Young White female with group of volunteers holding garbage bags cleaning park

High School Extracurriculars: What Impresses Admission Committees (and What Doesn’t)

Hoping to impress college admission committees with your extracurriculars? Here’s what they’re looking for and what they don’t want to see on your applications.

Extracurricular activities in high school can often seem stressful with the selection process, issues with time management or availability, and the struggle to balance academics and after-school commitments. On top of that, impressing college admission committees may seem like an even more daunting task that requires you to take on a multitude of hobbies. However, prioritizing your interests and level of involvement in extracurriculars will leave you with more rewarding results. Below are some examples of activities that can accentuate your college applications and factors to help you determine which ones to partake in and highlight on your applications.

Diversity of extracurriculars

In constructing your college applications, it’s important to include extracurriculars that showcase your well roundedness and multifarious interests. Include what you believe to be the most notable facets of your academic and non-scholastic life instead of limiting yourself to one activity. Sports, clubs, and volunteer work are typically the most mentioned in applications; therefore, it’s crucial to establish your individual identity. Admission committees would rather see what makes you special instead of reading a conventional, standard list that could come from any applicant. If you have a passion for a certain cause that you’ve volunteered for, mention it. Or maybe you operate a small business where you sell your art or handmade crafts. Emphasizing the different hobbies and pastimes you enjoy can help personalize your application and underscore your determination in making a mark in your community.

Related: Top High School Activities to Boost College Applications

Enthusiasm and involvement

Consistency and prolonged interest are two key components of your extracurricular selection process. Your extracurriculars should be activities you truly want to participate in rather than just check marks on your application; admission committees can tell if you’ve joined a bunch of clubs over the years just to beef up your résumé. Being invested in extracurriculars that relate to what you want to study is a practical method to prepare for the future. For example, if you’re interested in majoring in Musicology or Music Theory, joining your school’s band or choir could be beneficial for you. It would also be wise to research any internships, whether during the summertime or the school year, where you can work under established music directors, composers or producers, and other figures in the music industry. Participating in various activities can also work oppositely and help you decide what degree would suit you best. From the perspective of an admission committee, commitment to activities can also translate to dedication to academics and extracurriculars your desired college provides.

Quality over quantity

The theme of quality over quantity is also applicable in choosing extracurriculars that will impress admission committees. For instance, joining a few after-school clubs and becoming the (vice) president, secretary, or another elected role is more valuable than committing to more than you can handle. Bearing an official position typically means that you actively attend, participate in, and lead or direct meetings. Admission committees will be more intrigued by a student who plays a chief role in two extracurriculars than a student who lightly participates in seven. In addition, signing up for too many extracurriculars can lead to academic exhaustion and overscheduling, which hinders your studies. Ultimately, engaging in too many extracurriculars is counterproductive and disrupts your time management regarding your school life and free time.

Related: 4 Summer Activities That Will Impress Colleges

Overall, enjoying your extracurriculars should be your top priority. The time and effort you spend participating in whatever activities you pursue should be discernible by the admission committee. Balance your time wisely and only engage in what interests you instead of neglecting one extracurricular for another just to bolster your college applications. Since extracurriculars can help differentiate you from other applicants, indicate ones that will highlight your unique personality and prowess. Admission committees want to see a well-rounded student who actively participates in their community and knows how to choose what may benefit their campus in the future.

Looking for other ways to stand out in the admission process? Check out Our Best Advice for Tackling Your College Applications for tips on writing your essays, filling up the activities section, and more.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

application advice college admission college applications extracurricular activities extracurriculars student advice

About Chimbusonma Ojielo

As a sophomore in high school, Chimbusonma Ojielo is passionate about providing guidance to students from a student. Her work highlights relatable experiences and common questions from high school students who are apprehensive about college, leaving you feeling well informed and more prepared for the future. Chimbusonma is involved in multiple clubs and after-school activities, namely Activism Club, Model UN, and Crochet Club. In her free time, she enjoys reading fiction, watching Netflix, and listening to her favorite artists.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Kyla McClain

Kyla McClain

High School Class of 2024

I found CollegeXpress when you partnered with for a scholarship. I found your website, put my information in, and got connected. I only wanted to stay in North Carolina [for college] and not move far from home, but you all opened a door up for me. I started researching colleges you suggested for me. On your social media platforms, you also give really good test-taking tips that I used and suggested others to do the same. It helped me a lot on my exams, so thank you.

Lydia Huth

Lydia Huth

Student, Campbell University; CollegeXpress Student Writer

I discovered CollegeXpress while embarking on my college search journey as an excited—but scared and way confused—high schooler without a counselor or college-bound sibling to give me advice. Let me tell you, I’m so glad that I stumbled on this community! CollegeXpress helped me find potential colleges and keep application deadlines straight. It gave me a great list of scholarships, and the blogs and emails made me feel like I wasn’t going it alone. Almost three years later and with freshman year of college down, I still love the CollegeXpress vibe so much that I’m writing for them. I’d recommend this site to anyone!



High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has provided me with tips that were for college students, but as a high school junior, they were still very useful. Not only that, it also gave me an idea of what to expect when it comes to going to college or already being in college. I want to say thank you to CollegeXpress, and I hope you continue the wonderful tips until I hopefully get into college and throughout my college journey.

Heather McCarty

Heather McCarty

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress has helped me with the college application process. The tips and tricks for important essays were so helpful. I also gained useful knowledge about college life. Even though I’m fully online, CollegeXpress has helped me develop a sense of how college is in person. The experiences from college students that were featured on their Instagram page have shown the good, the bad, and the “secret” life on campus from a reliable perspective. Not to mention, they relieved my feelings of anxiety about the workload. I can now understand how it can be stressful, but it takes self-control and willpower to get assignments completed on time and with quality.

Nikole Dixon

Nikole Dixon

$500 Refer-A-Friend Scholarship Winner

Towards the beginning of last year, I was searching for scholarships to apply to through my school, town, websites online, and anything else I could find. I asked tons of questions [online] about scholarships and the best places to find them because I was desperate and I needed as many as I could find. I came across a ton of bogus websites but as soon as I found CollegeXpress, I knew I had to tell other people about it. It was definitely the most helpful site I came across, so I told my friends about it. . . . CollegeXpress is definitely a website worth giving as a source.

College Matches