How to Write a Great Extracurricular Activity Essay: Complete Guide + Examples

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If you’re applying to selective colleges, chances are you’ll be asked to write about how you’ve spent your time outside of school.

While these questions are sometimes worded differently (see examples below in the FAQ), they generally sound something like this:

Tell us about one or more of your extracurricular activities. 

In this post, I’ll share some practical tips for how to write about your extracurricular involvement in your college essays. But first, answers to a few commonly asked questions.

Q: Why do so many schools ask about extracurricular activities?

A: Simply put, they’re a great way to learn about the skills/qualities/values/experiences you’ve had that (and this is important) you haven’t already described in your personal statement . 

Q: Do I really have to write it?

A: If a school asks for it, yes. If a school makes it optional, probably still write it. Why? If you don’t, it’s a missed opportunity. And also because you have this really great step-by-step guide in front of you that’s gonna’ show you how to crush it.

Q: What are some supplemental essay prompts that can be considered “extracurricular activity essays?”

Here are a few you might see:

“Briefly discuss the significance to you of the school or summer activity in which you have been most involved.” (Georgetown University)

“Please briefly elaborate on an extracurricular activity or work experience of particular significance to you.” (Amherst College)

“Please provide more details on your most meaningful commitment outside of the classroom while in high school and explain why it was meaningful. This could be related to an extracurricular activity, work, volunteering, an academic activity, family responsibility, or any other non-classroom activity.” (University of Florida)

And while some prompts don’t mention the word “activity,” the techniques in this post can still help you answer prompts like these: 

“Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.”  (The University of California Schools)

“Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.”  (The University of California Schools)

“What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?”  (The University of California Schools)  

Ready? Let’s do this.

How do I decide which extracurricular activity to write about?

My answer to this is simple: Complete the BEABIES exercise for the activities you’re debating writing about and see which one yields the best possible content.

For the sake of argument, let’s say there are four types of extracurricular activities:

Passion Projects (something you love and would do for free even if it didn’t help your chances of getting into college)

Rockstar Achievements (those in which you’ve won something or held a leadership position)

One Hit Wonders (things you did once)

I’ve Played Piano for 14 Years But I Hate It (something your parents have made you do since you were a kid and you’re either too nice or too afraid to tell them you don’t want to do it anymore, or maybe you kinda still like it but don’t love it)

So which one should you write about?

Okay, ideally, your passion project is the one you’ve turned into a Rockstar Achievement. If so, write about that.

But what if you have to choose? What if you’ve been a part of both:

something very personal that has a strong WHY component (passion project), and

something less personal that has an impressive WOW (rockstar achievement)

Which do you write about?

In general, if your rockstar achievement has...

a) earned you recognition

b) demonstrated your leadership potential, and

c) required you to shoulder some real responsibilities.

...then I’d say write about your rockstar achievement.

Why? A couple reasons:

The first, kind of superficial reason is this:

Readers are zipping through your application at a pretty good clip and while they are somewhat interested in who you are (which is what I think your main personal statement is for) they’re also interested in what you’ve done. Don’t leave out that second part.

Here’s an example:

If you’re choosing between your passion for listening to different kinds of music, for example, and the time you won Nationals in ACADECA , consider writing about winning ACADECA.

Why else should you do this?

If you’ve put in hours and hours of work prepping for and winning ACADECA and you don’t write about it, that’s what in the college admissions world we call a missed opportunity. Or, what they call in Vegas, leaving money on the table.

Here’s an exception! What if you have to choose between either:

a.) that time you won a small award in something you didn’t care a whole lot about, or

b.) a passion project that’s really cool and that makes you stand out?

What if, for example, you won a Certificate of Merit in the 9th grade for playing violin and you’re still in the orchestra but it’s not a really big deal to you because your REAL passion—the thing that keeps you up ‘til 3am—is your passion for constructed languages. That’s right, making up your own language. (This is a real example, by the way.)


For reals. That’s ‘cause constructed languages are the bomb. Actually, I never really knew there was such a thing as ConLang, as the cool kids call it, until one of my students wrote an awesome essay about his passion for constructed languages.

So, in short, opt for the passion project if it’s something really cool and geeky. And by geeky I mean something that you know so much about that when someone mentions it you start talking really fast and start using arcane vocabulary that makes people go, “Wha?”

And unfortunately, your 1,000 hrs spent building up three Level 90 Warriors in World of Warcraft doesn’t count as a “WOW” project. Unless you started a WoW club that held a fundraiser for victims of epilepsy and donated the money. 

Finally, here’s a question I get a lot:

Student: But what if I’ve already written about my most impressive extracurricular activity in my main personal statement or in another essay the school is receiving?

Me: Then write about your second most impressive extracurricular activity.

Click here for more tips on how to write an extracurricular essay without rockstar achievements.

How to Structure Your Extracurricular Essay

When it comes to your extracurricular activity essay, you’ll either describe a challenge or series of challenges you’ve encountered and overcome, or you won’t. I’ve developed a structure that works for each case.

The first is what I call the “Elon Musk” approach and it works well for students who have addressed or overcome a challenge through their extracurricular activity. 

The second is called the “Uncommon Connections” approach and works well for students who are not writing about a challenge they’ve encountered through an extracurricular activity. 

But heads-up: you don’t have to pick an approach right now. In fact, don’t yet. Read through both techniques and see which might work better. 

The Narrative Approach (aka The Elon Musk Exercise)

This approach works particularly well for: 

Any extracurricular essay about overcoming a challenge

Any volunteer or community service essay

Any social issue essay, for example that asks “What are you interested in?” or “What’s one problem you would like to solve?”

This structure was inspired by an article written by Andy Raskin that analyzes a pitch Elon Musk gave on the Powerwall. What’s the Powerwall? It doesn’t much matter for this exercise, but it’s basically a better, more eco-friendly battery. Here’s Raskin's take on Musk’s pitch:

“Musk’s delivery isn’t stellar. He’s self-conscious and fidgety. But at the end, his audience cheers. For a battery. That’s because Musk does five things right that you should emulate in every pitch you ever make to anybody.”

While reading Raskin’s article I realized (because I’m the College Essay Guy and this is where my brain is half the time) Musk’s approach could easily be applied to a wide range of extracurricular essay topics, so I adapted the structure, added a step, and created an approach that will help you map out a challenges-based extracurricular essay in about ten minutes. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Identify the problem. 

Describe the challenge you were (or are currently) facing. The problem could be something global, like an environmental issue, or something more local, like a lack of creative opportunities in your high school.

Step 2: Raise the stakes. 

Help us understand: Why was (or is) overcoming this challenge important? What might happen if this problem went (or goes) unchecked? 

Step 3: Describe what you did. 

Tell us the specific things you (or you and your team) did to solve the problem.

Step 4: Clarify your role. 

Describe your particular involvement. Why were (or are) you crucial to the project or club’s success?

Step 5: Share the impact you had, lessons you learned, or values you gained. 

Provide specific evidence that gives us a sense that your work mattered. I’ll show you some ways to do this in a minute.

Think that’s too much to do in one essay? 

Behold. An essay that does it:

The Catalyzing Creativity Club

I live in the suburb of Los Angeles, California, known to its residents as the bubble. It has the perfect weather, location, and schools. As amazing as it sounds, however, growing up in La Cañada Flintridge has its drawbacks: the community pressures adolescents to achieve success through mainly academic means. While this approach isn’t necessarily wrong, it can be difficult, particularly in my high school, to thrive in a creative and imaginative way.

Sophomore year, my friends and I began to wonder, What if the teenagers of La Cañada had greater opportunities to express themselves. To pursue their creativity. To follow their dreams.

That’s when we decided to start the Catalyzing Creativity Club. 

Founded two years ago, the Catalyzing Creativity Club (C3, for short), provides students in our community the opportunity to pursue their passion and aspirations outside the classroom. 

Some of our opportunities include: a yearly music festival for our community’s young aspiring musicians that showcases local talent to the masses and scouts; a technology expo, which allows students to be rewarded with funding and demonstrate their coding abilities to prospective companies; recording sessions for aspiring musicians, photo-publishing competitions, and a variety of guest speakers ranging from nineteen-year-old college seniors to millionaire entrepreneurs. In addition, we have a blog for aspiring writers to publish their work and are holding a shoe drive for underprivileged athletes. 

As vice president of finances for C3, I work to ensure we can fund these activities. I handle our bank account, fundraising, and organize the event planning. Moreover, I make sure that C3’s activities and finances are approved by and follow the guidelines of my high school. This role is crucial, as we work to achieve non-profit status. 

Even though C3 is only a few years old, I believe it is already making an impact in the community. As we grow and the opportunities we provide become more popular, our hope is to inspire our peers to follow their dreams and burst the La Cañada Flintridge bubble. (332 words)

Brief Notes and Analysis of this Essay

Check out how the third paragraph is basically a straightforward listing of the club’s accomplishments. This was pulled directly from the bullet points of his BEABIES exercise. (See above for more.) It works.

Notice how specific he gets in the fourth paragraph where he clarifies why he was essential to the club’s success. Doing this helps us understand that he was more than just a passive participant who showed up to meetings. 

Another potential use of your extracurricular essay is to expand on something you only mentioned briefly in your personal statement. In this case, the author mentioned in his personal statement that he’s “a numbers guy” and the fourth paragraph in this essay expands on why numbers are meaningful to him. 

If he’d had more room, he could have potentially expanded in the final paragraph on the club’s impact, describing specific ways the community changed, or personal lessons learned. But again, not every essay has to be perfect (and not every element has to be included) in order for this structure to work. 

Here’s another wonderful, imperfect example that uses this structure:

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Last year, nearly 600 earthquakes hit my hometown of Reno in a ‘swarm’. Although the magnitudes of these quakes ranged from 2.5 to 3.7, the constant fear and anxiety of impending doom rose in the community. A disaster is unprecedented and unpredictable and, in our community, we always acknowledged their occurrence elsewhere but never fully admitted that a large-scale catastrophe may happen at our doorsteps.

