While grades, standardized test scores and recommendations still are most heavily considered in college admissions, extracurricular activities often can tilt the decision in a student's favor. The types of clubs you join and your commitment toward them can reveal a lot about your interests, work ethic and personal character. Zeroing in on a few clubs that demonstrate your career goals and passions can win the attention of colleges as they view your application.
Quality vs. Quantity
You might think that a long list of extracurricular activities would impress colleges, but that isn't always true. Colleges would rather see you seriously commit to two or three clubs than be involved in every organization in the yearbook. A student who plays football in the fall, but acts the spring musical might be a more attractive applicant than someone who is in five or six different clubs throughout the school year. (See Reference 1) Your level of involvement in each organization says more about you as a candidate than the amount of clubs you join.
Taking the Lead
The role you play in an activity also factors into whether it will impress colleges. Admissions personnel like to see students getting leadership experience and starting new things. This reveals initiative and dedication. A student may have been a member of the cycling club all four years of high school, but that isn't as impressive as being the person who started it. Try to stretch yourself outside your comfort zone by contributing ideas to your organization, running for a club office or volunteering to organize the activity's events.
Follow Your Passions
No matter how competitive some colleges may be, USA Today Educate states that joining any club solely because it will look good on an application isn't smart. Focusing on your passions, hobbies and future career goals can give you positive experiences as well as reveal a lot about yourself on an application. If you want to be a journalist, for example, you might join the school newspaper staff, or if you enjoy Irish step dancing, you might list your participation in a community organization. Any organized activity outside school can teach admissions personnel about your unique personality and interests.
Lending a Hand
Extracurricular activities aren't just all about you. Colleges also take special interest in clubs that involve volunteering in school or the community. They're especially interested in volunteerism that directly impacts others' lives and meets their needs. A student might serve dinner at a homeless shelter one night a week, start an anti-bullying campaign in her school or help teach a summer children's program at his church. Even if life in high school is busy, make time to participate in work that encourages and supports others.