How to Boost Your College Admissions and Scholarships with Extracurricular Activities

Are you a high school student looking to get into college, or a parent concerned about getting scholarships? Beside earning good grades, extracurricular activities will play the biggest role in your college and scholarship decisions. And there’s some good news – it’s not about the quantity of activities you participate in; it’s the quality of those activities. So, let’s dive into some extracurricular activities that can make a real impact on your college application!

  1. Team-Based Activities: Building Mental Health and Leadership Skills

Playing on a sports team, being part of a club, or engaging in other team-based activities can promote physical well-being and have a positive effect on your mental health AND your likelihood of getting into college. Recent research suggests that kids who participate in team-based extracurricular activities have better mental health. Moreover, team-based activities can foster leadership, teamwork, and communication skills, which are highly valued by colleges. Students who participate in a sport are 24% more likely to go to college. So, go ahead and join that soccer team, equestrian team, debate, or robotics club and develop those leadership skills while doing something you love!

  1. Volunteering and Community Service: Making a Difference and Cultivating Empathy

Getting involved in volunteering and community service activities not only allows you to give back but also demonstrates your empathy, compassion, and social responsibility, which colleges and scholarship committees love. Research shows that engagement in extracurricular activities that contribute positively to the community even increases performance in school. So, find a cause that YOU are passionate about, whether it’s volunteering at a local hospital, organizing a charity event for animals, or participating in a community cleanup, and make a meaningful difference!

  1. Leadership Positions: Taking Initiative and Making an Impact

Holding leadership positions in clubs, organizations, or school activities can be a game-changer in your college admissions profile. For example, “academic excellence, leadership, and community service,” are the criteria for The University of Southern California’s full-ride and full-tuition scholarships. Research shows that being in a leadership position requires skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, and communication, which are highly valued in college and beyond. So, step up and take on leadership roles that showcase your initiative and ability to make a difference!

  1. Academic Clubs and Competitions: Pursuing Intellectual Interests

If you have a passion for a certain subject or career, participating in academic clubs and competitions can be a fantastic way to showcase it. Academic clubs can include science clubs, math clubs, language clubs, 4H, or any other subject-specific activity that fits you well. If you get the chance to participate in academic competitions that align with your interests, do it! Students who participate in these activities are 23% more likely to attend college, in part because participation or awards highlight your skills and knowledge and demonstrate your dedication to academic excellence.

  1. Arts and Creativity: Showcasing Your Talent and Creativity

If you have a flair for arts, music, drama, dance, or visual arts, then participating in arts exhibitions and competitions is a fantastic way to showcase your talent and creativity. Whether you are on stage, or your art is hanging in a local gallery, make sure to document it in the moment and ask directors, curators, etc. to provide you with documentation of your contribution and achievement. Admission and scholarship committees will be looking for a “portfolio” of work and it’s easier to build it as you go than to try and remember it months or years later.

In summation, the goal is to show that you have 2-5 activities that you are so passionate about that you chose to compete, serve, and lead in them. Colleges are less impressed by a long list of clubs than meaningful activities that show your passion, skills and knowledge. By the way, these will almost assuredly be the supporting evidence you need when write those all-important admission and scholarship essays. So get out there and get involved with something you love!

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