Recognizing this unspoken apathy, I decided to take a step beyond my school club and get involved in the community chapter of the Reno Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services team. As I was learning the basics of preparedness i.e., general earthquake and fire safety drills, I realized that if disaster were to strike, the majority of people in my community could not confidently say that they are prepared. As part of the DCS committee, it is my goal to increase the confidence of as many youth and families as possible.

During my training, I accompanied volunteers during the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, where we installed and updated smoke alarms and detectors in over thirty low income households in the Reno area, free of charge. I began teaching the “Pillowcase Project” in local elementary schools, leading workshops in and instilling the importance of disaster preparedness for the youngest of children.

Representing DCS on the Youth Executive Board for our local chapter, I also led a Youth in Disaster Services Seminar, where we trained young adults in CPR Certification as well as basic Shelter Fundamentals.

Through my work with the Red Cross, and in my interactions with survivors and rescuers who assisted during Hurricane Katrina, I’ve come to discover how teaching even just small preparedness procedures to individuals can help save entire communities.

The impact of disaster services reverberates throughout our communities, both at home and internationally. It is a selfless, necessary job in which youth, as the future generation of an ever-changing disaster prone world, must take urgent action.

As you can see, this structure can work for either local, more personal problems (as described in the “Catalyzing Creativity Club” essay) or larger-scale problems (as described in the “Earthquakes” essay).  

These two examples are similar in that the middle includes specific, straightforward details pulled directly from the “What I did” column of the BEABIES exercise.

The elements of this structure can be used in whatever order makes sense for your story. In this essay, for example, the author chose to conclude with a “Why now”/ Raise the Stakes moment to provide a call to action that creates a sense of urgency and helps us understand the importance of her work. I appreciate that this puts the focus not on the author, but on the value of the work she is doing and, while this may feel counterintuitive, her decision to draw attention to her cause actually draws me to her as a college applicant even more. Why? She’s saying, “It’s not about me—it’s about the work we’re doing.” And that’s something I want in a leader.

All right, enough analysis. Time for you to get to work.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Brainstorming and Writing a Narrative (Challenges-Based) Extracurricular Essay

Step 1: Complete the BEABIES Exercise . 

This will take you 15-30 minutes and provide all the content you need to write your essay. 

Here’s a tip: The more time you spend working on this chart the easier it’ll be to write your essay. Students who spend 10 minutes on this exercise will have an outline; students who spend 20 minutes or more will have all the content they need to write their essay.

Once you’ve completed the BEABIES exercise…

Step 2: Choose a problem. 

Decide which problem you want to use to start your essay. Some more examples from past students: 

“Our campus was divided into separate social groups...”  “Our music program was at risk of being shut down...”  “We didn’t have adequate sports equipment…” “A hurricane had recently flooded our nearby town and we wanted to help…” “Maternal mortality rates were extremely high in the community where we were working…”  

Draw us in. Get us to wonder how one might solve this problem.

Step 3: Raise the stakes.

Help us understand why this problem was/is important to solve. Why do we need to act now?

Step 4: Tell us what you did about it.

This content will come directly from the first column of your BEABIES exercise. As I’ve said, if you spend some quality time thinking about your bullet points, you’ll have all the content you need for this section. 

Step 5: Tell us why you were/are crucial to the project or club’s success.

Many students skip this step, but it can be useful in helping us understand your particular gifts, skills, and strengths. Consider: 

Did you draw on knowledge you’d gained elsewhere (like your musical talents, or your love of research)? 

Did you learn to do something brand new for this project (like coding, for example, or how to ask local business owners for donations)?

Imagine your team was a team trying to pull off a heist in one of those action movies (not literally, but go with me). What was your special talent that qualified you to be there? Were you the visionary, inspiring the team to dream bigger? Or the team parent, sending reminder texts and making sure everyone was eating enough?   

Step 6: Show us the impact.

While this is perhaps the most important part of the extracurricular essay, many students struggle to articulate the impact of their work. And it’s no surprise—even nonprofits and large organizations struggle to articulate the impact of their work. Here are some ways to think about impact: 

Numbers (Ex: “In the past year, club membership has tripled” or “We raised over $1,200 to buy new books for the library!”)

Anecdotal evidence of impact, or quotations (Ex: “We’ve received numerous requests to return next year” or “Last week, a first-year student named Elena wrote me an email to say, ‘Thank you for making a difference in my life.’”)

Personal impact (on you, the author) in the form of lessons learned, skills gained (Ex: “I have come to better understand the pervasive, damaging effects of white supremacy culture.”) It’s especially interesting to note if these skills transferred to other areas of your life (Ex: “The facilitation skills I learned through my work with the Gay-Straight Alliance helped me communicate more effectively with my soccer teammates.”)

Once you’ve brainstormed these elements, you should have everything you need to write your essay. 

FAQs for an Extracurricular Essay Based on a Challenge

Q: How do I know if my challenge is a “good” challenge?

A: If it’s clear, specific, and compelling then it’s probably a good one. But if you’re not sure, ask someone. If you don’t have someone nearby, ask yourself, “Would this make an interesting news segment or documentary short?” And if your challenge/problem isn’t compelling enough on its own, that’s what the “Raise the stakes” part is for—tell us why it matters.

Q: Do I have to include every single element of the Elon Musk structure in order for the essay to work? 

A: Not necessarily. Note for example how the “Catalyzing Creativity Club” essay doesn’t include a “Raise the stakes” moment and the “Earthquakes” essay doesn’t include an “Articulate the vision” moment, yet both essays work well. Use the elements that make sense for your story; don’t use the ones that don’t.

Q: Do I have to focus my extracurricular essay on a challenge? 

A: Absolutely not! Here’s how to write your essay if you have NOT faced a challenge (or don’t want to feature one in your essay). 

The Montage Approach (aka The Uncommon Connections Exercise)

I happen to think that the difference between a boring essay and a stand-out essay is this:

Boring essay: 

common topic

common connections

common achievements

common language

Stand-out essay: 

un common topic

un common connections

un common achievements

un common language

By “uncommon connections” I mean the values people don’t normally or immediately associate with the activity you’ve named. Another word I use for uncommon connections is insights.

And I know what you’re thinking: What if I don’t play an obscure instrument, or my most important extracurricular activity and achievements are somewhat common?

Don’t worry. That’s what this guide is for.

How to Stand Out on Your Extracurricular Essay If Your Topic and Achievements Are Common

If you have no uncommon topic or achievements, it’s all the more important to make uncommon connections related to your values. Why? With a common topic and common connections (i.e. basketball taught me hard work and discipline), you’ll likely blend in. Instead, you want to generate insights others won’t have thought of. How? There’s a game for that!

The UC* Game   

*Uncommon Connections

First, pick a cliché topic that you might use for an essay. The more cliché the better.

Football, you say? The mission trip? Awesome, let’s do both.

Step 1: Brainstorm the cliché version of your essay. 

First, tell me what the typical football or mission trip essay will focus on. How? Take a look at the Values Exercise and list some cliché values that you think the typical essay would focus on.

A cliché connection for [football] would be [teamwork, responsibility, hard work, etc.] 

A cliché connection for a [mission trip] would be [helping others, hard work, passion, etc.].

You get the idea. 

Step 2: Come up with 3-4 uncommon values.

Next, brainstorm values that might not normally be associated with football or a mission trip.


An uncommon connection to [football] might be [resourcefulness, healthy boundaries, critical thinking, etc.].

An uncommon connection to [a mission trip] might be [serenity, accountability, practicality, etc.].

If you can find one uncommon connection you can find two, if you can find two you can find three, and if you can find three then you have enough content for a 350-word essay. Here’s how to develop your content:

Step 3: Tie the value to a specific example from your life.

Describe one specific example of how you’ve developed or explored that value through that activity… and maybe even applied it to other areas of your life.

Example: Football has made me a better reader.

As a cornerback, I meticulously and systematically scan the offense, looking for nuances in formation before the quarterback snaps the ball, all in a matter of seconds. It’s not unlike annotating a novel. Finding the subtle complexities in my rival teams’ spread offense has not only led me to intercepting a pass, but has given me the skills to fully digest, for example, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, where the smallest, and at first glance, almost unnoticeable details, add to an intricate story that I wouldn’t appreciate in the same way had I not been able to notice those details in the first place.

See how that makes for a more interesting football essay? 

uncommon value (critical thinking) + application elsewhere (English class) = win

Once you have a list of 3-4 uncommon values and examples of how they’ve manifested in your life...

Step 4: Decide on an order for your details and write a draft.

I recommend chronological order, as it’ll make transitions easier. Then try a draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, just get something down on paper.

Only have 30 minutes? Take a look at this post to turn around your mediocre EC activity essay in just a half hour.

How to Turn This Exercise Into an Essay

Check out the example below, for which the author brainstormed these values: beauty, culture, social change, family, helping others, language.

Do re fa mi, re do fa mi, re do sol fa mi re mi re. Have I completely lost it? Should I be locked up in a mental hospital chained to a chair? No. Then what are these utterances coming from my mouth? Music.

I have devoted thousands of hours of my life to playing the santur, a classical Persian instrument that originated in the Middle East. Some people think I'm strange: a Persian redheaded Jewish teenager obsessed with an ancient musical instrument. But they don’t see what I see. My santur is King David’s lyre: it can soothe, enrapture, mesmerize.

The santur also allows me to connect to my culture and Persian heritage, and to visit Iran of the past, a culture rich in artistic tradition. Sometimes I imagine performing for the king in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the santur sounds echoing through the Seven Hills of Jerusalem.

Today, some Americans view Iran as a land of terrorists, but when I play the innocent of Iran, the educated, the artists, the innovators, come to life. Iran is not a country of savages; it’s Kubla Khan’s fountain, an abundant source of knowledge and creativity.

