The Extra-Curricular Factor


There are several factors involved in evaluating students’ college applications. These include a rigorous high school course load, high school grades, SAT/ACT test scores, the college essay, recommendations, and extra-curricular activities.

Although extra-curricular activities are not required for high school credit or paid employment, these activities are important when students are applying to college. Colleges are seeking well-rounded students who will make a meaningful contribution to campus life.  Many colleges will require that students list them on their applications and include them on a resume.  Extra-curricular activities help high school students start to develop their talents and interests, and even future careers. They can teach students practical skills including responsibility, commitment, and time management.  In general, various factors at each college will determine how much emphasis admissions committees place on them. These factors may include overall admissions requirements, student populations, and school size.

Melissa Bevacqua, Undergraduate Director of Admissions at George Mason University, stated, “Extracurricular activities are one of several factors that are considered when holistically reviewing applications for admission. Admission officers try to envision the positive contributions prospective students will make, and involvement outside of the classroom in high school is a good predictor of what students might be involved in when they get to college. This does not mean that students have to be involved in every activity or that they should overextend themselves in high school. Conversely, high school students should seek to be well-rounded by selecting a few activities they are passionate about participating in and then joining these groups, which may include athletics, community service, clubs and organizations related to academics and other areas of interest. Never sacrifice strong academic performance in a rigorous curriculum in high school because the student wants to list a lot of activities on the college application just to look impressive in the admission process.”

At the beginning of high school, students should try several activities to determine their interest areas.  As they continue through high school, the focus should be on the activities which they would like to pursue with more involvement.  Ultimately, students should strive to secure leadership roles in their extracurricular activities. As a general rule, quality of involvement is more important than quantity of activities.

Extra-curricular activities also include summer experiences and community service.  Some ideas for summer include the following: college classes, performing or visual arts programs, career camps, private music lessons, SAT or ACT preparation courses, and travel abroad programs. Check for some additional opportunities. Community service is a win-win situation because it benefits the student and those being helped by the service.   Many high school students have required volunteer service hours which they must complete during the school year and in the summer.  While these are often required for graduation, community service is valued and important.  Students are encouraged to go above and beyond their high school graduation service requirements to show colleges that they are even more dedicated and committed to giving back to society.  Students can check for some innovative ideas to help them make a difference.