How Important Are Extracurriculars for College Admissions?

While academics are an important part of the admissions process, the holistic review process means that admissions officers are taking into account more than just grades and test scores. 

What you do outside of the classroom is just as important in helping admissions officers determine what type of student you’ll be on their campus, which means you should prioritize extracurricular activities as well. 

Extracurricular activities are anything you take part in outside of school. Your extracurriculars don’t have to be academic, but there are a number of different extracurricular activities you can partake in that will enhance your college résumé

Why do extracurricular activities matter to colleges?

Admissions officers want to gauge your college-readiness based on the skills you possess outside of the classroom in addition to your academic rigor.

When applying to highly-selective schools, for example, chances are that a grand majority of applicants share above average grades and test scores. In such a competitive applicant pool, extracurriculars can be the deciding factor in helping admissions officers build a diverse class of admitted students. 

Extracurriculars can help demonstrate crucial skills that will translate to success in college and beyond, such as time management and leadership skills

Here are some ways extracurriculars can demonstrate useful skills:

  • They can demonstrate passion for a particular subject or field, such as pairing your AP Calculus with the Math Honor Society after school. 
  • You can demonstrate your time management skills by managing your commitment to a sports team or part-time job. 
  • School activities like student government or student council can show off your leadership skills.
  • Volunteering and community service show your commitment to a cause and that you will be a positive presence on campus.

Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities not only play a crucial role in the college admissions process, but they are also beneficial in improving your skills in and outside of the classroom. The benefits of participating in extracurriculars can help you better adapt to college life and beyond. 

Here are just some of the benefits of extracurricular activities:

Academic Performance:

Students who participate in extracurricular activities tend to have higher grades and a better attitude toward school. It also helps build organization and time management skills which can play a crucial role in improving academic performance. 

Explore Interests:

Students often find that their high school extracurricular activities help them discover their passions, which will eventually help them in narrow down potential college majors and career choices.


Finding an activity you enjoy can help you connect with other people who are passionate about the same interests. It can also expand your social circle to include people outside of your school or daily routine. 

Life Skills:

Extracurricular activities help you learn skills beyond the classroom like organization, teamwork, communication, and time management. These skills are incredibly important in helping you succeed both in college and in your career. 

Recommendation Letters:

Participating in extracurricular activities is also a great networking tool. You’ll regularly work with coaches, supervisors, and mentors who can attest to your character and skills outside of the classroom. These will be helpful connections to lean on as you require letters of recommendations later in the admissions process. 

Choosing extracurriculars

Most schools offer a wide variety of extracurricular activities that you can partake in. That said, you should aim to participate in extracurricular activities you are genuinely interested in, not just those that might “look best” on a college résumé. 

You’re more likely to excel in these activities if they align with your passions and interests, meaning they’ll be of more benefit to you down the road. Your interest in a particular extracurricular activity will also increase your likelihood of committing to the organization or team you’re part of. 

Colleges would rather see you spend time becoming a leader in a couple of clubs that are important to you rather than a long list of activities you aren’t actually interested in. 

Types of extracurricular activities

School Activities:

Sports, academic clubs, cultural groups, school newspaper, music groups, student government

Community Activities:

Volunteering with local charities, organizing food drives, aiding youth art and sports organizations


Internships, summer work, part-time work, family business, babysitting 

Family activities:

Regularly having to pick up or babysit siblings, helping out an elderly relative, etc. all take significant time and effort! Be sure to include these if they apply to you.

As you explore which extracurricular activities are the right fit for you, take the time to think about your passions and how this will help you demonstrate who you are and what type of student you will be to an admissions committee.