Finally, the santur represents one of my remaining links to my grandfather. In the last few years of his life, Baba Joon did not know me as his grandson. Alzheimer’s slowly took over his brain, and eventually he could not recognize me. Baba Joon grew up with the music of the santur and my father plays it in his car every day, so when I play, the music connects all three generations.

In December I’ll be releasing my first album, a collection of classical Persian pieces. Proceeds from the album will go toward Alzheimer's research, as I hope to play some small part in finding a cure for the disease. My teacher is one of only a handful of santur teachers from Iran, and I sometimes wonder if the santur will soon become extinct, like the seven thousand endangered languages which may soon be gone.

Not if I have anything to say about it. 

(350 words)

But you might be wondering: “Ethan, do I have to use uncommon connections? Can’t I just tell the reader about what I’ve done and learned?” 

You can! In fact, here’s an essay that does just that:  

The Straightforward (But Specific!) Switch-Side Policy Debate Essay

Through switch-side policy debate I not only discuss a multitude of competing ideas, but also argue from both sides of widely disputed issues. By equipping me with Protagoras’ antilogic and Dissoi Logoi, switch-side policy debate has provided me with a forum to cultivate a diversity of intellectual perspectives that has informed my own intellectual growth.

I strive to give others the same opportunity for intellectual stimulation. Over the past two years, I have helped expand my debate team from a struggling club of 15 to a force of over 100 debaters, leading my team to place first in our debate league. As team President, I teach new debaters fundamentals in communication theory while facilitating formal and informal debates. Playing a dual role as instructor and competitor has allowed me to establish debate as a lasting forum for discussing ideas at my school.

The lessons I learned as both a leader and debater have helped me to succeed beyond my debate circles. Inside the classroom, I possess the openness to consider the views of others and the courage to voice my own opinions. Having been elected to student office four times, I have used these skills to sell my ideas to the student body and earn its vote. More importantly, debate has taught me how to transform these ideas into concrete actions. As the current ASB Vice President, I have used the managerial and communication skills I developed as a debater to spearhead a school wide sustainability campaign that spanned issues concerning water scarcity, ecology, and campus beautification.

Similarly, the lessons I learned in debate will be instrumental in my future work as an entrepreneur and engineer, both of which require the capacity to approach problems critically and clearly articulate complex ideas. Continuing to develop these skills will be crucial if I am to become a competitive member in the future marketplace of ideas.

(313 words)

This essay uses what I call the “firehose” approach. It’s a straightforward account of this student’s accomplishments and the lessons he has learned. Does it feel too braggy? Maybe, since culturally we sometimes recoil when folks too boldly or plainly state their achievements. But maybe not, as I really appreciate how he connects each accomplishment (“Having been elected to student office four times…”) to lessons he’s learned through debate (“...I have used these skills to sell my ideas to the student body and earn its vote”). 

I also appreciate how this essay weaves together different parts of his application, describing both his role in the classroom and his work in student government. In this sense, debate ends up being a thematic thread that connects many parts of his life. 

Also note that, while a few of the connections he makes are somewhat un common (e.g., debate taught him managerial skills and how to transform ideas into concrete actions), many of his values are somewhat common , like how debate has taught him courage and openness. And the essay works. One thing that I think prevents his essay from sounding cliché is the specificity of his language throughout the essay.

How to Write a Super Extracurricular Essay (That Works for Multiple Schools)

You might have realized that several of the colleges on your list have essay prompts that ask about your extracurricular involvement.

You might have also realized “Hey, wait a minute, I talked about basketball/band/Boy Scouts/MUN in that other essay. Is this the same essay?”

It might be. Many colleges word their extracurricular essays a bit differently, but at the heart of things, they just want to know what you’re spending time on outside of the classroom.  

To help save students lots of time, I recommend that they write a Super Extracurricular Essay: an essay that that can work for multiple schools essay requirements.  

I have a longer, step-by-step guide for writing a Super Essay , which I recommend reading if you’re finding yourself drowning in supplemental essays, but here’s the short version:

(5-20 min) Choose an extracurricular activity that will work for several prompts listed on your Essay Tracker. (This is basically a spreadsheet that lists all of your required supplemental essays. You can download a template on tab 2 of the document here. ) Not sure which topic will work best? The BEABIES will help you flesh out potential topics.

(2 min.) Copy and paste all the prompts that your topic could work for at the top of the document you'll be writing your essay on.

(25 min.) Decide on a structure— Narrative or Montage —and either complete the Elon Musk exercise or play the Uncommon Connections Game.

(25-50 min.) Write the darn essay.

Seven Tips for the 150-Word Extracurricular Activity Essay

Some colleges have much shorter word limits for their extracurricular essay. That can be tricky to tackle, as it asks you to communicate a lot of information in just a few words. 

Here’s a great example, followed by some tips: 

VIOLENCE IN EGYPT ESCALATES. FINANCIAL CRISIS LEAVES EUROPE IN TURMOIL. My quest to become a journalist began by writing for the international column of my school newspaper, The Log. My specialty is international affairs; I’m the messenger who delivers news from different continents to the doorsteps of my community. Late-night editing, researching and re-writing is customary, but seeing my articles in print makes it all worthwhile. I’m the editor for this section, responsible for brainstorming ideas and catching mistakes. Each spell-check I make, each sentence I type out, and each article I polish will remain within the pages of The Log. Leading a heated after-school brainstorming session, watching my abstract thoughts materialize onscreen, holding the freshly printed articles in my hand—I write for this joyous process of creation. One day I’ll look back, knowing this is where I began developing the scrutiny, precision and rigor necessary to become a writer.

Tip #1: Value content (information) over form (poetry) . Space is limited here, so make sure the reader understands what you’ve done and what you’ve learned. Notice how, in the example above, a lot of the content probably came from the first column of the BEABIES: (i.e., “What I did”).

Tip #2: Use active verbs to give a clear sense of what you’ve done . 

Check out the active verbs in the essay above: writing, delivering, editing, researching, re-writing, brainstorming, catching, polishing, leading, holding, knowing. 

Tip #3: Consider telling us in one good clear sentence what the activity meant to you.

Examples: “I’m the messenger who delivers news from different continents to the doorsteps of my community” and “I write for this joyous process of creation” and “One day I’ll look back, knowing that this is where I began to develop the scrutiny, precision and rigor necessary to become a writer.”

Okay, that’s three sentences. But notice how all three are different. (And if you’re gonna include three, they better be different.)

Tip #4. You can “show” some, but not too much.


And later: “Leading a heated after-school brainstorming session, watching my abstract thoughts materialize onscreen, holding the freshly printed articles in my hand…”

The first one grabs our attention; the second paints a clear and dynamic picture. Keep ‘em short!

This essay uses the montage approach and does not name a specific problem. If, however, you’re using the “Elon Musk” structure from above  and want to adapt it for the 150-word essay...

Tip #5: Consider starting your essay with the “problem.”

In fact, probably name the problem in the first sentence. Then, in the second sentence, say what you did about it. Why? Word count.

Tip #6: Don’t forget to include specific impact, even if it’s brief.

Read the ending again:

“I helped ease the work of the nurses and doctors, while delivering medicine and smiles to dozens of patients. I may not have directly saved any lives, but I’d like to think I helped.”

Tip #7: Write it long first, then cut it.

Both these students started with 250-300 word statements, then they trimmed ruthlessly. In my experience this tends to be easier than writing a very short version and then trying to figure out what to add.

Five More 150-Word Extracurricular Essay Examples I Love

Here are a few more examples to get you inspired. 

Note that the authors of these didn’t give them title, but I’ve given them generic titles to make referring to them easier and to break up the text on this blog post.


Developer, one minute; stop bath, 30 seconds; fixer, two minutes. Under the red beam of safelights a new photo comes to life, a carefully crafted compilation of dark shadows, light skies, and all the greys in between. 

I’ve spent many hours exploring photography using film cameras, pinhole cameras, plastic cameras, Polaroids, digital cameras, and disposables. I scour antique stores for old cameras to experiment with and learn from. As a result of my passion for photography, I have become one of my school’s photographers, responsible for documenting school events and teaching younger students darkroom techniques. Making decisions in the darkroom about contrast filters and apertures has made me more confident in my ability to make choices quickly. I also use my photography to advance social justice causes by drawing attention to issues such as unattainable standards for women’s bodies. (139 words)

In eighth grade, I created an art piece addressing a stereotype I had faced and posted it online, encouraging my friends to do the same and hashtag it #StereotypeProject. The drawing snowballed into a viral movement, gathering the attention of over 1,000 youth artists worldwide, each contributing their own stories and drawings. The Stereotype Project has since grown, extending into local schools and calling on the next generation to stand strong against the biases they face due to race, gender, sexual orientation, mental illness, and more.  In a time of increasing youth activism and reminders of the potential we have as young revolutionaries, the Stereotype Project is a channel for creative expression, unity, and a means of imparting a positive impact on the world. Our website continues to be live and accept submissions: (136 words)

Hospital Internship

Upon applying to Irvine Regional Hospital, I was told there were no spaces for Junior Volunteers. After securing additional recommendations, however, I reapplied and was finally accepted and assigned Front Desk duties, where I delivered flowers, transported biopsy samples to labs, directed visitors, and answered nurse requests. Unfortunately, the hospital was shut down due to lack of funds, and hundreds of workers became unemployed, including me. It was distressing to experience the effects of a declining economy. When Kaiser Permanente opened, my applications were also initially rejected. But by requesting an interview, I proved my qualifications from past experiences and was specially assigned to Medical Surgery instead of the Gift Shop. I answered patients’ requests, administered patient surveys, organized wound documentations, filed records, delivered blood and urine samples, assisted nurses with check-ups, stocked supply carts, updated dietary needs with doctors, and discharged patients safely. (146 words)

Regular Dog: $1.49. Jimmy’s Famous: $1.89. Twenty-five cents for cheese. Bologna’s out. Milkshake machine’s broken. Refill sweet tea.

