What Counts as Extracurricular Activities?

Prestigious universities now seek well-rounded applicants who excel academically and enrich campus life through diverse extracurricular activities, demonstrating character, leadership, and passion beyond grades.
Mar 20, 2024
14 min read

The era where exceptional grades were the sole ticket to elite universities has long passed. Nowadays, prestigious universities seek not only outstanding academic performers but also individuals who exhibit versatility and contribute meaningfully to various aspects of campus life. Beside good grades, extracurricular activities are important in the context of college applications because they demonstrate a student's interests, passions, and level of dedication to activities outside of the classroom. These activities are frequently considered by colleges and universities as signs of an applicant's character, capability in leadership, and ability to manage a variety of responsibilities.

There are variations in the definition of what counts as an extracurricular, so students have to make their way through a maze of choices that spans from typical clubs and sports to more peculiar activities. But what exactly counts as an extracurricular activity?

Types of Extracurricular Activities

  • Academic Clubs

Academic clubs are groups that have been formally approved by educational institutions. These clubs, which are usually supervised by a mentor or member of the faculty, involve members in various academic pursuits and administrative tasks. Academic clubs come in a variety of forms, from study groups that concentrate on particular subjects to clubs that explore specific themes. Math Club, Science Olympiad, Language Clubs, History Club, Literature Club, Philosophy Club, Academic Decathlon, Geography Bee, and Coding Club are a few examples.

Beyond the tangible benefits of listing academic club involvement on resumes and university applications, there are numerous intangible advantages. Engaging in structured social interactions with peers fosters new connections and exposes students to diverse perspectives. Moreover, participation cultivates essential life skills such as time management and conflict resolution, all while deepening understanding and passion for the chosen subject matter.

  • Competitions

Academic competitions are typically coordinated by educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and professional associations. Schools and universities regularly disseminate details about upcoming contests to interested participants. Furthermore, students can utilize online platforms and community bulletin boards as effective channels for discovering both national and international competitions.

Writing Contests, Science Olympiads, STEM Challenges, Debate Tournaments, Art Competitions, Music Competitions, Coding Hackathons, Environmental Science Fairs, Robotics Competitions. All those and other competitions offer to promote personal development along with showcasing intellectual excellence. Students that take part in these activities can improve their communication skills, hone their problem-solving techniques, and develop resilience in spite of difficulties. The skills, knowledge, and confidence students gain by participating in academic competitions prepare them to perform academically and survive in a world that is changing quickly, regardless of their career goals.

  • Arts & Creativity

Engaging in artistic and creative pursuits not only nurtures self-expression but also develops personal growth and development. From painting and sculpture to creative writing and filmmaking, there are countless avenues for students to explore their artistic talents and unleash their creativity. Whether it's joining a local choir, participating in theater productions, or experimenting with digital arts, the realm of arts offers diverse opportunities for students to express themselves and connect with others who share similar passions.

  • Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Engagement in leadership and entrepreneurship endeavors empowers students to develop invaluable skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, and collaboration. Whether it's leading a student government, participating in debate clubs, or venturing into entrepreneurship through clubs like Junior Achievement or Entrepreneurs Club, these activities provide opportunities for students to hone their leadership abilities and cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset. Moreover, involvement in model UN, youth boards, and leadership workshops equips students with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate complex issues, advocate for change, and inspire others to action.

  • Community Service

Opportunities for community service abound in various organizations and institutions, including NGOs, community centers, religious institutions, schools, and local volunteer offices. These organizations frequently oversee projects like food banks, health campaigns, and tutoring programs, providing people with a wide range of opportunities to give back to their communities.

By taking part in charitable events, helping at shelters, or cleaning up the environment, students can have a significant impact on society and grow in social responsibility, empathy, and compassion. Community service projects give students the chance to interact with others, form bonds with them, and bring about beneficial changes in their communities.

  • Sports

Sports opportunities can be found in various settings, including school teams, local sports clubs, community centers, and private clubs. Joining these organizations allows students to access structured training, coaching, and facilities tailored to their interests and skill levels. In addition, engaging in sport activities gives students the chance to socialize with their peers, form bonds with them, and develop a sense of belonging in the community. Whether participating in team sports like basketball or soccer, individual sports such as swimming or track and field, or activities like yoga and dance, individuals can develop essential skills such as communication, leadership, and resilience. Additionally, sports provide avenues for stress relief, social interaction, and self-expression, fostering holistic well-being and a sense of achievement.

