What Extra-Curricular Activities Are Colleges Really Looking For?

When it’s time to fill out your college application, the last thing you want is to struggle with the ‘extra-curricular activities’ section.

For many students, this is a real, biting problem. You’ve sailed through three or four years of high school with decent grades and thought about what you want to do in college and for a career. But because your extra-curricular activities don’t really contribute to your credits, it’s easy to procrastinate signing up for that debate club or basketball team that you’ve been contemplating for a while.

In school, in the moment, these activities might seem trivial. But in the long run, they’re extremely important in terms of your learning, and they more certainly help you to get into top-notch universities around the world.

So when it comes to extra-curriculars, what are colleges really looking for? Sports? Model UN? Debate club? And are any of those your ‘thing’?

The good news is that colleges are not particular about exactly what activities you choose to engage in. What they care about is that your application represents a well-rounded individual that has a good chance to and the inclination to succeed.

The bad news is that even if you really don’t like any extra-curriculars, you definitely need them. They will form an important part of your college application and definitely help solidify your admission decision.

Here’s what we recommend: On your extra-curricular activities list, try and demonstrate a good variety of interests spread across competitive activities, community service and something that’s very ‘you’. This last one should be a genuine place of passion for you.

If you’re starting high-school or are halfway through, then here’s a blueprint of what your extra-curricular activities should look like, so you’re sure to have an impressive list on your college application.


Play a sport or some form of competitive activity

The benefits of playing a sport in high school are many. Keeping fit and exercising helps your brain stay healthy, gives you a confidence boost and helps you develop a sense of loyalty and belonging to a team, group or a coaching club. Those qualities, including a healthy sense of competitiveness and contribution is what an admission officer is looking for on your application.


Engage in an ‘academic’ activity

This could include debate clubs, science clubs, academic decathlon teams – anything that interests you. But make sure it does actually interest you so you can actively engage and make the best out of it. With the increasing reach of STEM education in school curriculums now, you can also explore extra-curricular activities like coding, software development and other tech-based activities.

If your school isn’t big on extra-curricular activities, then take matters in your own hands and spark an initiative! Here’s a long list of extra-curricular activities that you can consider joining or starting up at your school.



If not during the school year, then find the time to volunteer over your summer holidays. Volunteering leaves you with a sense of meaning and purpose, and puts you in the path of interesting people and experiences. Again, make this about yourself if you must. Offer to volunteer at the dog shelter if you like dogs, or at an environmental center if you like clean-up drives. You’re more likely to volunteer wholeheartedly for a cause if you actually care about it.

Take a quick look at this UAE Government portal that gives you a list of places around the UAE where you can volunteer.


Do something you truly love

Not every extra-curricular activity has to follow the typical format of a club or a competition or volunteer work. On your list of extra-curriculars, you can also include any interests or hobbies that are a big part of your life outside the classroom. You might be achieving or accomplishing a lot with some of these activities and there’s no reason to leave them unmentioned.

For instance, maybe you have a blog with thousands of followers. Or maybe you’re a fabulous cook and are always attending classes and competitions. Maybe you’re an accomplished YouTuber that reviews video games. You might think these activities have nothing to do with school, but they say a lot about you and your commitment to something you are passionate about. Include them. Just make sure they’re appropriate to talk about in an academic setting, and are all safe and legal!


You may have gathered from this that it’s really not about the activity itself. You could be the only person in a butterfly photography club but love it with a zestful passion that comes through on your college application.

The key lies in having interests and hobbies, doing something productive with them and learning from the time you spend engaging in your extra-curricular activities.

Have we left you with something to think about this summer? What extra-curriculars do you plan on listing on your college application? Leave us a comment!

As always, keep learning!

Categories: Blog

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