As cashier at Jimmy’s Hot Dogs, I was everything but the cook. After day one, my hair stood straight and old southern ladies sympathetically asked oh honey, is it your first shift? I wanted to cry.

But, an hour before closing, Nondas, the cook, checked the register. He smiled and said “Luci Lou, you the best.” Stress forgotten, we danced around the kitchen in celebration, talking about his brothers in Greece, World Cup soccer, and grilled fish.

After that, I didn’t feel alone. I had Nondas. I had the regulars. And I had the southern ladies to back me up. Jimmy’s taught me to value the people that make a job worthwhile. To focus on the positive when there’s soccer to be watched and perfectly grilled fish to be eaten. (150 words)

Two years ago I won the Coach’s Award without ever stepping on the volleyball court. How? Sophomore year, a stress fracture prevented me from practicing, but I came to every practice and game to encourage and laugh with my teammates. At the end of the year, I won the award based on my positivity.

The subsequent year, I transferred schools and tried out for volleyball. Due to MHSAA rules, I couldn’t play because of the transfer, but I could practice. I never missed one, worked hard, and acted as team manager. So guess what happened? I won the Coach’s Award again, this time from a different coach. Again, without ever having set foot on the court.

While I’m not sure I’ll play D1 or D2 sports, I know for sure that one of my favorite activities ever is being positive and I plan to continue it at Michigan. (148 words)


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Extracurricular Activities Essay Examples

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Extracurricular Activities Essay Examples – Introduction 

As you work through your college applications, you may come across a version of the extracurricular activities essay. Many college application requirements include an extracurricular supplemental essay. So, don’t be surprised if you need to write an extracurricular supplemental essay for schools on your list. As you brainstorm and draft, it can be helpful to read some extracurricular activities essay examples. 

In this guide, we’ve included several extracurricular activities essay examples to show you the ropes. By the end, you’ll see how to successfully complete the extracurricular activities essay. Take a look at these examples before you start your college applications. 

The extracurricular activities essay is exactly what it sounds like. You will use the extracurricular supplemental essay to write about the importance of one of your extracurricular activities. Later, we’ll look at several elaborate on an extracurricular activity essay examples. 

In our extracurricular activities essay examples, we’ll look at prompts from the following schools: 

University of Florida

We’ll talk about what you can learn from each of our extracurricular activities essay examples. We will also explain how they contribute to each student’s application narrative. Before we jump into our extracurricular activities essay examples, let’s explore what counts as an extracurricular activity. 

What is an extracurricular activity? 

An extracurricular activity, or after-school activity , is something that you participate in outside of your regular classes. Extracurricular activities are important because they give you a chance to explore your interests outside the classroom. In fact, recent research suggests that being involved in extracurricular activities can even help a student’s engagement in school. 

When you submit college applications, you’ll include a list of the extracurricular activities you have participated in during high school. Being involved in multiple extracurricular activities can bolster your candidate profile and make you stand out in the admissions process. 

Extracurricular activities matter

If you plan to send college applications to top-tier schools, you’ll want to boost your participation in extracurricular activities early in your high school career. Colleges want to see that you have passions in and out of the classroom.

In other words, extracurricular activities can show admissions officers what you care about. Extracurricular activities can also help you learn more about what you enjoy, which can translate into potential extracurricular activities for college.

What are some examples of extracurricular activities? 

Extracurricular activities can be clubs, organizations, sports, jobs, or anything in between. As you’ll see in our elaborate on an extracurricular activity essay examples, extracurriculars will vary from student to student. There are four main categories of extracurricular activities: 

School-sponsored activities

Independent activities

Work experiences.

Each category has its own strengths and benefits you’ll want to show in your essay. Our extracurricular activities essay examples highlight activities from each category. As such, you’ll be able to see an activity similar to yours represented. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these categories before we dig into our extracurricular activity essay examples.

Extracurricular Activity Categories 

School-sponsored extracurricular activities include clubs, organizations or programs that are hosted by your school. These might be sports teams, special interest clubs like technical theatre, or arts programs like band and orchestra. 

Community activities

Another popular type of extracurricular activity is community activities. Community activities include volunteer work and community service. 

Getting involved in your local community is a great way to show the admissions committee how you give back. 

These kinds of activities can also be a great topic for your extracurricular activities essay. They can include hobbies, learning new skills, or taking online courses in your favorite subject. 

Independent activities help showcase your passions and interests. These types of extracurricular activities would be perfect to explore in an extracurricular supplemental essay, especially since they fit less neatly into the activities list on the Common App. 

Many high school students have work experiences they can highlight in their college applications. Work experiences could include part-time jobs, internships, or shadowing opportunities. 

Talking about your work experiences in your extracurricular supplemental essay can be a great way to show off your time management and professional skills to admissions officers. 

Depth over breadth

However, you don’t have to participate in dozens of extracurricular activities to stand out in the college application process. It’s more important to develop depth than breadth in your extracurriculars to showcase your commitment and dedication.

In other words, it’s much more impressive for you to have a handful of extracurricular activities on your resume that you are deeply committed to than a long list of clubs and organizations that you don’t care about. 

The best extracurricular activities for you will be the ones that match your interests and goals. Don’t just join every club at your school to fill out your resume. Instead, seek out extracurricular activities where you can explore your interests, learn new things, and grow over time. 

Writing about Extracurricular Activities for College

Now that we’ve explored some extracurricular activity options that will be perfect for your extracurricular activities essay, let’s discuss how to write about your extracurricular activities on your college applications. 

Most schools use a holistic process to review college applications. This means that they will evaluate you based on your entire candidate profile . This includes test scores , GPA , essays , and extracurricular activities.

Because more students are applying to colleges than ever before, you’ll want to do everything you can to stand out in your college applications. Writing about your extracurricular activities for college can help show the admissions committee who you are, what’s important to you, and what makes you a unique applicant. 

Extracurricular Activities Essays Examples

Focus on the narrative

Use the extracurricular activities essay to tell a story about your experience. You can describe what it felt like, what it looked like, or how it helped you learn more about your own interests and goals.

When you are writing about your extracurricular activities for college, you’ll want to provide specific details about the type, length, and responsibilities of your involvements. If you’re unsure where to start, try making a list of all the extracurricular activities you have participated in since freshman year. Write down the role you had in this activity, how much time you spent doing it, and what you learned because of this involvement. 

For more tips on how to write about extracurricular activities for college, check out this article . In it, you’ll find 39 essay tips from admissions experts on how to write a great college essay, including how to write about extracurricular activities for college. 

What are some examples of extracurricular activities essay prompts? 

Before we review our extracurricular activities essay examples (along with the reasons why these are college essays that worked), let’s look at the extracurricular activities essay prompts from Stanford, Rice, Bryn Mawr, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, UF, and Princeton. 

Although the general idea is the same, each college will have a slightly different version of the extracurricular activities essay prompt. You’ll see the differences in our extracurricular activities essay examples below. 

Stanford University

Extracurricular Activities Essays Examples

If you plan to apply to Stanford University, you should know that one of the Stanford supplemental essay prompts is as follows: 

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. 

This extracurricular activities essay prompt is intentionally broad. You’ll need to select just one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences to describe in this Stanford supplemental essay. 

This Stanford supplemental essay prompt is your opportunity to showcase one of your many involvements. It also gives you a chance to elaborate on why it is important to you. If possible, select an extracurricular activity or work experience that you have not already discussed at length anywhere else in your Stanford application.

Rice University

This essay prompt on extracurriculars from Rice University is fairly straight forward. You can see the exact wording below: 

Extracurricular Activities Essays Examples

The extracurricular activities essay prompt or Rice is the same as the one for the Stanford application. Like we mentioned above, you’ll want to highlight an activity that is not mentioned elsewhere in your application. 

There are three Bryn Mawr supplemental essays that are required for admission. The first of the Bryn Mawr supplemental essays is about your extracurricular activities: 

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences in the space below.

Extracurricular Activities Essays Examples

This prompt is the same as the ones for the Stanford application and Rice application. Our suggestions for those essays also apply for the first prompt of the Bryn Mawr supplemental essays. 


Here is the Northwestern essay prompt: 

extracurricular activities essays examples


If you are applying to Vanderbilt, you should know that the Vanderbilt application requires that you answer this extracurricular activities essay prompt: 

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.

extracurricular activities essays examples

Both the Northwestern essay prompt and the Vanderbilt application prompt are the same as the ones for Stanford, Rice, and Bryn Mawr.

The UF application includes the following extracurricular activities essay prompt as part of the required University of Florida essays: 

During high school, what is the most enriching long-term or ongoing activity in which you have participated outside of the classroom? Tell us about it – Why is it enriching to you? What have you gained or learned by participating in it? How do you plan to continue this type of activity in the future?

extracurricular activities essays examples

Unlike the prompts for the Stanford, Rice, Bryn Mawr, Vanderbilt, and Northwestern applications, this extracurricular activities essay prompt asks you to answer direct questions about your experience. 

You’ll want to choose an activity that is the most significant, long-term activity that you have participated in during high school. Then, you’ll want to explain why it was enriching, what you learned in this activity, and how you plan to continue with this type of activity in college and beyond. 

You’ll see how to answer these questions in our extracurricular activities essay examples. 

The Princeton extracurricular activities essay prompt is as follows: 

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you.

extracurricular activities essays examples

This prompt is similar to the ones above, but it does make an important distinction. You’ll want to choose an activity that was meaningful to you, which means you will need to spend part of your essay describing why you found this experience particularly impactful. We’ll take a look at how to do this in our extracurricular activities essay examples. 

Which schools require an extracurricular activities essay? 

In addition to the extracurricular activities essay prompts we highlighted above, many colleges include an extracurricular activities essay as part of their college application requirements. 

Each of these schools’ college applications require you to write an extracurricular activities essay: 

Even though we won’t look at extracurricular activities essay examples for these colleges, the extracurricular activities essay examples we do highlight can help give you inspiration as you work on your college applications. 

