If you’re applying for college, you’ve probably heard that colleges want to see a record of extracurricular activities on your high school transcript.But how many extracurriculars do you need—and can you participate too much?
Yes, you can participate too much—if your extracurricular activities are interfering with your ability to get the best grades possible. While schools are looking for activities, what they’re looking for most is grades. They want to see that you’ve taken the at least some of the most challenging classes available to you in your high school, and that you’ve done well in these classes. And they want to see an outstanding GPA. If you have to choose between an A and an activity, the decision should be a no-brainer.
As for the number of activities, you don’t have to join everything in sight. What colleges like to see is commitment to one or a few activities over the course of a few years. Ideally, they like to see that you’ve taken on leadership positions in these activities. For example, writing extensively for the high school newspaper for four years, and then becoming the editor, looks fantastic, even if that’s your only activity. Belonging to a dozen activities for shorter periods of time with no leadership position doesn’t look nearly as strong.
In addition, colleges like to see activities that relate to other parts of your application, including your proposed major, if you have one. If you’re the editor of your school newspaper and want to major in English or journalism, that looks great.
This doesn’t mean you can’t join activities just because they sound fun, or that you can’t try out a bunch of stuff until you find something you like. However, keep in mind that some extracurriculars look better than others, and that you can overdo it if your grades suffer.