Here’s What Admissions Officers Look For In Extracurriculars

Extracurricular activities play an important role in college admissions. But what activities do admissions officers see as meaningful? And which are merely fluff?

Tiffany Sorensen, a tutor at Varsity Tutors and contributor at US News, recently discussed the value of extracurricular activities in admissions and how colleges weight extracurricular achievements.


While extracurricular activities are merely one component of the admissions criteria, they do play an important role.

“Admissions counselors say extracurriculars can play a decisive role, especially when they might contrast sharply with other aspects of a student’s profile,” Sorensen writes. “For instance, admissions counselors may have reservations about a star student who has not contributed to his or her community in a meaningful way. On the other hand, extensive community involvement can work in the favor of an applicant who does not stand out academically.”

Moreover, experts say, it’s less important to admissions officers what your activity actually is and more important your involvement in said activity.

“What’s most important about a student’s extracurricular profile is that they are able to demonstrate their commitment to the activity as well as the positive change/impact they had on the initiative,” according to Crimson Education. “Your extracurricular activities should clearly showcase three things: your interests, your intentions, and your impact.”

Here’s a quick tip from Sorensen on how to weigh degrees of commitment among your extracurriculars:

“To highlight the extracurriculars you have been most committed to, list activities in order from those that have occupied the greatest length of time to those that have occupied the shortest,” Sorensen writes. “This way, you can direct the application reader’s attention to the most important items. Saving the oldest but possibly most salient items for last risks the reader glossing over them.”


Admissions officers also like to see both demonstrated commitment and leadership skills in your extracurriculars.

“If your membership in an activity has evolved in such a way, make sure to highlight it on your resume by giving it a separate entry that includes your title and the date it became effective,” Sorensen writes. “If you are not applying to college yet, find out how you can move up or help more in the club so that you can add an attractive new role to your resume.”

Additionally, Sorensen says, your activities outside of school can be just as important.

“While it’s easy to focus on school-based activities as you apply to college, keep in mind that your extracurricular activities can take place outside of a school setting,” she writes. “Being involved in church or community groups is every bit as valuable as being involved in clubs at school, pursuing music and dance through private companies or joining athletic teams.”

Sources: US News, Crimson Education

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