Now, it’s time to examine some extracurricular activities essay examples. Our elaborate on an extracurricular activity essay examples include Stanford essays examples, Rice supplemental essays examples, Bryn Mawr supplemental essays, Northwestern essay examples, Vanderbilt essay examples, UF supplemental essay examples, and Princeton essay examples. 

Following each of the extracurricular activities essay examples, we’ll provide an analysis on why these are college essays that worked. 

First, let’s kick off our extracurricular activities essay examples with the Stanford essays examples. 

Extracurricular Activities Essay Examples: Stanford University

Here’s the first of our elaborate on an extracurricular activity essay examples: 

Stanford Essay Examples

In February of 2016 my neighbor texted me and asked me to tutor her third grader in math. My first thought was “Third grade math?! This will be easy.” I was wrong. The girl I tutored is dyslexic and had ADHD, so working with her challenged me in a new way. I had to devise ways of teaching where she could understand it but also remain focused for long enough to accomplish it. I had to practice my patience in a way I never have before, and I have become a better person because of it. By the end of our work together, she was excited to play the math games I made up and she was so proud every time she understood a question or a concept. I am so thankful for that opportunity.

Why this essay worked

This sample of the Stanford essays examples works for several reasons. First, the author describes how the activity challenged them to come up with new ideas as a math tutor. This shows the admissions officer how thoughtful and creative this person can be in different situations. 

In this essay (one of our Stanford essays examples), the author shows how they developed key skills, like patience, through this extracurricular activity. Highlighting new skills that you have learned through your extracurricular activities is a way to stand out from the crowd.

Showcasing personal growth, like the author did above, also shows the admissions team you are willing to change and better yourself when faced with challenges. 

How To Write The Rice Supplemental Essays

Now, let’s turn to Rice supplemental essays examples. Below, you’ll see another version of the elaborate on an extracurricular activity essay examples. 

Rice Supplemental Essay Examples

With an interest in business, it is hard to pass up the chance to become a part of the business club at my school. This competition-based club allows members to learn detailed ways to start and manage a business. Although my curiosity urged me to participate, the thought of writing 30 pages with a fast-approaching deadline seemed daunting. Prior to this program, I had very little knowledge on the basic principles of business management, however, through research and a bit of persistence, I learned countless fundamentals of business. Although I was awarded a medal and recognized as a State Finalist in the International Business Plan category, the most valuable thing I earned was the drive of an entrepreneur which taught me that even the most difficult of tasks can be accomplished if they are done with continued determination. 

Getting straight to the point

This is one of our Rice supplemental essays examples. In it, the author mentions their academic interest right away. This helps the reader understand the forthcoming connection between the extracurricular activity and this person’s interests. 

If you’re working with a tight word limit, like the one in the Rice supplemental essays examples, you’ll want to be concise with your details. The Rice supplemental essays examples only give you so many words to work with, so you have to make the most of them. In this essay, the author summarizes the purpose of their extracurricular activity quickly. This provides the reader with more context about their involvement without taking up too much space. 

This is an example of college essays that worked because the author shows what they learned as a result of their involvement in this activity. This highlights the author’s potential success in a college setting. 

How To Write The Bryn Mawr Supplemental Essays 

Like the two extracurricular activities essay examples above, the Bryn Mawr supplemental essay is another version of the elaborate on an extracurricular activity essay examples. 

Bryn Mawr Essay Example

After watching my grandfather suffer from heart ailments, it was particularly meaningful to have the opportunity to conduct echocardiography research with a pediatric cardiologist. During my summer internship at a Health and Science University, I designed and built heart models to mimic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) disease and investigate strain comparisons in a 2D and 3D model. 

Continuously designing and analyzing my own experiments has not only taught me the value of diligence, patience and replication in the laboratory setting, but it has also instilled in me the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that will enable me to tackle difficult, and sometimes unknown, problems with sound reasoning and confidence as I serve the underrepresented to eliminate health disparities. 

This response is one of the college essays that worked for several reasons. The author of this essay explains the personal significance of this extracurricular activity. This gives the reader more information about who this person is and why this activity is meaningful to them. 

Additionally, the author uses their response to explain what they did during their internship as well as the values and skills they learned from this activity. They even go the extra mile to describe how they will use these values and skills to reach their goals in the future. 

Extracurricular Activities Essay Examples: Northwestern University

The following essay is another of our elaborate on an extracurricular activity essay examples. 

Northwestern Essay Example

After having been a Girl Scout for over 10 years, I can confirm that the most common questions I get asked are, “When are you selling the cookies,” or “Can I get [insert favorite cookie here]”. However, Girl Scouts means so much more to me than simply selling cookies for a few months.

Being a part of Girl Scouts has entailed, as the Girl Scout Law indicates, “being a sister to every Girl Scout”. When I first joined the organization as a Brownie, I didn’t think I would interact with the older girls at all. However, I soon began to admire my older Girl Scout sisters and looked up to them the more time I spent with them. As an Ambassador now, I try to show the same level of leadership by mentoring and working with younger girls, building a strong relationship with them and helping them on their journey to the higher ranks (as well as through life).

As a Girl Scout, I have also learned to enthusiastically help my community. Whether it be through providing assistance at food pantries, cleaning up litter, donating to the homeless, or singing carols in retirement homes, Girls Scouts has taught me the importance of helping others in need around me and improving the state of the world.

So, yes, being a Girl Scout does mean selling cookies. But, more importantly, Girl Scouts has meant growing into a confident young woman, being a mentor, and providing service to better the world.

Focus on depth of involvement

This sample comes from one of our Northwestern essay examples. In it, the author mentions the length of their involvement in the Girl Scouts and their progression from a junior member to a senior member. 

Like we mentioned earlier, it’s important to have extracurricular activities on your list that show depth, especially in your Northwestern application. In other words, the longer you participate in an activity, the more significant it is to your college applications. 

This is another example of college essays that worked because the author can describe how they eventually moved into a leadership role and what that new role entails. If you are a leader in your organization, be sure to mention it on your Northwestern application and in your essay. 

Finally, the author concludes with a description of who they are and what this activity has taught them. We saw similar versions of this conclusion in the extracurricular activities essay examples above, which goes to show that these are college essays that worked.  

Extracurricular Activities Essay Examples: Vanderbilt University

Next, let’s look at Vanderbilt essay examples. This essay is one of the longer samples of our extracurricular activities essay examples. Please note that the name of the program described has been removed for anonymity.

Vanderbilt Essay Examples

I silently sat in the passenger seat of my mother’s car with a churning feeling in my stomach. My legs bounced wildly, and my body was tense. My anxiety came from the fact I would be starting my first day at a pre-college program to which I was recently accepted.

When my mother dropped me off at the building where my first class would be held, I nervously walked in, surprised to be greeted by the smiling faces of my peers. Looking around, I saw faces of all shades. This amazed me, having been surrounded by people who looked like me for most of my life. As I engaged in conversation with students already present, I increasingly became more comfortable.

Though class began with typical icebreakers, we quickly transitioned into math topics, beginning with algebra and progressing into trigonometry and summations. When the professor concluded the lecture, I was shocked to find that the class had passed by so quickly. Similar sentiments arose after completing my critical thinking class in the afternoon. When my mother picked me up after that class, I enthusiastically spilled my experiences from the day.

The following six weeks of that summer (and ensuing summers) comprised of me being introduced to new perspectives. Being surrounded by peers that were different in lifestyle and socioeconomic status made me more open-minded to unfamiliar concepts and interpretations.

The brother and sisterhood I formed with my peers made me way less dependent on my twin sister and increased my confidence in my beliefs and individuality.

Additionally, being taught by university professors in rigorous subject matter instilled in me a newfound passion in exploring challenging topics. This program has assisted in developing me into a more well-rounded, cultured individual not only through exposure to a research program at the university hospital, but through enrichment activities during the school year (watching plays, attending politic and STEM-based talks, and experiencing cultural shows). Though I was initially apprehensive in applying to this program, I now look back at the program as life-altering and am thankful for the experience. Three years ago, I was just a “twin” who did well in school, however today I am an individual with my own unique views, eager to learn the endless knowledge the world has to offer me.

Unlike the extracurricular activities essay examples above, this essay puts you right in the middle of the story. This can be an effective way to grab your reader’s attention as they review your Vanderbilt application. 

Additionally, this is a great example of college essays that worked because the author describes self-growth because of their involvement. In this sample from our Vanderbilt essay examples, the writer explains the new skills they learned and details the type of experiences they had while in this extracurricular activity. 

Extracurricular Activities Essay Examples: University of Florida

Now, let’s look at UF supplemental essay examples. This essay is a little different from our previous extracurricular activities essay examples. 

This is a slightly elevated take on the elaborate on an extracurricular activity essay examples prompt. It asks you to do more than just explain your involvement in an extracurricular activity.

UF Supplemental Essay Examples

“Thaka-dhimi thaka- janu! Strike your foot higher! Sit more! Discipline yourself!”

To most, these phrases and commands would have sounded like gibberish. But to me, it meant beauty and grace. It meant dedication and determination. It invoked a sense of community and contentment. It meant Bharatantyam.

From the ripe age of 5 years old, I’ve had the opportunity to learn an Indian Classical Dance form, Bharatanatyam, from my mother. I took this opportunity seriously in tenth grade. Once I chose to commit fully to Bharatantyam, it was life changing. 

Bharatantyam has transformed me for the good as a person. Countless hours spent in practice disciplined me. Preparing mentally for a more sophisticated piece or dance item allowed me to expand my brain’s depth. From a physical standpoint, one can see that Bharatantyam is a beautiful dance that harmonizes your brain and body. 

Viewing Bharatanatyam from a scientific standpoint is what made it so much more enriching. Watching a video from my mother’s guru, I began to understand the neurological benefits of both dancing and watching Bharatantyam. Viewing that clip gave me a revolutionary idea: treating neurological diseases for senior citizens through Bharatanatyam.

