As early as freshman year in high school, students are encouraged to get involved in extracurricular activities for a lot of reasons. Joining clubs and/or sports teams, volunteering at local organizations, and so on are all fantastic ways to make new friends, explore or discover your interests and perhaps share your strengths and skills with others. You’ve also no doubt heard that, “they’re great for your college application.”

And while it’s true that admissions teams want to see that involvement, it might not be why you think. Yes, we want to know that you’ll be active here and found a passion or hobby that excites you, but there’s more to it. Here’s what Siena’s VP for Enrollment Management Ned Jones says about the importance of extracurriculars.

There's a lot of pressure these days for kids to get involved in extracurriculars so that their college applications stand out. Is that actually a big factor for admissions?

Too much of the attention being involved in high school is on leveraging that activity to set yourself apart in the college search process. For some places where the acceptance rates are so low (20% or less) this may be true, but still not valuable.

So why should students get involved?

The value in activities is how it prepares you for success in college. We know that those involved in activities in college are those who are most successful. It is where they meet their friends. Friends who help them solve problems, friends who make them want to be a part of the college, friends who stay with them for a lifetime. We know that being involved in high school helps you master time management skills, they help you hone skills of teamwork, accountability, and trust—all skills needed for success in college and success in life.

Do you think it's better for someone to dabble in a lot of extracurriculars, or choose just a couple and try to rise to the top in those?

I think it is better to follow your heart. What do you love to do? Do it! Being involved in high school is not a short-term strategy, and it is not something you should do to just "get admitted to your top college." It is something you should do to live a full, successful and happy life. What makes you happy? If it is one, two, three or more activities, that’s great. The bottom line, as Nike would suggest, "Just Do It!" 

When or where would you recommend high school students bring up their extracurriculars? 

College applications provide you a wonderful format to share your activities with colleges. I'd also suggest you share them with colleges in resume format.  Again, this is not to simply present yourself in an positive light to the admissions committee; this is about building a foundation to your life story.  Once you begin to apply to jobs, this foundation will be easily transformed into your LinkedIn profile and your resume!

Freshmen, sophomores, juniors: Want to hear more from Ned and Siena’s admissions teams?

Seniors, ready to tell us about your extracurriculars?