pursue, and help them utilize their extracurriculars to make them more attractive to colleges.

9th Grade: Explore Your Options

While you’re an underclassman, you’ll be inundated with chances to join in on activities your high school has to offer. These years are the perfect time to test everything that peaks your interest. Try out for the soccer team, run for student government, join the art club. Anything you're interested in should be investigated to see if it’s something you truly want to spend your time doing. Additionally, even if you know you love athletics, and think that you only want to play sports in your time after school, it’s a good idea to pursue other interests, or activities you’ve never considered trying.

*Note: for big team sports like football, soccer, basketball, etc. It can be harder to join in high school if you haven’t had experience beforehand. You can use this advice in middle school to gain a leg up on your peers.

10th Grade: All About Volunteering

As you enter the 10th grade, start to think about a steady volunteer opportunity that you want to take on. Students often (wrongly) think that one mission trip to a foreign country or a big one-time community project is enough to entice college admissions officers. It isn’t. In fact, big, flashy experiences can often come across as off-putting or self-concentrated because they are frequently expensive, commonly cited in applications, and sometimes more beneficial for the person volunteering (in terms of fun, resume building, networking, etc.) than the community he or she is serving.

To avoid this type of image, commit to more consistent volunteering close to home. If you enjoy the bigger one-time projects, engage with those opportunities as well, but don’t let that be the only volunteering you do. Showing that you’ve volunteered at your local humane society monthly for 3 years will show much more determination and compassion than a one-week trip.

11th Grade: Intensify your Passions

By 11th grade, you’ve likely reached the legal age to get a job. Having a part-time job is highly valued by university admissions offices. Taking on this extra responsibility shows your commitment to hard work, even outside of your high school ecosystem, and demonstrates your independence.

Your junior year is also a time to focus your interests and activity roster to reflect what you find most important. Where students’ interests lie will vary dramatically. The following activities apply to different areas of interest, but there are many undertakings and concentration areas beyond our list.

  • Academic Focus: Research with a college professor, start a club on your favorite subject, compete in academic competitions in your field, attend coding competitions
  • Athletic Focus: Become captain of a varsity team, play on traveling teams, excel in academics to stand out
  • Professional Focus:
    • Journalism/Entertainment: Write on high school newspaper, write for local magazine, volunteer on local political campaign, maintain a blog, participate in band/choir/orchestra/theater, start a band, make a YouTube channel pertaining to your interests
    • Business: Gain office experience and leadership experiences in clubs, join debate team, shadow a local businessperson, study finance/markets/technology trends outside of school
    • Non-Profit Work: Become a leader of a club, participate in National Honors Society/Key Club, volunteer for a non-profit in your field of interest
    • Law: Join debate team/mock trial/We The People, shadow a lawyer in your community
    • Engineering: Gain coding experience, become the leader of a club, attend coding competitions, study technology trends

12th Grade: Standing out in the College Applicant Pool

If you have done the work in your first three years of high school, your extracurriculars should be easy to manage during senior year. You should also have formed a resume that will show focus, leadership, and maturity. This track record will prove incredibly valuable during college application season.

College admissions offices often aren’t looking for the best students but the most compelling ones. Many students fail to find an area in which they establish a depth of experience or interest during high school; instead, they try to portray themselves as the “jack of all trades.” If you’ve created an application, which combines academic success, deliberate extracurricular activities, and essays that tie your personality into your demonstrated passions, your application becomes more exciting than students who present a plethora of seemingly unconnected activities, classes, and essays.

At Parros College Planning we can help you create this well-rounded, but focused student. We’re here to map out plans for extracurricular activities that will assist in distinguishing you from other college applicants, that will make you a more interesting and caring person, and that will elevate your college applications.

Learn more about how we can help!

Check out our recent blog on how colleges decide whom to admit here!

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