How Many Extracurriculars Should I Participate in to Impress Colleges?

Laurie Kopp WeingartenLaurie Kopp Weingarten
Certified Educational Planner
Co-founder, One-Stop College Counseling
Colleges aren’t necessarily looking for a well-rounded student; they want a well-rounded class. So you can specialize in something and become an expert in your passion without feeling like you also need to join nine clubs, volunteer 35 hours a week, and work part-time at Starbucks. No applicants are fooling admission counselors with that “join six clubs junior year” strategy in order to fill up the Common Application activity section—counselors know what’s up!

If you participate in a club, become a leader who actually does something. If you’re the club president, be prepared to speak or write about things you changed and accomplished that have never been done before. If you don’t hold an official leadership position, then organize an event or  raise money for a charity. Depth over breadth is key—making a difference in one place is much more important than not making a difference at all in multiple areas. If you play tennis for your high school team, do you also take lessons out of season, teach skills to younger children, or referee tennis tournaments? Colleges will look for how you progressed in the activity, and they’ll evaluate your level of passion and commitment.

Find more top-notch college application advice in our College Admission—Ask the Experts section.

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