March 20, 2023

By Leanne Soulard

It’s a question we get all the time: How many extracurricular activities should I do to get into a good college. (There it is again, that expression: a good college.) Let’s clear that up first, shall we? A good college is any college that can offer you the academic and social experiences that you desire to have, and also one that you can afford. A good college is determined by you, not college rankings.

Now back to the question of extracurricular activities, an area of your application which is evaluated more on quality than it is quantity. In other words, colleges aren’t interested in how many ECs you participate in but rather how deeply you participate in the ones that matter most to you. This is supported by the directions on how to complete the Activities section of your Common Application: Please list your activities in the order of their importance to you.

So the real question is: How do I maximize my free time to grow and capitalize on the activities that matter most to me?

A lot has been written about the stress that students feel when it comes to balancing their academic and extracurricular activities. If you are or know a high school student, then you know what I’m talking about. The good news is that this is a problem with a somewhat simple remedy: let go of the things that deplete your energy instead of filling you up. That’s right…we’re giving you permission to say no to some of your commitments so that you can show up to others with a giant YES!

Summer is right around the corner and there’s no time like the present to determine how you can maximize those YES activities. Once you’ve figured out what those are, here are some suggestions for using your time in a way that fills you up:

  1. Conduct research into your favorite passion project. This is a self-designed opportunity to delve deeper into something that really interests or excites you. Curious about the impact of AI on human jobs? Looking for ways to impact climate change in your own community? Wondering about the economic impact of the banking crisis on the middle class? This short article breaks down the process of conducting meaningful independent research that will help you stand out in the admissions process.


  1. Take a college-level class. College classes have never been easier to find at both two- and four-year institutions. Interested in American Sign Language? Take a class. Want to learn a new language? Take a class. Want to learn how to draw? Take a class. This is an excellent way to demonstrate your academic and intellectual interests to admission counselors. It doesn’t need to be connected to your intended major, either. If you are sincerely interested in learning how to cook gourmet vegetarian meals, don’t let anyone tell you that learning how to do that is a waste of your time. Those hours you’ll spend in the kitchen are just one of the many things you do that make you interesting to colleges!


  1. Volunteer your time doing something that is meaningful to you. The most important thing to remember when you are trying to decide how and where to volunteer your time? Choose something that you are genuinely interested in so that you can show up with that giant YES every day. If you’re not really interested in spending time with the elderly, then don’t do it. The elderly deserve more and so do you. Instead, offer your time to younger students who want to learn how to play the clarinet, become a better soccer player, or learn to code. Or maybe you can spend quality time with the elderly by helping them learn how to use email to keep in touch with family or social media basics so that they can keep up with their grandchildren. If you are passionate about something then you can help others become passionate about it, as well.


Wishing you all the best in planning the most meaningful summer of your high school years!

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