Extracurricular activities are great fun, but when it comes to college admission applications, they should provide a glimpse of your lifestyle and personality. Your list of activities will be a track record that tells the college representative something about your participation, but also about your commitment to a goal, your depth of interests, and your attitude.
How important are extracurricular activities?
Extracurricular activities should not overwhelm you to the point that they affect your grades. It is unwise to become involved in activities that don't leave time for homework!
How many should I shoot for?
The important thing to remember is that you should be involved for the right reasons. Don't overdo it and start signing up for everything, thinking your list will be more impressive.
Colleges look for depth as well as breadth. For many college representatives, a list of ten different activities each year will be a red flag.
The best idea is to have a few long-term activities to demonstrate commitment and a few diverse activities to show that you are interested in the world around you.
Is it important to volunteer for community service?
Community service is great, if your heart is really in it. However, if you try to do something like this just for the credit, you won't be doing yourself any favor. You probably won't last very long, and it certainly wouldn't look good to do something deep and meaningful for a short period of time and then drop out. Stick with what interests you!
What if I have a job and can't commit to an extracurricular activity?
The college representatives who review your application will be looking for an overall view of your life. If you have special circumstances that prevent you from participating in school activities, by all means, say so!
Include your job as part of your activities and then explain in great writing why you don't have time for other activities.
What if my parents can't afford the costs that come with clubs and sports?
If you can't participate because of financial stress on your family, then explain how you find a way to overcome that disadvantage. Your ability to express yourself in writing will get you a long way.
Have you tried to find an independent activity that doesn't strain the family budget?
Remember that independent activities count! Do you have a pen pal in Spain? You could have. Could you start a podcast club? Do you design web pages or write poetry?
A thoughtful explanation about your life and choices will make all the difference on your application. Also keep in mind that there are great summertime options that can make all the difference if you maintain a job.
You could volunteer to teach swimming in the early morning hours, for instance. Be creative!