How Much Do Extracurricular Activities Matter In College Admissions?

Does the presence of extracurricular activities actually matter? If yes,how much do extracurricular matter in college admissions? If you are eyeing for college applications basis extra-curricular activities, this article is just for you. Read on to know more..

Updated by Tanisha Alex on 13th April 2020

Before we discuss how weighted extracurriculars are in terms of college admissions, let’s try to get a clearer understanding of what exactly constitutes a good extracurricular. An extracurricular activity is something you do after fulfilling your academic requirements. Extracurricular activities can range from cheerleading to debate club. These activities are basically extensions of your personality and interests, which is the main reason behind its importance in college applications. When you look at an average high schooler’s college application there is always an activity that expresses his/her personality. This could be in the form of volunteering work or even as a secretary for a particular club or organization.

The next question that is always posed to us is whether the presence of an extracurricular actually matters. The importance of extracurricular activities is dependent on the college you’re applying to. Some colleges consider it a priority whereas other colleges do not. Differences in admissions requirements, class sizes and student populations all can cause admissions committees to place a varying amount of emphasis on extracurricular activities. 

Given below are various categories of schools and colleges that prioritize extracurricular activities.

Less competitive public  universities

These universities are usually public bodies and as a result, have a large applicant pool. This means they usually receive thousands of applications every week. Ideally, they would go over each and every application but this is highly improbable because of the sheer number of applicants. In these kinds of universities, extracurricular activities are not considered important as they cannot be measured quantitatively. These universities choose candidates based on standardized tests or even their GPA’s. Therefore there is no time to read through essays and recommendation letters that would represent extracurricular activities.

Although these public universities don’t hold extracurricular activities in the highest regard they do consider it during the scholarship selection program.   

More competitive private universities

Since these universities are better funded they employ a more thorough and detailed admissions process. This process would entail reading through each and every resume in order to distinguish the interested candidates from the others. This process is highly holistic. Private competitive universities place a great emphasis on extracurricular activities because they would like an insight into what kind of individual they would be adding to their campus life. Your extracurriculars  answer the question of “ what do you bring to our college that others do not ?” 

Furthermore, your extracurriculars expose what kind of qualities you value as a person. For instance if your resume is filled with charity and volunteering work it implies that you value empathy and kindness. Whereas if your resume is filled with positions like president or captain it would signify that you hold leadership in high regard. 

Now that we have discussed how and when extracurricular activities are considered, we will now talk about the main ways you can culminate your extracurriculars in order to really make a good impression on the admissions board. Given below are the most productive extracurriculars:

Ideally, your extracurriculars should reflect one of three fields-

  • Passion-Your activities are supposed to be a reflection of you and what you care about. Admissions officers can usually tell when you're just doing activities to pad out your resume. Therefore your activities should center around what you are most passionate about in order to really impress the board of admissions.

  • Leadership- as stated before leadership positions look very good on your portfolio and paint you in a very favorable light. Leadership positions prove that you are responsible and are indeed a team player. 

  • Impact- yet another important field to consider impacts. Which roughly translates to how much your chosen activity matters to you. It also tells the board about what kind of person you are. 

In order to aim for the perfect extracurricular activity combination, you should ideally combine an academic activity, a community service activity, and a personality activity. The first activity is an academic activity. This activity should be undertaken to get some sort of experience and knowledge regarding the course you wish to pursue in college. For example if you want to pursue a journalism degree the best way to engage in a productive extracurricular is to be a part of the school newspaper or newsletter. The second activity to consider is a community service activity. These activities are dedicated to society or a cause you hold dear. Examples include tutoring special needs students or even reading at a retirement center. The last type of activity is a personality activity. This type of activity is essentially an extension of your being. This means that it allows the board of admissions to figure out what kind of person you are. Examples include painting or pottery. In order to be considered favorably for admissions there should be a good combination of the above activities. 

In conclusion, extracurricular activities do matter but that is dependent on whether you choose to go to a private or public college. It also depends on the degree of competitiveness involved. However, the main point behind all extracurricular activities is that you find a hobby that you enjoy and can profit from.