Survey Says: Best High School Extracurriculars

It’s tough to balance academics and college apps, and with so much to do, it’s easy to drop the ball on your high school extracurriculars.

Clubs, community service, research, art projects, performances, leadership positions…showing your dedication to something OTHER than your schoolwork is vital to your application. But how do you decide what extracurriculars are worth devoting precious time to? And what role do they play in your application? We asked our college consultants about their own experiences with high school extracurriculars–what they did, what worked for them, and why. Here’s what they had to say:

Chris Elias, Brown University: Playing golf helped instill patience and time management. My schoolwork was actually always better in-season because I was forced to be more regimented about how I spent the my time outside of practice and matches.

Lia Lenart, Harvard University: Theatre, for sure—mainly, because all of my close friends were also involved. But also because theater breaks down boundaries really quickly, with exercises that force you out of your comfort zone. I learned so many skills from participating in theater—to work as a team, to stand and speak in front of over 500 people, to empathize with people who are different from me and learn to see the world through their eyes. There’s a reason that corporate training and team building trainings use theater games.

Stephen Black, Harvard University: Even though I was a leadership addict—president of both Student Government Association and Future Business Leaders of America, plus captain of the swim team—my best extracurricular was debate. Starting freshman year with no experience, I worked tirelessly to improve, amassing countless defeats before I saw a single victory. It taught me to persevere in the face of adversity, sharpening my intellect and verbal skills along the way.

Ike Wilson, Yale University: My most important was probably playing for and serving as captain of the varsity basketball team. At the same time, I might venture to say that my best extracurricular  (as far as colleges were concerned) was the NGO work I did in Vietnam and Laos, where my maternal relatives come from. The fundraising work I did (and continue to do!) exhibited a number of things to college admissions officers — that I had an international focus, that I took the initiative on big projects, that I was organized, that I was genuinely passionate about the work being done. That last thing is important, as too often applicants think that simply heading somewhere in the world to do humanitarian work will automatically get them in to college. There’s got to be more to it than that.

Mike MochizukiBrown University: I loved being involved with my high school singing group. By participating in an extracurricular I really cared about, I dedicated myself to it fully, which showed in my applications.
*NOTE: Our college consultants have not been replaced by puppies. We just thought you might be stressed out, and might like to look at some puppies.

On Getting Accepted To College: Why All This Work Is Worthwhile