  • Internship

Internships provide invaluable opportunities for students to gain real-world experience, explore career interests, and develop essential skills in a professional setting. Whether pursuing corporate internships, non-profit internships, government internships, or specialized roles in fields such as research, medicine, law, engineering, or IT, students can apply classroom knowledge to practical contexts and expand their professional networks.

Engaging in internships enables students to acquire hands-on experience, receive mentorship from industry professionals, and gain insights into their chosen fields, ultimately enhancing their employability and career readiness. For instance, Delta Institute offers a virtual work experience program specifically designed for high school students, providing them with opportunities to engage in meaningful projects, interact with industry experts, and gain valuable insights into emerging fields and industries. Through internships, students can bridge the gap between academic learning and professional practice, setting a solid foundation for future career success.

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  • Cultural Activities

To engage in cultural activities, students can connect with cultural institutions, community centers, schools, language centers, and online platforms that offer a wide range of programs and resources. Whether attending cultural events, joining language learning groups, or participating in global affairs symposiums, students can actively contribute to creating inclusive and diverse communities while expanding their cultural literacy and global awareness.

Cultural activities offer students a unique opportunity to explore diverse perspectives, traditions, and customs from around the world, fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. In addition to extending students' perspectives, such activities promote intercultural dialogue, empathy, and respect, preparing them to thrive in an increasingly interconnected and multicultural world.

The Recommended Number of Extracurricular Activities You Should Participate In

Engaging in a multitude of extracurricular activities is not obligatory. While the Common App allows for ten entries on the extracurricular list page, filling every slot is not necessary. Colleges seek applicants who demonstrate deep engagement and passion in a select number of activities. Often, this level of commitment leads to leadership roles, accolades, and significant achievements. Therefore, it is essential to focus on activities that resonate with your interests, values, and future aspirations rather than attempting to fill all available spaces.

Consider where you want to invest your time outside of academic commitments, whether it aligns with your career aspirations, fosters personal growth, and provides opportunities for learning and enjoyment. If you are uncertain about which extracurriculars to pursue, ask yourself key questions such as their relevance to your future career, potential for character development, contribution to a greater cause, personal enjoyment, and opportunity for learning and skill development. By evaluating these factors, you can make informed decisions about your extracurricular involvement and prioritize activities that align with your interests and aspirations.

Key Tips to Choose The Right Extracurricular Activity

Choosing the right extracurricular activity can have a significant impact on how you experience high school and how well your college applications are considered. It's crucial to align your choices with the preferences of your target universities. Different colleges and universities, especially those in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK), value different types of extracurricular involvement. Considering this, it's essential to tailor your activities to match the expectations of the institutions to which you're applying.

For US universities, admissions officers often prioritize leadership and initiative in extracurricular activities. Therefore, students aiming for US institutions should focus on activities that demonstrate leadership skills, such as holding positions in student government, initiating community service projects, or leading clubs or organizations. These experiences showcase your ability to take charge, collaborate with others, and make a positive impact on your community.

Conversely, if your goal is to apply to a UK university, your extracurricular activities should align more closely with your academic interests. UK universities typically value depth of engagement in specific subjects or areas of interest. Thus, participating in activities related to your academic field, such as science clubs, debate societies, or subject-specific competitions, can strengthen your application. These activities demonstrate your passion for your chosen field of study and your commitment to academic pursuits.

Regardless of the type of university you're applying to, it's essential to select extracurricular activities that not only align with their preferences but also resonate with your own interests and goals. Reflect on what you excel at, what you enjoy doing, and what you're eager to learn more about. Choosing activities that genuinely interest you will not only enhance your college application but also provide you with valuable experiences and personal growth opportunities.

Ultimately, when it comes to choosing extracurricular activities, it's about striking a balance between meeting the expectations of your target universities and pursuing activities that align with your passions and aspirations. By carefully selecting and actively participating in extracurriculars that showcase your strengths and interests, you can present a well-rounded and compelling application to your desired universities.


In the pursuit of crafting a standout university application, remember that your extracurricular choices can significantly impact how admissions officers perceive your candidacy. By aligning your activities with the expectations of your target universities and showcasing your passions and strengths, you can create a compelling profile that highlights your potential contributions to campus life. However, navigating the complexities of extracurricular involvement can be daunting.

Consider exploring resources like ECL mentoring services, where expert guidance can offer valuable insights and assistance tailored to your individual journey. Whether you're refining your activity selection, honing leadership skills, or seeking ways to maximize your impact, such services can provide the support needed to navigate the college application process with confidence.

Any further enquiries/comments? Email us at info@deltainstitute.co


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