I began to perform at senior assisted living facilities around my city. Many of the seniors I performed for weren’t able to even stay awake for it. While at times discouraging, small moments of joy kept me going. Every smile I received from my audience and every conversation I had with the seniors were the reasons why I kept dancing.

Now, I plan to expand this activity more at UF. Creating a non-profit in which dancers have paid performances and donate that money to neurological research institutes is how I believe I should start. With UF’s resources, I easily see this idea becoming reality.

Extracurricular activities essay prompt

With this extracurricular activities essay examples prompt, you must answer all three parts of the University of Florida essays question to complete your UF application. 

Like the extracurricular activities essay examples for Vanderbilt, this sample from our UF supplemental essay examples puts you right in the middle of the story. It starts off with a quote, grabbing the reader’s attention. This sample of the University of Florida essays also shows you the length of involvement this author had in the activity while highlighting aspects of their unique culture. 

This is one of our college essays that worked because this response details the author’s experience, growth, and future goals. On top of that, this sample from our UF supplemental essay examples further strengthens the writer’s UF application by connecting their experience to how they hope to continue this activity at UF.

Extracurricular Activities Essay Examples: Princeton University

This sample from the Princeton essay examples is the last of our college essays that worked.

Princeton Essay Examples

Serving as a Student Government leader at my college has taught me the power of student voice and collaborative leadership. During my Junior year, I began attending Senate Meetings and was elected as a Senator a few months later. I began proposing solutions to problems my college faces, from lack of STEM programming to low voter turnout rates to poor multicultural outreach programs. I created student committees to tackle these problems, the most recent being a committee working to bring a series of local STEM professionals for our artist-in-residence series. I was appointed as a student voice to faculty committees, such as the Diversity and Equity Committee. I use this position to bring student concerns I hear from SG directly to the college board to catalyze changes in our college, such as the introduction of STEM cohort groups or providing resources for students of color.

The last of our extracurricular activities essay examples mentions the activity right away. It also mentions what the activity taught the author. Like the extracurricular activities essay examples above, this response adds specific details. Moreover, the author describes the impact of their leadership role.

In addition to describing the experience itself, this essay highlights how the author implemented solutions to the problems they recognized within their community, another key skill that will be important in college. 

How To Write A Great Extracurricular Activities Essay

extracurricular activities essays examples

In our extracurricular activities essay examples, you saw different ways to write a great extracurricular activities essay. Now let’s talk about how you can use these extracurricular activities essay examples to help you write your own.

When you write your own extracurricular activities essay, be sure to refer to the extracurricular activities essay examples above. Each of the extracurricular activities essay examples highlights a different aspect of each applicant’s candidate profile—from backgrounds to passions to academic interests and goals.

Read every prompt carefully

Remember, some colleges might have different ways of approaching the extracurricular activities essay, which will be evident in the essay prompt. Like some of the extracurricular activities essay examples above, you might be working with a shorter or longer word limit. You also may have specific questions you need to address when elaborating on your extracurriculars.

There’s no specific formula on how to write a great extracurricular activities essay. However, here are a few tips to help you write a strong response that will stand out from the crowd. 

Additional Tips for Writing Extracurricular Activities Essays

Choosing which activities to write about and how to present them is key to writing a successful extracurricular activities essay. Reading some elaborate on an extracurricular activity essay examples can help you learn how to structure your own essays. You’ll likely need to write about your extracurriculars to complete your college application requirements. So, use this as a chance to show the admissions committee what matters to you. 

In this guide, we’ve reviewed extracurricular activities essay examples from some of the top colleges in the nation. We hope this helps you as you write your own extracurricular activities essay. 

Three tips to help you write your extracurricular activities essays: 

1. demonstrate your passion . .

Like we saw in the extracurricular activities essay examples, this is your opportunity to show what’s important to you. Use your essays to demonstrate your passion. 

2. Show your dedication. 

Many of our extracurricular activities essay examples discussed how long the author was involved in the activity. Show your dedication to your hobby, club, or organization through your essay responses. 

3. Match your extracurricular activities essay examples to a school’s mission or values. 

There are plenty of applicants who can fill out all the college application requirements. However, to truly stand out, you’ll want to show the admissions office why you are a great fit for their university. Match your extracurricular activities essay examples to a college’s mission or values to prove that you are committed to attending that university. 

Other CollegeAdvisor Resources on Extracurricular Activities 

If you need help figuring out how to get involved, watch our webinar for tips on how to join new extracurricular activities in high school. For more ideas on which extracurricular activities might be right for you, check out our article on 38 high school extracurricular ideas for college applicants. 

38 High School Extracurricular Ideas for College Applicants

Wondering how to showcase your extracurricular activities in your college applications? Check out our guide for more information on how to approach extracurricular activities in the college admissions process. 

How to Showcase Extracurricular Activities In Your College Applications

Finally, check out our panel for additional tips on how to craft your activity and extracurriculars list for college. 

Crafting Your Activity and Extracurriculars List

Extracurricular Activities Essay Examples – Final Thoughts 

We hope that our guide on extracurricular activities essay examples (and college essays that worked) help you prepare your own extracurricular activities essay. If an extracurricular activities essay is part of your college application requirements, be sure to refer back to our extracurricular activities essay examples for guidance.

As you likely noticed from our extracurricular activities essay examples, college essays that worked tend to highlight students’ passion. This is even more true when it comes to extracurriculars. Don’t feel daunted by the extracurricular supplemental essay requirement. Instead, use it as a chance to highlight how you engage deeply with the world around you. 

Not all prompts are the same

Remember, the prompt to your extracurricular activities essay might look different than the ones we highlighted in our extracurricular activities essay examples above. Even if your prompt is different from our ‘elaborate on an extracurricular activity essay examples’, you can still use them to brainstorm ideas for your own extracurricular activities essay. 

Do you need help with other college application requirements? can help. Register today to get one-on-one support as you begin your college application process.

Extracurricular Activities Essay Examples

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, amazing extracurricular activity examples for college applications.

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extracurricular activities college essay examples

Extracurriculars are a great way to participate in an activity you enjoy and meet new people, and they can also be an important part of your college application.

What makes an extracurricular activity particularly impressive to colleges? How do your extracurriculars measure up?

Read this guide to see four amazing extracurricular activities examples. I'll discuss why they're exceptional and how you can participate in similar activities to boost your own college application.

What Are Extracurricular Activities and How Are They Useful?

An extracurricular is any activity you participate in outside of class. It can be associated with your school, such as a sports team or club, or completely separate. They also include any jobs or internships you have had, as well as volunteer work you have performed. Extracurriculars cover a wide range of activities and interests, from painting to science to helping the homeless and more.

Why would you want to participate in an extracurricular? There are several ways they can benefit you:

They Let You Do Something You Enjoy

Extracurriculars let you participate in an activity you enjoy, whether that's playing football, painting, or another activity. Practicing this activity regularly will help you get better at it, and you may be able to develop new skills that you find useful in the future. Doing something you enjoy not only makes you happier but can also give you a much-needed break from schoolwork.

They Introduce You to New Friends

Students often make many friends through their extracurriculars because they see other members regularly and have a shared interest.

They Are Important for College Applications

Extracurriculars can also be included in your college applications to show your interests and talents. Read on to learn more about the importance of extracurriculars when applying to college.

extracurricular activities college essay examples

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How Are Extracurriculars Important for College Applications?

Extracurriculars can be a key part of your college application. Most applications have a section where you can list all the extracurriculars you were involved in. If a certain extracurricular is particularly important to you, you can also write about it in your personal statement and have the people writing you letters of recommendation discuss it so that it is a more prominent part of your college application.

Why do colleges care about extracurriculars? Colleges like to admit students who are involved in their communities, interact well with others, and work to develop their talents and passions. A student who participates in extracurriculars is more likely to do each of those things than a student who has no extracurriculars.

Also, there is more to college than simply going to class; colleges are full of opportunities to be active, interact with others, and give back, and schools want to admit students who will keep their campuses connected and interesting. Great extracurriculars can also help you stand out from the thousands of applications colleges receive by highlighting a particular skill or interest of yours that makes you unique and memorable.

How competitive your extracurriculars need to be depends on how selective the colleges you're applying to are. For Ivy League and other top schools, strong extracurriculars are usually required. For more information, check out our guide that explains how to develop extracurriculars that will help you get into Harvard and other top schools. If you're applying to your state school, you likely don't need your extracurriculars to be exceptional, but if you do have awesome extracurriculars and decent grades, then you have an excellent chance of being accepted.

extracurricular activities college essay examples

What Makes an Extracurricular Activity Great?

While colleges like to see a student with extracurriculars, not all extracurriculars are considered equal. There are specific qualities that colleges look for in extracurriculars that will make them more impressive and boost the applicant's resume. Having one amazing extracurricular on your college application is more impressive than a list of activities you had little interest in or impact on. One great extracurricular can give your college application a significant boost.

However, getting an amazing extracurricular is not as simple as choosing a particular sport or club you think colleges will find impressive. When applying to college, what activity you do is not nearly as important as why you are doing it or the effort you put into it. There are three qualities admissions look for in particular when they review extracurriculars:

Leadership experience includes any time that you have been responsible for leading a project or guiding, motivating, or instructing others. Colleges want to admit students who have a history of leadership experience because they are hoping those students will continue to be leaders and have a significant impact on the world in the future.

You don't have to be team captain or club president in order to get leadership experience. You can show your leadership skills by helping to organize an event, mentoring younger members, or developing a fundraiser.

Are you participating in that activity because you truly want to or just because you want to include it on your college application? For colleges, there is a huge difference between the two. Admissions officers want to see you doing activities you are interested in and passionate about, not just as a way to impress others. Passion is a critical contributor to success, and colleges see genuine passion as an indicator that you are more likely to succeed than someone who's just going through the motions.

