How to (Really) Impress Admissions with Extracurriculars

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Empowerly Team
Empowerly Team

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Everyone wants to look bright, engaged, and talented when it comes to their extracurriculars. In fact, most high school students engage in a variety of activities—and that’s great! High school is a great time to experiment, explore and figure out what your interests and passions are. As a result, however, your resume can look like a list of hodge-podge activities and interests. Let’s discuss how to actually impress admissions with your extracurriculars to make your hard work count!

The problem…

Colleges get thousands and thousands of applicants promising the world. Admissions officers see plenty of the all-star student athlete who juggles 2 jobs; volunteers at 3 different non-profits; and still has time to bake cupcakes for the annual charity fundraiser. How can we compete?

Resist this temptation!

It might seem like a good tactic to throw everything at the board and hope something sticks. But college admissions counselors, as well as elite college consultants, advise students to be a little more discerning when it comes to selecting activities for their resume. Your list of EC’s should tell a story, and many of your activities should not make the list if they don’t add to your narrative.


The key is to narrow and hone your list down to include exactly what tells a specific story about yourself, who you hope to be in college, and possibly beyond.

Now, that’s difficult to do. Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile; the best resumes, according to college officials, are those that tell a straight narrative. The best applicants go even further, and expound upon those specific activities (1 or 2) in their essays. What’s more, instead of just listing accomplishments and results, they take a step further. These resumes illustrate how the demonstrated activity changed you as an individual or created some sort of profound impact in their life.

Case study example

It’s one thing to know what you have to do in order to impress admissions with your extracurriculars. It’s another thing to understand it in action! To help you visualize how this applies to you, here’s an example of two students with similar GPA/SAT profiles:

Student 1:

Sarah has a list of varied EC activities, discusses how versatile she is, and re-lists most of her activities in an essay. Readers can tell she is trying to pack in as much as she can, in an attempt to showcase how much she has accomplished and done.

Student 2:

Katy has the same list of EC activities. Instead of summarily listing all the activities in one essay, she makes the difficult (but necessary) choice of selecting one activity that she feels most passionate about. She then goes in depth, and makes sure to connect the activity to her own personal growth, changed perspective, personal impact and accomplishments.


While both students have similar grades and stats, Katy is more memorable because her essay highlights specific instances. This matters because she was able to do a better job at showcasing her personality than Sarah.

In summary

So, when it comes down to it, the best thing you can do for your resume is often the last step: editing.

There are a number of ways to do this, the easiest being listing out every single activity you’ve done and then filtering your list by a number of factors. These factors may include: level of commitment/ hours, leadership level, impact, relationship to your future college major or desired profession, etc.

If you need help figuring out how to framework your EC’s or what activities to pursue, make sure to connect with an Empowerly college counselor. Our expert team can help you decide what to highlight, and how to make the most of your application. Don’t wait!

Questions? Let us know!