High school is a crucial time for students as they prepare for their future careers and higher education. One important aspect of the high school experience that often goes overlooked is the importance of extracurricular activities. These activities can range from sports teams to clubs to volunteer work and can play a significant role in a student’s university application. They not only provide students with valuable skills and experiences, but they also demonstrate to universities that the student is well-rounded and has a passion for something outside of academics. For this article, we have invited the College Counselor, Marina Duque from Aquinas American School (Madrid, Spain), to explain the importance of extracurricular activities during high school and how they can benefit your university application.

What are extracurricular activities?

Extracurricular activities complement an academic curriculum and include sports, arts, community service, educational clubs, employment… Any activity that is not part of the regular curriculum and is structured around a goal or purpose.

Why are extracurricular activities important?

Participating in these types of activities is an excellent way to expand your social circle, get new skills and expand your knowledge. Extracurricular activities demonstrate initiative, interest, and motivation. Yet, the most important is to use these for two purposes: 

  1. To learn what you like and dislike, and 
  2. To discover or confirm your field of interest.

I have had many students realize that they were not that interested in a certain field once they engaged in an activity.

How to get started with extracurricular activities?

Volunteering is always an opportunity to start; try to get involved in what you think you might be interested in: 

  • If you like to teach and enjoy spending time with children: tutor younger students at your school, volunteer in a summer camp.
  • If you like sports: participate in the organization of a marathon or in any sports events, organize a summer camp for your cousins and younger siblings.
  • If you like to be crafty: make something you like: sewing, knitting, carpentry, or programming.
  • If you like to read or are curious about a subject: research, create a blog, prove a point, and write about it.
  • If you like a STEM subject: tutor younger kids or organize a club at your school.
  • If you are interested in business: create your own small business, create a business plan, and research your competitors, your distribution channels, and your suppliers…. Even if you don’t end up creating the business, just the process of learning about it will be very valuable.

There are many ways of learning: internships, through friends, family, groups, charitable organizations, talking to people, reaching out and your counselor will help you develop ideas.

Universities like to see students that are engaged and work on activities with a purpose and not those that just dabble in many extracurricular activities for the sake of creating a list. The new word is SUPRACURRICULAR activities: those that are focused on your field of interest and are much more valuable than those with no specific interest.

Marina Duque de Mulvihill
With a Spanish father and an American mother, Marina has a broad international perspective. Having studied in Switzerland and Italy, high school in Spain, and attended Georgetown University and FIT, broadening her business studies at IESE. She is certified in College Counseling by UCLA-extension. Marina’s interest lies in working with students to help them discover their passion and expose them to new areas of study that will help them develop their full potential.