Why Extracurricular Activities are not Extra for College Admissions

We have already talked about what one needs to do to get into a US college which includes grades, SAT scores, essays, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities. Today, I want to emphasize the importance of extracurricular activities on college admissions.


Importance of Extracurricular Activities for College Admissions


How important are extracurricular activities in college admissions?We put too much emphasis on grades and SAT/ACT that we forget the main component of our jigsaw. Of course, it’s very important to have good grades and scores but that alone will not make you stand out in front of ten thousand other applications.  I’m afraid not.


Extracurricular activities are not extra but it shows what extra activities you have done outside your classroom. It also builds your confidence, positive energy, and helps remain focused.


Let’s take Tara and Sid who are in Grade 11 and both have applied to the University of Michigan for a computer science major. Both Tara and Sid have excellent grades and Sid has an ACT score of 36 while Tara’s ACT score is 34. Sid is a tennis player and has won many Inter-School matches and teaches the local kids’ tennis while Tara has spent her last 5 years building an app for her school to track the school buses and is the founder and President of her girls Robotics club. She also raised $1500 to teach the local girls how to code.


What College Admissions Offices Look for in Extracurricular Activities


If you were the college admissions person whom would you give admission to? Sid or Tara?


Tara right, even though Sid has a perfect score he has not shown any interest in his major and his passion for tennis is not aligned with his major. If Sid was a national tennis champion, the college would accept him and want him to represent the college and he would be spending 4-5hours practicing daily.  On the other hand, Tara has not only shown dedication and commitment but also leadership qualities by starting the club and raising funds.


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Let’s take another case where Pooja paints as a hobby and Samir has had art exhibitions and started an art club for underprivileged kids and done web designing for the Editorial Board of his school for the last 6 years.
Both want to apply to the University of Art. Who do you think would get accepted? You are getting the point, right.


What do Admissions Officers Look For in Extracurricular Activities?


  • No matter the activity, colleges look for the quality of involvement rather than the number of activities
  • Whether time spent on involvement has been growth-producing, productive, or meaningful
  • Focus on the depth of your interests, not the breadth
  • How leadership or initiative has been demonstrated
  • What kind of outside recognition has been received
  • Specific qualities like competence, effectiveness, high energy level, adventurous nature, responsibility, curiosity, perseverance, cooperation, sustained commitment, maturity, character, passion, and focus


Related Articles:


How to Utilize Your Summer While Staying at Home to Improve Your College Admission Chances

How to Make Your Extracurricular Activities Stand Out When Applying to College


Advice on Extracurricular Activities in High School


Extracurricular Activities for College Admissions: How Many Extracurricular Activities are Too Many?To build on your activities and to take it some higher-level takes time. Most students don’t even know what they want to do or what their interests are. It’s important to know what your interests and passions are and focus your activities around it. That’s why it’s important to start thinking about it as early as 7th grade.


Hopefully, by Grade 8 or 9 you have a clear picture and you start working on it so by Grade 11 your passion, dedication, the commitment will come out naturally when you write those essays. The college application reader will get to know you and your story through your essays, and it must touch his/her heart and say Wow! I want that kid in my college.


Extracurricular activities are important for international students applying to the elite and most competitive colleges and universities. So, if you are really aiming for the top schools, don’t take them for granted.


How to Utilize Summer for College Admissions while Staying at Home during Lockdown


Push your kid to “Go the Extra Mile” and find his/her passion and move towards it!





  1. Hi. Nice article clarifying the doubts for extracurricular activities to be done. My daughter, currently in 11th also wants to go with Psychology and so wanted a help from you. Could you pls guide what extra curricular shall she join to make her profile strong in order to apply for undergrad abroad.
    We put in New Delhi.
    Thanku so much

    • Hi Pooja, Please send me an email at saranruchi[at]gmail[dot]com and we can talk more about the activities once I know your daughter’s profile and interests.


  2. The article is very informative. The way you’ve covered everything about extracurricular activities is perfect for a person who wants to know in and out about everything.
    Hope to read more of such great content from you in the future. Keep writing…!

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