Empowerly’s Guide to Extracurriculars

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Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

Extracurricular activities are one of the most critical ways to set your application apart from the pack. Still, now that many students are making an effort to build extracurricular profiles, it’s more challenging to stay unique. To help you out, Empowerly’s Guide to Extracurriculars will provide a comprehensive starter to doing so effectively.

The team at Empowerly has years of experience coaching students to college acceptance. Whether you’re starting in middle school or senior year, there are steps you should take to stay on track. Read through this article for an overview of the topics we’ll cover. Then, download our guidebook and keep it for reference as you grow!

What makes a strong extracurricular activity?

Your activities outside of the classroom, ideally, should be well worth the time investment. But that valuable and important activity can look very different for individual people. In fact, there are many variable factors to consider when you are choosing how to spend your free time. Don’t waste your precious hours! Plan ahead.

To break this down, here are a few of the aspects you should keep in mind:

  • Longevity
  • Commitment
  • Depth
  • Takeaways
  • And, of course, enjoyment!

Overall, as you read, we hope this guidebook is able to provide insight and perspective from our counselors. We all want to help you succeed and enjoy the process. From starting out and expanding your horizons, to ultimately crafting an application “hook,” we’re here to walk you through it.

Here is the official Empowerly Guide to Extracurriculars:

Go ahead, download it! This is Empowerly’s Guide to Extracurriculars.

We’re proud to provide this knowledge free of charge to any student who needs help. Read through it, share it with friends, post it on social media, and reference it any time.

This is a preview of what you’ll find inside…

Activity Matrix

We’ve developed a mental model we call the Activity Matrix to think about the different types of activities. The Activity Matrix is a mental framework we use at Empowerly to help students and parents think through their extracurricular activities – both existing and new.

We believe there are four types of activities:

  • in school
  • out of school
  • social work, and
  • competitions.

Further, within each of these types, there are 4 sub-types in which every activity can fall into. With this in mind, our goal at Empowerly is for students to find activities that actually interest them instead of constructing a false story for college admissions.

Activity Thread

One exercise we do with students is listing all of their activities in each of the types and sub-categories in the Matrix above. Our goal is to find activities that align thematically across different types. This is what we call an activity thread. The activity thread is a combination of 2 or 3 activities that link together across types. The thread forms the basis of the Common Application main essay and the thesis that a student writes about.

If you need help getting started or constructing your own framework, reach out to an Empowerly counselor!

Next Level

A quick note: simply pursuing 10+ extracurricular activities and throwing them onto your college application won’t accomplish much (it might even hurt you). It’s crucial that you follow some basic guidelines when assessing which extracurricular activities are worth getting into, because quality certainly matters more than quantity.


Still lost?

Call us today. As you probably know, many students boast a strong GPA and/or high test score. Despite this competition, not many students will be able to say they built a nonprofit from the ground up, or participated in university research labs. We will be happy to answer your questions about how to get started and set you up with a complimentary consultation session to share more information about our program and approach.

Questions? Let us know!