You’ve worked on getting a high GPA. Your standardized test scores are strong. You’re ready to apply for college, right?
Well, maybe not quite yet. While it’s true that grades and test scores are important factors in college admissions, most schools are also looking for well-developed, mature individuals. Meaning that colleges are seeking students who have interests, passions, and pursuits outside of the classroom.
Which is where high school clubs come in. Joining clubs in high school (or organizations, teams, and leagues) not only allows you to meet friends, explore your interests, and have fun, but they are also a key ingredient in college admissions.
What you gain from extracurricular activities—and why colleges like it
Colleges are looking for students who engage in extracurricular activities—like joining high school clubs—because these students demonstrate qualities that are necessary for success in college. Extracurriculars can also show admissions committees what an applicant would contribute to the campus community.
Here are some of the important qualities you could demonstrate to admissions officers when you join clubs in high school:
Commitment to a cause or task
Obtaining a college degree takes most students at least four years of dedicated study, action, and growth. It’s a serious time and energy commitment, and schools want to see that students they admit are up to the task of seeing it through.
Joining clubs in high school shows that you’re willing to take on the responsibility and extra work it takes to follow your passions. Sticking with those clubs over some time showcases your commitment to your interests and goals—and, potentially, your commitment to finishing college.
If you’re just starting high school, find a club you enjoy and try to stick with it for the next two to four years to develop a key ingredient for your future college applications. If you’re applying to college now, be sure to highlight your longest-running extracurricular commitment in your submission.
Top U.S. schools are looking for prospective students with leadership potential. Participation in high school clubs is one way to demonstrate to admissions officers that you possess leadership qualities and experience that you would bring to their campus.
It’s especially important to demonstrate in your college application how you gained leadership roles in clubs in high school. For example, if you joined a club or team as a freshman, and then moved into a leadership position later, as a junior or senior, you’ll want to talk about your journey within the club and how you advanced within it.
This type of movement—from club member to leader—is progressive and shows the admissions team that you’re recognized by your peers for your leadership abilities.
Colleges and universities want to know what you’ll contribute to the campus and surrounding communities. As a member of certain clubs in high school, it’s possible that you gained community or school service experience. Reflect on how this service has impacted you.
Maybe your club or team conducts regular volunteer outreach activities, or you joined a club like a student government. If there is a way that your high school club engages with the school or local community, mentioning it in your application shows the application committee that you’d be an active member of their campus.
Interested in pursuing a law degree? Joining your school’s mock trial club is a good way to learn more about the subject. It also might help you discover a career as a trial lawyer is not for you, leading you to find your real academic interests.
Whether you choose a major based on your high school club or not, this discovery process is something you could highlight in your college application. Extracurriculars help you explore and solidify your academic goals—and tell prospective schools you’re a serious candidate for higher education.
Unique passions or interests
One way to stand out from the college applicant crowd is through your unique passions or interests. College admissions officers read thousands of application packages every year. Many of them start to look the same. An application that contains something quirky or unexpected will catch their attention.
But you want to catch their attention in a good way. Joining a club, organization, or team that explores your interests is one way to do that! The built-in structure means you’ll be able to showcase your unique talents in a way that is also familiar to the admissions committee and indicates additional sought-after qualities like commitment and leadership.
Other advantages to extracurricular activities
In addition to building the kinds of qualities schools are looking for in their applicant pool, joining a high school club gives you countless other advantages. Maybe you’ve already started creating amazing memories with your high school friends; maybe not. Regardless, it’s never too late to start checking off your bucket list. High school is an ideal time to get outside of your comfort zone.
One of the top advantages for many students is the opportunity to meet friends. In a club or on a team, you might connect with peers you wouldn’t normally see in the classroom. If the club is city-wide, you might even meet friends from other schools.
Clubs are also a way to try new things and explore your interests. If you’ve ever been curious about foreign languages, creative writing, or history, there’s probably a club for that. If there isn’t, start one yourself!
Lastly, joining high school clubs is just plain fun. Be sure to enjoy all the extra advantages to extracurricular activities in addition to adding them as a key ingredient to your college admissions plan.
Club ideas for high school
Not sure what high school clubs to join? It’s usually best to get involved with activities, interests, and causes that you truly care about. You want something that you’ll stick with for at least two years to be able to show dedication.
Here are some common club ideas for high school students:
- Student government
- Yearbook club
- Mock trial
- Athletic clubs and teams
- Debate club
- Model UN
- National Science Bowl
- Chess club
- LGBTQI+ club
- Foreign language club
- Math club
Still need club ideas for high school? Here are some unique clubs you can join or even start at your own school:
- Video game club
- A capella club
- Fashion club
- Anime club
- Film appreciation club
- Community service club
- Poetry slam team
- World cuisine club
Bottom line, if you’re passionate about something, there just might be a club for that. Join them! And if the club doesn’t exist, start it yourself.
Whatever your path, remember that clubs can be a key ingredient in college admissions, as well as a fun, friend-building experience for your high school years.