Extracurricular activities give us a sense of who you are beyond the classroom, and can help admissions counselors see what you might bring to campus when you’re not in a class or doing homework. Schools rarely have requirements or suggestions for how to spend your time outside of class. You might prefer debate, while your friend loves orchestra, and either is great! Volunteering may appeal strongly to some, while science clubs or academic teams might play to the strengths or interest of others. Some students are involved in organized extracurricular activities, while others pursue hobbies on their own. There are no “right” or “wrong” activities to select for yourself—we’re looking to see if you’re doing something that’s interesting and worthwhile to you. While developing leadership skills in high school can be great, colleges understand that you can be committed to an activity and make important contributions without ever holding any sort of official position.
It can be pretty hard to keep track of Spanish club, oboe, theater, volunteering, feeding the cat, and getting good grades all at the same time—so keep a running list of the activities you’ve been involved with, your main role and contributions, and approximately how many hours per week and weeks per year you participate. This can later be polished and submitted as an activities resume or more easily translated to the extracurricular activities section of an online application. Practice for music, sports, or other activities counts toward the “number of hours” valuation; if you only spend one hour a week in a formal orchestra but practice three hours independently, please feel comfortable including that time, too! Remember again that this isn’t a race to make the longest list, but rather a useful way for you to make sure you accurately and easily remember all the great things you’ve been involved with in and outside of school. Keeping a list or working activities resume will make things easier for you when you apply to college during your senior year.
Finally, don’t forget to include paid work or family responsibilities in your extracurricular activities list. It’s an important part of your life and something that shows us you have the skills to work as a member of a team, have responsibility for yourself and others, and are learning to manage your own time. So, if you have an after-school job or spend a large amount of time caring for a sibling, cousin, parent, or grandparent, that can be just as compelling as participating in any number of school-affiliated activities.