The Importance of Extracurricular Activities in College Admittance

The Importance of Extracurricular Activities in College Admittance

Getting into the college of your choice is a huge endeavor


The best schools are more competitive than ever, which means it is harder to get in. We have talked about the importance of SAT and ACT scores. What else goes into scoring that prized college acceptance letter? Two words. Extracurricular activities.

We discuss the role of extracurricular activities in a high school career and why they matter.


Gaining a competitive edge

SAT/ACT scores account for about 30%-50% of college admissions decisions. Excellent grades are also vital on a high school transcript.

So, what happens if two students have the same test scores and GPAs? What if they are both Merit Scholars who aced all their AP courses? How does a school decide between them?

The choice often comes down to extracurricular activities.

From sports and fine arts to clubs and even volunteer work, participating in extracurricular activities can give you a competitive edge when it comes to college admittance.


What extracurricular activities say about students

Ivy League schools accept around 3%-4% of their applicants each year. Practically every student who applies is an academic superstar. Most are Salutatorians or Valedictorians with perfect SAT/ACT scores and straight A’s. Even popular state schools like the University of Florida or USC are incredibly competitive. Those universities generally receive more applications than the Ivy League colleges.

So, admissions officials need something beyond test scores and grades to determine which students to accept. They want to know who will fit into the culture and be able to contribute to campus life. Academics are one way to tell. Another way is by learning more about a student’s personality, values, and goals.

Extracurricular activities are one way to show unique skills and interests. It is how you can stand out in a sea of excellent academic students. These activities demonstrate your commitment and time management skills. Colleges want to know that their choice is a well-rounded student who can learn from a variety of activities beyond what is learned from lessons.

If a college is looking at two similar students and sees that one was a first chair violin in the orchestra for two years and received superior scores at a state music competition, that is going to look good on a school transcript.


What kinds of extracurricular activities should students take?

The specific extracurricular activity is not as important as taking part in said activities.

“Your extracurricular activities show colleges aspects of your personality that your grades and test scores can’t. Though admissions officers can also get to know about your ‘intangible’ qualities through your essays and letters of recommendation, extracurriculars are important because they show that you walk the walk. Think you have leadership skills? Well, your extracurriculars are where you prove it,” according to

Colleges want to know that you can demonstrate commitment, passion, and leadership. They also want to know that you made an impact, whether it is by being a captain of the basketball team or leading the debate team to a state title.

Three kinds of extracurricular activities

If you are looking for ideas about extracurricular activities, there are three basic categories to consider.

  • Academic activities
  • Community activities
  • Personality activities

Examples of extracurricular activities:

  • Involvement in student government
  • Academic teams and clubs
  • Debate team
  • Sports
  • Fine arts (art, music, drama, dance, graphic arts, creative writing)
  • Internships
  • Culture clubs
  • Volunteer work
  • Community service
  • Student newspaper
  • Part-time job

Choosing extracurricular activities

Now that you understand the importance of extracurricular activities, it is time to choose one (or more). Of course, this can be a difficult choice. How do you decide?

One way is by considering your career goals. For instance, if you want to become a veterinarian, look for activities that show your dedication or passion for animals. Perhaps you can get a part-time job at local vet practice or volunteer at an animal shelter. If you want to become a journalist, you could write or edit for the school newspaper. If you want to pursue a career as a costume or fashion designer, help make costumes for school plays.

Are you passionate about specific causes? Perhaps you want to help the environment or those who are less fortunate? Volunteer with an organization that is making a difference or start your own campaign to help.

Extracurricular activities should reflect who you are as a person and what you value in life.


Extracurricular activities at American Heritage School

American Heritage School has a wide assortment of extracurricular activities that students can choose, from athletics and clubs to fine arts and computer programs. Students interested in law, medicine or engineering not only take classes about those specialties, but also participate in real-life experiences, internships, and prestigious national competitions.

Our teachers and guidance counselors help students understand the options available and discuss which might be the best fit.

If you are looking for a non-sectarian, co-educational college preparatory school, contact our Palm Beach or Broward campus to schedule a tour. You can also email our Palm Beach campus at or our Broward campus at

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