What are Extracurricular Activities?

An extracurricular activity is anything that falls outside the scope of a regular curriculum. There is usually no academic credit attached to it, but it can be related to school. Student clubs and athletics are examples of extracurricular activities.

Although grades and coursework difficulty matter most, extracurricular activities are just as important. In a world of rising application numbers and an increase in students reporting stellar grades and test scores, admissions officers rely more heavily on extracurriculars to determine whether a student will be accepted.
You will also have the types of character qualities and professional skills that admissions officers look for in potential students if you participate in (or lead) extracurricular activities, including:

  • Drive
  • Leadership
  • Passion
  • Commitment
  • Time management

How Do Colleges Evaluate Extracurriculars?

Any extracurricular activity outside of classes can count as an extracurricular at most colleges. Your extracurricular activity’s type doesn’t matter as much as its purpose. Colleges want to see you use extracurricular activities to pursue your passion, gain relevant experience, increase your academic knowledge, or demonstrate leadership abilities. You should tell admissions teams how you have grown, what you have learned, and how you can add depth and breadth to their student body.

  • Drive
  • Leadership
  • Passion
  • Commitment
  • Time management

How Many High School Extracurricular Activities Should I Participate In?

Joining every club, playing every sport, babysitting, starting a part-time job, and volunteering shouldn’t be a priority. There is much more importance to the quality of your extracurricular activities than the number of them on your list. Extracurricular activities are not required by colleges. It’s more important to them to know how these activities shaped you as a person. Being a member of many clubs for a short period of time means less than your commitment to extracurricular activities over a longer period.
It is not necessary to participate in dozens of extracurricular activities. There is no perfect number of extracurriculars, but the Common App only allows ten tabs on the Activities List page. It is likely that you have participated in at least ten extracurricular activities over your four years of high school, so you should narrow down your list to those that mean the most to you.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself before joining another extracurricular if you’re in the early years of high school.

  • Is it related to my future career goals?
  • Will it build my character?
  • Is it helping someone or something bigger than myself?
  • Do I enjoy it?
  • Will it teach me something?

List & Examples Of Extracurricular Activities Of Successful Ivy League And Top University Admits

Below is a sample list of extracurricular activities (divided into categories) that Crimson students have done that helped them get into Ivy League and other top universities.


  • Intern, Congresswoman: Interned in Washington DC in a team of three; wrote 25+ letters addressing constituent concerns; attended 20+ hearings & briefings.
  • Intern, Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition: Spread awareness & outreach regarding human trafficking; delivered 5+ bilingual seminars at the Mexican Consulate on recognizing signs of forced labor trade.
  • Intern & Office Manager, Ammar Campa-Najjar Campaign: Managed day-to-day tasks such as training volunteers for a congressional campaign; crafted promotional materials in English & Spanish.


  • Founder & Leader, Fun Maths Problem Solving Society: Recruited 40+; weekly problem-solving sessions’ divided sets from “Superbrain Collection”; invited guest speakers; shared passion for maths.
  • Competitor, Various Maths Competitions: Qualified for British Maths Olympiad in Y12; qualified for Intermediate Maths Olympiad in Y11; High Gold Intermediate Maths Challenge in Y11.
  • Team B Captain, National Ocean Sciences Bowl: Organized biweekly practices & prepared a team of five for competition; expanded knowledge on environmental science topics such as Maine policy & geography.

Community Service

  • Vice President, Kalliope Organization Committee: Initiated school’s first charity green fashion show; liaised with designers, models and performers’ attracted 600+ audiences; raised 1K+ for bursary fund.
  • President and Founder (Volunteer): Founded a youth-run charity that prophecies literature opportunities to rural, migrant areas and developing countries that cannot afford English texts.
  • Violinist (Volunteer): Violinist in a string trip to raise money for NSQ Kids in Need and the Australian Chamber Orchestra Music Education Program for Disadvantaged Kids.