Great extracurriculars show what your passion is. This can be accomplished by having multiple similar extracurriculars (such as being part of multiple science clubs), or showing a deep commitment to a particular extracurricular, often by pursuing it for many years and spending a significant amount of time on it.

Colleges measure impact by looking at how you influenced the activity you participated in and how it influenced you. The strongest extracurricular examples clearly show that you have changed and improved as a result of participating and that you also had a lasting impact on the activity as well.

Colleges want to admit people who will have a positive and lasting impact on their school, so they look for students who already have a history of this in their extracurriculars. Having an impact on an extracurricular can include recruiting new members, expanding a club's focus, or developing a way for the club to reach more people. Colleges also want to see that your extracurriculars made you a better person. Are you more responsible? A better team player? More confident?

extracurricular activities college essay examples

Example 2: Scott the Volunteer Leader

I have been a member of my high school's volunteer club since my freshman year. During my first year, I enjoyed tutoring elementary students and painting houses with the club, but I thought students should have more options for volunteering. As a sophomore, I spoke to club leaders and proposed five new locations where students could volunteer including a hospital, animal shelter, and homeless shelter. After getting my suggestions approved, I contacted the organizations and arranged for them to form volunteer partnerships with the school. This included developing activities volunteers could do, getting the organizations approved by the school, and arranging volunteer times and transportation. Other students in the volunteer club were excited about having a bigger impact, so I continued to look for new opportunities for volunteers. I am currently president of the volunteer club and in charge of developing new volunteer activities. Under my direction, the volunteer club has grown from 30 to over 100 members and quadrupled the number of places where students can volunteer. I'm proud that our club is continuing to grow and help more people each year.

This extracurricular clearly shows that Scott is a leader who knows how to take initiative and get things done. Scott clearly describes the work he did to expand and improve the volunteer club, from proposing ideas to club leaders to working with organizations to establish volunteer programs.

Like Elizabeth, he gives concrete numbers to show his impact on the volunteer club and how he contributed to its growth . The fact that he worked to expand the volunteer club and provide more volunteer opportunities for other club members also shows that he cares about volunteering and believes it can have a positive impact on both volunteers and the people they help.

Scott's extracurricular is great because he took initiative and worked to improve it, even before he had a leadership position. You can do the same thing with any of your extracurriculars. Is there a club you enjoy but think could be better? Perhaps you are part of an art club but wish members had more opportunities to showcase their work.

You could contact a local library or cafe and organize a display of artists' work for the community to enjoy. Perhaps you're on an academic bowl team and wish there were more competitions. You could contact other schools and set up an invitational tournament to help teams get more practice competing. The main point is to take initiative and lead a project that will improve your extracurricular, no matter what that activity is.

Want to get help on every aspect of your college application?

Example 3: Jessica the Scientist

When I was 15 years old, I decided to get a part-time job to help pay for college and have some spending money. Because I was already part of my school's Science Olympiad team and plan on majoring in microbiology, I applied to be a lab technician at a local science lab. My work primarily consisted of preparing chemicals and cleaning equipment, but after speaking to my supervisor about my interest in microbiology, I was able to begin conducting some simple experiments for the lab. This past summer I became a full-time intern at the lab and took on additional responsibilities. I asked to work with a team doing a microbiology project that studies self-assembly properties of polypeptides. During my internship, I ran different chemical tests and analyzed data results for potential use in cancer research, and I have continued that work into the school year.

From the above paragraph, it's clear that Jessica's passion is science. She is a member of science clubs, she plans on majoring in biology, and she applied for a job in a science lab. Jessica took a not-too-exciting job, where she mostly cleaned lab equipment, and was able to grow it into an internship where she contributes to cancer research. That's a pretty impressive accomplishment for a high school student. She took initiative to increase the responsibility of her part-time job and turn it into something that has a meaningful impact and gives her useful experience for her future.

Jessica's part-time job didn't start off all that impressive; she worked to increase her responsibilities and impact. You can do the same with any job or activity you have. Think of ways to expand your role, or ask your boss or club leader if they have any ideas. For example, if you're a lifeguard, you could start a program that teaches kids basic first-aid safety at the pool.

I have a friend who worked at a grocery store in high school and planned on being a dietitian. She created a monthly group where kids whose parents were grocery shopping could stop by a part of the grocery store, have some snacks, and learn about which healthy foods they should eat. That's a great way to take a typical high school job and turn it into an extracurricular that shows motivation, hard-work, and leadership skills.

extracurricular activities college essay examples

Example 4: James the Soccer Player

When I started high school I thought it would be a good idea to join a sports team since my family had just moved to the area. One of my classmates suggested I try out for the soccer team. I made the junior varsity team and stayed on it for two years until I joined the varsity team as a junior. I love playing soccer and the feeling I get knowing I'm a member of a team. Being part of the soccer team helped me make friends and feel like I was part of the school's community. Because my soccer team helped me so much, as a junior I proposed a mentoring program where experienced team members helped freshman players adjust to high school. The mentors would make sure the freshman weren't feeling overwhelmed, had people to talk to, and found activities and classes they liked. The program was a great success, with many members commenting on how much they enjoyed it. This year, I helped three other sports teams implement the program. Doing this has helped me become more confident and better at public speaking. My high school dean has also asked that I speak to other teams in the hopes that, eventually, each of my school's sports teams will have a similar mentoring program.

Unlike Elizabeth, the highly-skilled ballerina, James is not one of the top high school soccer players in the country. While making varsity team does show he's talented at playing soccer, there are thousands of high school varsity players across the country, and unless you are playing at a national level, simply being a varsity athlete is not enough to make an extracurricular outstanding. What makes James' extracurricular exceptional is not his soccer skills but the mentoring program he started for athletes.

James took his experience of being the new kid and used it to help others avoid feeling lonely and isolated in high school. He decided to create a program that helps new students and bonds the team together. This shows leadership, as well as consideration for others. Colleges want students foster a positive atmosphere by working well as part of a team and being the kind of person other students want to be around. James' commitment to his mentoring program makes him seem like that kind of person. He also states how working on the mentoring program made him a more confident person . Similar to previous examples, James took initiative to start a new project, and he continues to lead and expand it.

James' extracurricular shows that you don't have to be the best at a certain activity to have it be a strong extracurricular. James wasn't team captain and didn't make the varsity team until he was a junior, but he still had a significant impact on improving the soccer team and helping out other students at his school.

If you aren't the top athlete or best science student at your school, you can have a strong impact in another way. A great way to do this is to foster relationships among your classmates. If your school has several science clubs that don't often interact with each other, you can suggest hosting a science event together that can include cool science demonstrations for kids and help the science clubs become more connected. You can also start a mentoring program similar to the one James created.

How to Create Your Own Great Extracurriculars

In none of the above examples was a student handed an amazing internship or club membership; they each had to put in time and effort to create exceptional extracurriculars. It will likely be the same for you. By following the steps below, you can develop great extracurriculars that will show the passion, impact, and leadership abilities that colleges love to see. If you have already chosen your extracurriculars and simply want to strengthen then, you can begin at step #4, although you may still find reading the previous steps useful.

#1: List Your Interests

Colleges want to see you participate in extracurriculars that you are passionate about, not ones you are only doing to impress others. Doing an extracurricular you are interested in will also make it more enjoyable (which is really the point of an extracurricular) and will likely also make you more willing to pursue leadership opportunities and increase your impact.

Make a list of all your interests. This can include your favorite classes, hobbies you enjoy, sports you've wanted to try, or what you plan on studying in college, basically anything you think you would enjoy spending more time doing.

#2: Research Extracurriculars

Once you have your list of interests, find extracurriculars that relate to them. Look at clubs and sports your school offers, local jobs and internships for teens, and volunteer opportunities, and make a list of extracurricular activities you might be interested in. If you need ideas, we have a complete list of extracurriculars that includes hundreds of different options.

If you need more help, ask your guidance counselor, classmates, or local community members. You can also try doing an internet search for "your interest" + "your hometown" to find nearby activities you can get involved with. If your school doesn't offer an extracurricular you're interested in, you can start a club yourself, which is a great way to show initiative and leadership.

#3: Choose and Narrow Your Extracurriculars

If you are able to, choose several extracurriculars that you think you will enjoy. After participating in them for a few weeks or months, you can narrow them down to one or a few that you feel particularly passionate about and want to devote more time to. Colleges are more interested in depth than breadth, so having a few extracurriculars that you put a lot of time into and have a significant impact on is more impressive than a laundry list of clubs and sports you don't really care about.

extracurricular activities college essay examples

Narrow down your interests in order to choose the best extracurriculars

#4: Increase Your Impact

Now that you've chosen your extracurriculars, it's time to strengthen them to help your college application stand out. First, look for ways to increase your impact. Like the examples mentioned above, this can include recruiting more members, creating new events, expanding the club's focus, and more. Try to leave your extracurricular better than it was when you joined it.

#5: Gain Leadership Skills

After you have started to have a larger impact, work to become a leader in your extracurricular. This doesn't always mean being club president or team captain. You can gain leadership skills by mentoring other members, leading a project, or developing a new activity.

Once you've started applying these five rules, you'll be well on your way to developing a great extracurricular to include on your college applications.

What's Next?

Want to learn more about community service? We have a guide that explains what community service is and how it can benefit you.

Are you thinking about doing an extracurricular or volunteer work in a foreign country? Read our guide on volunteer abroad programs and learn if they're really the best option for you.

Not sure if you want to go to school in a big city or small town? Read our guide to learn if you should go to a rural, urban, or suburban school.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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College Essay: Writing About Extracurriculars

extracurricular activities college essay examples

Meet our College Essay Coach

Hello everyone! I’m Alice Choi, a college essay coach for MEK. As a self-declared bibliophile and cinephile, I spend most of my free time nestled in bed reading books or watching films. When I do choose to leave the comforts of my home, I enjoy visiting art museums near and far. As for books, if I had to pick a favorite, I am particularly drawn to the bildungsroman genre for the journey into adulthood, which is somewhat ephemeral but also melancholically beautiful.

