How Much Do Extracurricular Activities Matter To Colleges?

There is a memorable scene in the early 2000s WB comedy/drama “Gilmore Girls” where Rory, the younger of the two titular girls, is at a construction site with her friend, archnemesis, and future Yale roommate Paris Geller. They are building a house for Habitat for Humanity, organized through their school. Where Rory is basically holding a hammer for the first time, she finds that Paris is a near construction expert. Paris has been doing these types of events for years in order to bolster her resume for Harvard. Rory, equally set on going to Harvard, is shocked by this revelation.

Rory had no idea that the extracurricular activities she participated in could have just as much of an effect on her college resume as her academic performance did. This is a common revelation for students when college application time rolls around. Unfortunately, as Rory figured out quickly, this is the wrong time to have a realization like this. If you are a month out from your due date for your college applications and you realize you need more volunteer work, club participation, and student government positions on your resume, you will be totally out of luck.

Luckily, I’m letting you know right now: extracurricular activities are a crucial part of your college application which colleges put a lot of weight into. It may seem unusual. Your education should be what matters, right? Colleges are going to be concerned with grades first and foremost, but for a variety of reasons, every college program, from Norwich University’s mba degree online to Northwestern University, cares deeply about their possible students’ participation in extracurricular activities. Laid out here are a few of those reasons.

Everyone has Good Grades

As you may know, when you are applying to great colleges, there can be a ten percent or less chance that you will get in. Not because of anything you have done wrong — just because that’s how few students they accept. Some schools go down to as low as five percent of applicants accepted yearly. So when choosing which of the remaining seven percent get to be in the five percent that actually get in, some distinctions need to be made. At that point, everyone has a 5.0 GPA and great SAT scores. Extracurricular activities can set you apart.

They can be a Judge of Character, not Just Smarts

Colleges want their students to make them look good by being intelligent, successful people. They also need students to make them look good by being respectful and caring, and staying out of trouble. What you spent your time doing outside of school is a better test of this than how you did in school.

Extracurricular Activities are in a Vacuum

Grades can be tricky because in a lot of ways they lack context, like who the teacher was, and what the work level was. Extracurricular activities are pretty one-dimensional — you either did a lot or you didn’t. There is not much context that can change that.

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