How to Make Your Extracurriculars Stand Out Throughout Your Time in High School

Padya Paramita

How to Make Your Extracurriculars Stand Out Throughout Your Time in High School

As you settle into high school, you should think about how to prepare yourself for the eventual college application process. Of course, you don’t have to get a head start on all of the components in ninth grade. But planning out how to make your extracurriculars stand out in a way that will later help make you memorable to admissions officers can go a long way toward helping your application profile when the time comes. From leadership position to excellent demonstration of commitment, here are some tips to guide you through building an activities list that will impress admissions officers at competitive colleges around the country: 

  • Build your management skills and seek out leadership positions: Colleges appreciate students who are not afraid to take charge. Rather than just joining clubs that all your friends are in so you can get more time to hang out, seek roles where you can build your leadership skills. If your achievements as a leader are quantifiable or tangible—such as successfully recruiting 20 new members to your club—that’s even better.
    Of course, you can’t immediately be voted the president when you first join, but you can start to establish yourself as a leader on your way to figuring out how to make your extracurriculars stand out. When you join a new club where you think you see yourself as the president in a year or two, act accordingly. Assert yourself —promote projects, support the current president, volunteer to take on responsibilities, and grow into someone your fellow group members can rely on and respect. So by the time you’re running for president, everyone knows that you will make a great leader—because you already are.
  • Think about your competition: When considering how to make your extracurriculars stand out, you must also consider your peers. So while joining Debate Club or Model UN sounds cool on paper—and they do teach important skills such as public speaking and research—there are other ways to drive your application towards a more unique direction rather than participating in the common activities that most students tend to choose. When picking your clubs, ask yourself whether it’s an activity that would help distinguish you, or if it’s likely to make admissions say, “Oh! Another applicant in Debate Club!” You definitely don’t want to be in the latter pack. Strive for extracurriculars that can help you get an edge over other high schoolers.
  • Start your own initiative: When it comes to making your extracurricular activities stand out, being the president of a pre-existing club might not be enough. For example, every high school has a drama club and every one of those groups has a president. So being the president of the drama club isn’t the most unique role, is it? As you figure out how to make your extracurriculars stand out, remember that in order to compete with top students from other schools, consider taking the initiative to start your own club, LLC, nonprofit, or project. Seize something you’re passionate about and run with it. If you’re obsessed with comedy and your school doesn’t have any comedic activities, start your own improv troupe. You don’t have to launch your own group immediately. But as time passes, you need to develop depth; start building your application profile and think about what kind of opportunities you feel your community might be missing.
  • Involve others: If you’re starting a club and it has zero members, that won’t make the best impression on admissions officers at your dream university. Colleges look for students who aren’t afraid to work with others, grow as a team, and learn from their community. So if you start your own club, work on growing its membership. If you’re interested in engineering, perhaps you could form a group that helps new folks moving into your neighborhood carry and assemble their furniture. The possibilities to tie your interests into the people and communities surrounding you are endless.
  • Participate in activities that reflect your passion: When you apply to college, try to maintain a general theme for your application through clear ideas about how you’d contribute to campus, admissions officers remember you as one of the most memorable applicants. Your interests and future plans should align to a certain degree with your intended major, even though this may all change. As you navigate how to make your extracurriculars stand out, remember that your activity selection should also enhance this theme. For example, if you have stated on your application that your biggest passion is art and that you want to work as an artist in the future, admissions officers won’t take you seriously if your extracurriculars have all been science-related. If you’re interested in art, seek out activities where you get to explore your passion!
  • Quality, not quantity: Students sometimes get the impression that colleges want to see you participate in as many activities as you possibly can. That isn’t necessarily true. If you’ve invested a lot of time starting one organization that’s successfully improved the lives of people in your community, this will be more likely to boost your college application instead of being a general member of ten different clubs that have no connection to each other. Like we’ve said, it’s more about how you’ve led different initiatives and focused on tangible achievements. Colleges want to see students who spend their time wisely. Don’t run to different club sessions all day. Focus your energy on two or three connected activities and lead those groups the best way you can.
  • Don’t drop out of many activities: Admissions officers at top schools want students who demonstrate a high level of commitment towards meaningful activities. Of course, when you’ve just started high school, it’s more than acceptable to try out different types of extracurricular activities and see which fit your goals more than others, and which you enjoy the most. If you’re not authentic in your choices, you won’t have a good time. Once you’ve figured it out, drop a couple of clubs that you don’t have time or passion for. But don’t make a habit out of it. Schools will not be impressed if your activities list is full of clubs you’ve only participated in for short periods of time. Your ability to commit and discover what you love reflects well on your application, so you shouldn’t be dropping extracurriculars after the tenth grade!


When it comes to the question of how to make your extracurriculars stand out as you build your activities list, it’s important to prioritize your passions, career interests, and ways to establish yourself as a leader. Prestigious colleges want to see tangible achievements and commitment towards activities you enjoy. And if you see a gap in the activities at your school, or find an opportunity to involve a greater community, don’t be afraid to start your own initiative! 

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