How Important Are Extracurricular Activities In College Admissions?

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Many students ask us how important extracurricular activities are in the college admissions process. It is fairly clear that academics are an important part of admissions, but which parts of the extracurricular story are actually important and how do you determine that? Here at Empowerly, we have spent the past 6 years understanding what colleges care about and helping thousands of students through the college admissions process. In this article, we use our data sorting tool to help you determine how important extracurricular activities are.

What constitutes an extracurricular activity?

To us, extracurricular activities fall into three key buckets: general activities, volunteer work, and work experience. We have gathered data from the Top 50 US colleges who have ranked these three categories on a scale of 1-4, with 4 being the most important. We have analyzed and collected the data in the trailing 5 years.

General extracurricular activities

In this bucket, school clubs, out of school community organizations, and competitions fall. Schools like Princeton, University of Florida, and Case Western consider general extracurricular activities one of the most important characteristics of the college admissions process. University of Notre Dame, Harvard, and Tulane are some schools that do not care as much about extracurricular activities.

Volunteer work

Using the same sort feature, we can select schools that care the most about volunteer work. Schools like Washington University in St. Louis, University of California Irvine, and College of William and Mary care the most about volunteer work.

Other schools like Yale, Princeton, and Stanford mark volunteer work as 2/4 (considered, but not important).

Of course, you have to look at these values with respect to the other 17 variables that we have on our site. For example, Harvard ranks most of these 17 variables as 2/4, so many variables are considered but not many are important.

Work experience

Work experience is another area that many students ask us about in the college admissions process. We find that Washington University in St. Louis, University of Virginia, and Carnegie Mellon are three schools that consider work experience as important or very important.

On the other side, we can change the sorting function to find schools that do not look that closely at work experience. Dartmouth, Wake Forest, and Stanford are three schools that fit this category.

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