Here’s some good news! Admissions officers are more interested in the depth of your extracurricular life than in the number of extracurriculars you participate in––they’re looking for college applicants with a demonstrated passion. They want enthusiastic, engaged, energetic students with leadership potential. In other words, “quality involvement is more important than the quantity of organizations you can list on your application,” according to Carolyn Z. Lawrence, a College Admissions Counselor and owner of This means kids are free to choose just a few hobbies and organizations that they really love, and focus on excelling at them. Become a leader. Start a group rather than joining an existing one. Win an award. Whether you are into theater, music, charity work or writing for the school paper, you can hone in on what you love best and really excel at it. Here are some examples of extracurriculars that will look stellar on your college application.
The Arts

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Admissions officers love a well-rounded student. If your major is in the areas of math, science, or business, your involvement in theater, music, dance or painting showcases your multifaceted personality. Leadership in an organization, competition wins (solo or as a team member) and inclusion in prestigious shows helps make a case for your commitment to excellence.

Volunteer Work To Fill Your Summers

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Show admissions counselors your heart of gold by adding some community service to your resume. Volunteer work carries the extra bonus of demonstrating to a future employer that you can maintain a schedule, be on time, and follow through on commitments. Look for volunteer work that broadens your experience, teaches you real-world skills, or puts you in a leadership position. Habitat for Humanity, church mission trips, hospital work, animal rescue, or being a poll worker are excellent choices, as is organizing an event to raise funds for a good cause. You could also have a part time job. Start a pet sitting business. Serve in a soup kitchen, or teach the Sunday School class at your church. Anything besides watching television and playing video games will do.

Activities Within Your Field

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A public relations or journalism major whose been an editor on their high school or town paper has an edge. Math club, physics club, language club and film club could all relate directly to your major. But do more than show up. Volunteer for things, run for office, organize events. You want to be able to say more about your time with the club than just that you belonged.

Governance & Military

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A position on the Student Council shows you are organized, committed, have natural leadership ability, and are willing to work. Community youth boards, prom committees, and model UN programs are all good choices; again, make sure you do more than show up. Serve on committees, introduce ideas, organize projects. Demonstrate your teamwork and self-discipline with military experience. ROTC programs can lead directly to scholarship opportunities.

Public Speaking

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Only a very small percentage of the population is comfortable with public speaking, and they have a clear advantage in almost any field. Debate club, student or community theater, school radio or television, even doing stand up comedy at open mic nights will impress the admissions officer.

Start Something

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If your passions don’t align with any existing groups — or even if they do — become the founder of a group. Organize a softball league.  Put together a book club, or a crew that cleans up litter on Saturday mornings. Write a blog and attract an impressive number of visitors. Be creative, be proactive, and push your leadership and organizational potential as far as you can.

Lauren Haas is a writer who specializes in finding the fun! Lauren was the publisher of the St. Louis Area Family Gazette for eight years, and now writes freelance articles on St. Louis events and attractions, budget travel, arts and entertainment and fitness topics. Her work can be found at