Preparing to attend a US university requires choosing rigorous courses, preparing for the SAT or ACT, and also investing in extracurricular pursuits. In fact, the key difference between the US and other global higher education systems is the emphasis placed on extracurricular activities.

Students often ask what activities they should invest in to maximise their chance of admittance to their top schools. At A-List, we encourage students to choose activities they authentically enjoy so spending time doing them brings fulfilment rather than drains or distracts. Our experience has borne out this belief. US universities want to understand students’ interests, values, and passion projects to determine if they would contribute to the campus community. Thus, it is in your, and your future university’s best interest, to choose extracurricular pursuits in line with your personality and talents. 

When choosing activities and pursuing them, it is important that you consider how this activity will impact you and others. Impact matters because it gives the university a sense of how this experience has shaped you as a person, affected your personal growth, and benefitted others and your community. If you currently have a passion project but are unsure of how to develop outcomes and have an impact, please do feel free to reach out to an advisor for support! 

When it comes How you frame these activities also helps the admissions reader learn more about you.

US universities particularly care about the following criteria: 

  • If you’re the first to do something 
  • If you’re the best at something (you’ll especially emphasise these in your honours list) 
  • If you’re the only person to do something or hold a particular position 
  • Breadth: Show that you have multiple interests and are a well-rounded person; highlight the variety of things you do
  • Depth: Even more important than breadth, is how involved you are in a particular activity and your commitment to it over time and on a deeper level (your extracurricular list will ask you how long you have been engaged in an activity.) 
  • Quantify your impact and accomplishments: How many people do you serve or help? How many people were you chosen from for that award or leadership position? How much did you raise for charity? 

As you plan your extracurricular activities, please keep these evaluation criteria in mind! If you would like support, please feel free to reach out to our Advising Team.

Extracurricular Activities: Why They Matter
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