College Help: Extracurricular Activities and Résumés

Whether you’re a senior or a freshman, extracurriculars are important if you’re hoping to go to college. Colleges want to know that you are an interesting, well-rounded person, so even if you have awesome test scores and a 4.0, most colleges will also expect you to have other activities in your life. It doesn’t always matter what you do, just that you care about it and that you have devoted a lot of time and effort to that activity. (The only exception may be community service, because most colleges want every student to have done some sort of volunteering).

When it comes to extracurriculars, definitely go for quality over quantity. Colleges will look more highly on someone who has been volunteering at an animal shelter for three years than someone who has belonged to ten clubs for only a year. In addition to the length of time that you have devoted to activities, colleges will look for evidence of leadership (such as being a club president or a team captain) and possibly talent (if you are a championship athlete or virtuoso musician or something). These are also good for your extracurriculars, and special talents may require that you do an extra résumé, application supplement, or tryout to demonstrate your abilities to colleges.

Creating Your High School Resume

So if you’re still early on in high school, discover an activity that you really enjoy and stick with it. If you’re already a senior, hopefully you have a few extracurriculars already, but you can always think about trying something over the summer, too.  

On the Common Application, colleges will want you to describe your extracurriculars in the Activities section.   The best option is to pack as much information into this section as you can, and organize your activities according to how much you care about them (remember to include work experience, too—that is also important to colleges!). In the case that you simply can’t fit everything into this section, you may need to create a résumé, too. If you haven’t done one before, search the internet for some examples or find an online résumé-builder to get an idea of what it should look like. You will want to include headings like:

  • Academics    

    (for listing your Honors/AP/IB classes and any other college-level classes or programs),

  • School Leadership/Activities (for clubs, ASB, and such),
  • Extracurricular Activities (for sports, music, drama, writing, and other interest-based activities),
  • Volunteer Activities (for community service of any kind),
  • Work Experience (for any paid jobs you’ve had),
  • Academic Honors (for honor roll, awards, etc.). 

For each activity you list, briefly explain what you did, when you did it, and if you had any honors or leadership. Here is a sample community service entry:


Evergreen Homework Center (11, 12)

  • Tutored high school students in math and physics twice weekly before school
  • Perfect Attendance Award (11)

Seattle Volunteer Info

Notice that the entry lists the activity, the grade levels when the student participated, what exactly the student did, as well as an award the student earned from that activity. If you structure your résumé entries the same way, they will have all the info you need. Just remember: only send a résumé to colleges if you cannot fit everything into the Activities section on the Common App, or if the college specially requests one. Summer is the perfect time to draft some résumés, so go ahead and try it out!

Post by Callan, Teen Blogger

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