College admissions officers consider many factors, including your GPA and rigor of curriculum, standardized test scores, essays, recommendation letters and extracurricular activities.

But which activities should you include on your application, and why?

Consider joining clubs as early as freshman year. Maybe you’re not sure which clubs you’ll like and which ones you won’t like – and that’s okay. But it’s important to figure this out and stick with the ones you do like for two, three or four years.

You should look into different types of clubs: sports, the arts, community service, language and so on. In fact, sometimes a club can turn into a lifelong hobby or maybe your college major.

Don’t just consider clubs that are school-sponsored or formal. Instead, think about what you’ve done outside of school: maybe you dance six days a week, or participate in gymnastics, read fiction for pleasure, build model trains, or have email pen pals in other countries. All of these can tell an admissions officer an awful lot about you.

Colleges want to see what kind of person you are, and what makes you, you. They want to see what kinds of contributions you’ll make to their campus community, and they’ll get this sense from the non-academic parts of your college application.

Some tips for filling out your college apps:

  • Most applications limit the number of extracurricular activities that you can provide and ask that you to list them in order of importance. You don’t need to tell them everything you’ve joined, ever. Just list the four, five or six most meaningful activities.
  • Consider activities that you’ve participated in for two, three or four years (unless it’s a very special one-year activity). These will show admissions officers consistency and dedication to your activities.
  • List clubs and activities that you’ve done in the latter part of high school, meaning junior and senior years. If you tried something in freshman and sophomore years and then stopped that activity, you’re not really telling colleges what you’ll participate in once you get to college.
  • Try and get a leadership position in one or more of your activities, and make a real difference in the club. If you don’t see a club or activity that you like, found one – that shows real leadership too.

Use your activities list in the same way that you use other parts of the application: to give colleges a better sense of who you are – and why you’re the type of student they should want on their campus.

About the author
Stephen Friedfeld

Stephen is the co-founder and COO of AcceptU. He received a BA from Cornell University, an MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and a Ph.D. from Rice University. Prior to founding AcceptU, Stephen was an Assistant Dean of admissions at Cornell for four years and an Associate Dean of graduate admissions at Princeton University for six years. Stephen is an IECA Associate Member.

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