What co-curricular activities do colleges like to see on an application?

Co-curricular activities, especially when you’re attending an academically rigorous school, are your chance to take a break from the books and participate in something you love.

These activities ensure a student’s time at the school is joyful, providing for their social-emotional well-being, and helping students build up a college application to prove to college admissions boards that they’re the right fit for them. Want to learn about the advantages of an extensive co-curricular program

So when it comes time to deciding which co-curricular activities you want to get involved in, keep in mind how the activity will improve your application. Learn more about what looks good on a college application?

Now you understand that co-curricular activities improve your college application in general, are there certain co-curricular activities that look better than others? Are there activities college admissions would like to see more of?

According to [former] Career and University Advisor Patrick Stenger, it’s certain characteristics within the co-curricular activities that are appealing to colleges.

“Where this is asked in the application, there is an upfront ‘we don’t want you to change how you engage in your life to suit our admission criteria,’ but I think that variety and diversity in how you engage is valuable.”


What should you keep in mind when selecting your co-curricular activities?

“Many people think it’s the quantity of your engagement and not the quality. In actuality, universities worldwide aren’t looking for the staggering list within co-curricular activities, they’re looking for meaningfulness, they’re looking for significant contributions, they’re looking for leadership roles,” said Mr. Stenger.


Be true to who you are

If you love sports, join an athletic activity. If you love the environment, join Roots & Shoots, if you love learning about global issues, join Model United Nations (MUN). When it comes to selecting co-curricular activities, ultimately it’s whatever makes you happy; try to not concern yourself with what will look best on your college application.

“You need to be genuine, you need to be authentic, and you need to think, ‘I’m doing this because I gain fulfillment, joy, pleasure through this activity’,” said Mr. Stenger.


Variety and diversity

“Achieving in a giving, sharing, making-life-better sort of way for a large group of people is pretty powerful, and in this day and age, that is more and more attractive, certainly to colleges,” said Mr. Stenger.

When selecting co-curricular activities, try to explore a variety of interests, rather than focus solely on one.


Think, "How will this help you in what you want to do?"

Being able to use your activity in a way that demonstrates your commitment to pursuing your college degree is something that is attractive to colleges. Ideally, they want to see you’re committed to what you’re choosing to study and that you’ll be successful.

For example, if you want to be a journalist and you worked with the student radio or wrote for the newspaper during your time in high school, that is something that demonstrates your interest.


Four key characteristics colleges like to see with co-curricular activities

Below we explore how you can use activities you already love to showcase other skills and qualities you possess.


Activities that demonstrate leadership

A leader is someone who has a strong voice, who stands up for others, and is ultimately the person others look up to. Activities such as student government or being captain of an athletic team are an exceptional way to develop leadership skills.


Activities that encourage teamwork

Whether it’s living on campus or a group project with one of your classes, college is full of opportunities to work with others. Having co-curricular activities on your college application, such as STEAM, athletics, or the debate team, will demonstrate your passion for collaboration and reassure the school you can thrive in a team environment.


Activities that open your eyes to global issues

Whether it’s knowing the latest headlines, interviewing leaders on the school campus and beyond, working towards a more sustainable world, or working to solve global issues, joining a co-curricular activity that opens your eyes to global issues greatly enhances your college application.

If working with global issues is something you’re passionate about, a few beneficial co-curricular activities include Model United Nations (MUN), Roots & Shoots, and the student newspaper.


Activities that encourage communication

Excellent communication is one of the most useful skills you can have in school, the workplace, and in life. No matter the activity or task at hand, communication is something you use on a daily basis and enrolling in co-curricular activities that help strengthen your communication skills will further improve your college application.

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Activities such as performing arts, debate, or a niche club are exceptional ways to develop your communication skills. Click here to find out more qualities earned from co-curricular activities.

When including these co-curricular activities in your college application, be sure to not only write what you did but also describe how being involved helped develop the person you are today. Having access to a college counselor program and services can help you figure out what exactly to put on your college application and why. Find out how High School counseling helps students find their place in the world.

No matter what is on this list, when choosing a co-curricular activity, it's important to do something you enjoy. Sometimes, the activities that make you who you are are actually what you do in your spare time. Beyond the co-curricular section, do you know how to make your college application stand out as a whole? Find out how by clicking the link below.
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