My affinity towards the genre is also a reason why I enjoy helping students with their admission essays. For it is always exciting to learn about my student’s interests and personality and help translate all of it into their writing.

Do you have an extracurricular you are passionate about? If so, here are 3 do’s and 3 don’ts to follow in order to improve your college application essay.


#1. don’t appear one-dimensional.

When writing about your extracurricular activities, it is easy to focus on what the admissions office wishes to read or on your intellectual pursuits. After all, you are applying to study at the university, so maybe they would appreciate someone studious: someone whose passion is higher education. However, extracurricular essays exist for the sake of showing the readers a different perspective of who you are. So by focusing on your intellectual pursuits, you appear one-dimensional and your essay becomes expendable. Readers can see your intellect through your resume and GPA.

#2. DON’T w rite sudden epiphanies

Many students write about extracurriculars as epiphanic episodes. For example, “As I was volunteering at X organization, I just knew, I found my passion.” Did you really have a singular “aha” moment when you realized you were passionate about your extracurricular? Although epiphanies do occur in our daily lives, reducing your thought process to just an epiphany is not as effective as explaining why that particular event was so memorable. Readers wish to read about your thought process, and whether or not the event brought forth self-reflections and self-betterment.

#3. DON’T summarize or  list your accomplishments

extracurricular activities college essay examples

So what if you’re passionate about all of your extracurriculars? Should you write about everything?

No. Pick one.

By listing and summarizing all of your wonderful accomplishments, you are just regurgitating your resume. By focusing on one singular activity, you are not diminishing the amount of work you did, but rather you are highlighting the aspects of your character and personality, the readers might not otherwise know of. For more guidance on how to narrow down topics for your essay, check out this blog on the brainstorming process .

#1. DO be detailed and genuine

When writing about your passions, it is important to be detailed and in doing so, you will be able to reflect your genuine interest in the activity. You want to show the reader why this event was so memorable rather than telling them it was. The more detailed your essay, the more passionate you appear to the readers. For example which one sounds more interesting and genuinely passionate?

  Example 1:   “During my summers, I studied at a lab researching pancreatic cancer cells. The research was repetitive, and it taught me the importance of hard work and dedication. I was excited when I saw all my hard work drawn up in neat graphs at the end of my research.” 

Example 2:   “As I conducted my fiftieth experiment on pancreatic cancer cells, I hoped that it would be my final test. Throughout summer, I had a set routine the moment I entered the lab: suit up, test and record, and clean. repeat. It was repetitive and often times inconclusive, but I enjoyed every moment. For there is nothing but content satisfaction when you see all of your experiments summed up in graphics that proved the professor’s hypothesis. My experiments were forever enshrined as little dots on the line graphs.”

Clearly the second example is more compelling. (For more tips on how to “show, not tell” in your writing, click here)

#2. DO focus on the skills you developed

Again the purpose of this essay is to show a different aspect of who you are. What did you gain from your extracurriculars? Are these values unique to that activity? Many students have similar extracurriculars, so it is important to stand out, and you can do so by providing a creative take to the skills you developed.

For example, if you wish to write about basketball, rather than focusing on the predictable skillset of dedication and teamwork, maybe focus on the personal integrity necessary to make the team into a unit or on the amount of discomfort you put your body through to be a better player. The more creative you are, the more you will stand out to the readers.

#3. DO provide a mic drop

extracurricular activities college essay examples

So you wrote about your passions and about the unpredictable skills developed from the extracurricular. Now what?

Now, tie it all together.

Why are all your details and all the unique skills you developed so important to you? Why did you focus on this particular extracurricular? What insights and reflections can you share with the reader? In doing so, it is also important to amaze your reader one final time.

When concluding your essay, imagine yourself reading the last sentence to an audience. Could you proceed with a mic drop? You want your reader to be amazed at your accomplishments, your dedication and concluding with a strong sentence will only benefit you.

Ms. Alice out. 

Want more expert tips?

If you want expert guidance on crafting strong college application essays from start to finish, sign up to work one-on-one with me or one of my fellow expert essay coaches through our Application Essay Writing Program.

You can call 855-346-1410 or contact us here to get started.

Alice is an English Instructor, primarily for the College Application Essays. She spreads her love for the English language to her students, teaching them skills to use for not only their college applications, but for years and years after. The combination of her bright personality and compassionate approach makes students enjoy their time working with her.


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How (and why) to Write a College Essay About Your Extracurricular Activities | Guide + Examples

Brad Schiller

Brad Schiller

😢 Won’t anyone think of the college admissions readers? 😢

In our work as college essay coaches , we’ve lately been delighted to learn that many people are in fact worried that college admission officers might be bored — specifically due to redundant college essays that rehash all the stuff that’s in the Activities List in prose-form.

Ugh! That would indeed be horribly boring. (And it does indeed happen.) 

[Shaking head.] Poor admissions readers.

But — little nuance — you don’t have to rehash what you put in your activities list. You could instead expand upon what’s there by either: 

Bottom line: writing a Common App Personal Statement (or supplemental essay) about a meaningful extracurricular activity is often a great idea. Read on for how to do it right.

In fact, many college applications specifically ask students to describe an activity or work experience — proof that colleges are interested in learning more about them. 

What you *don’t* want to do: Redundancy & the dreaded “it makes me feel alive” trap 

While the idea that you shouldn’t write about activities in college application essays is a pernicious rumor, as college essay coaches , we must admit that this territory does come with some real danger. 

The danger is that, instead of writing an essay that sheds light on how you’ll succeed in college and beyond , you talk about the activity in a way that adds little to nothing over what’s already in your Activity List. 

Here are some approaches that have been known to tempt those facing the terror of the blank page:

Let’s analyze.

In the first two types of essays (the “[activity] makes me feel alive!” essay) the problem isn’t necessarily writing style. You could write a beautiful piece of prose about that amazing, game-clinching goal, with drama and stakes, reveals and surprises, and soul-plumbing moments on par with something out of Squid Game . 

But if the essay doesn’t say anything about your potential to succeed — elements we’ve boiled down to the 5 traits (more about them below) — it’s not going to matter to the college. 

Lots of students love music. Lots of people are passionate about sports. 

Those things aren’t enough (on their own) to make anyone stand out. 

The last type of essay is more of an obvious clunker. This student may be brilliant at Debate, but they can’t write for their life! The issue here is that they’re just laying out everything they’ve done — the admissions officer isn’t learning anything new. All of it would fit better in their Activities List.  

At least this example shows that college essays aren’t about “showing off.” You don’t need to have insane accomplishments to write a great essay. (Great accomplishments shine better in Activities Lists — although even there, it’s easy to undersell yourself. Here’s how to sell yourself in Activities Lists .)

Rather, it’s perfectly possible to write a great essay about a smaller moment or experience, so long as the essay focuses on your character traits, and how they’ll help you succeed. 

Speaking of which, let’s move on to ...

What you *do* want to do: Show how your activity connects to your potential for success 

Alright. Here’s the good stuff.

Yes, you can absolutely write about your extracurricular activities (including paid work). You can do this to great effect either in your personal statement or in a shorter supplemental essay (or even both!). If you still don’t believe us, here’s an example of a student who got into Harvard by writing about an extracurricular activity. 

Here are some reasons why activities make great essay topics:

That brings us to the 5 traits.  

If you’ve read almost any of our other articles, you know that the 5 traits that colleges look for in applicants are:

These traits show you’re someone who has it in them to succeed. They’re more important than any one success or achievement. Because, if we’re being honest, one success or achievement in high school isn’t that impressive. But having a trait within you that leads to success? That actually is impressive. 

Let’s rewrite those essay types above with the 5 traits in mind:

Let’s analyze. 

These examples turn the admissions reader from outsiders to insiders. 

Your Activities List was a teaser trailer, heavy on the special effects and with the greatest moments edited together to pack a wallop. Now, the college wants to know more . They’re metaphorically willing to cough up movie fare and schlep out to the theater (of course donning a covid mask) to learn the full story of what created this awesome list.

In an essay centered on one or more activities, they want to see what actions you took that led to these accomplishments. They want to see what traits within you caused you to take those actions. They want to see if you have what it takes to succeed. 

For the soccer example , we’ve tossed the game-clinching goal cliche out the window. Instead, we’re focused on rare, valuable traits — in this case Drive (aka Grit). This person gets things done. No matter what. Who would you rather have on campus? A student who’s great at soccer and has scored some extraordinary goals? Or … the person who rallied an apathetic team into adding work and improving their results? 

In the musical example, you see both Initiative (challenging the status quo) as well as Intellectual Curiosity (being excited about learning). This person doesn’t just love music, they made that love of music happen, and they got deep into it. What a cool type of person to admit to a college!

Finally, in our Debate Club example , you’re seeing some Contribution (giving back, helping others) in the form of a person wanting to do better by teammates, as well as perhaps some Drive and Intellectual Curiosity , both of which likely come into play later in the essay, as this person turns their performance around. 

Another thing you might want to do: Tell a fuller version of the impact you had and how you achieved it   

Another way we, as essay coaches , have seen students successfully discuss an activity is when the 150 characters allotted for each of your activities isn’t quite enough to tell its story. 

Let’s take this Activities List description as an example:

(Yes, this is Squid Game , and no there are no spoilers up there. I mean, you know one of them is going to win, right? It’s a very mild spoiler. Email us if you’re upset.)

Well, there might be a lot more to say here about this person’s participation in the Squid Games. About …

If you’ve got some great accomplishments under your belt, why not elaborate beyond 150 characters? There’s almost certainly much more to explore that admissions officers would find impressive.

Just make sure that you’re focusing on your actions and how they relate to one or more of the 5 traits. Avoid going on overly long about your deep feelings for the activity or simply recounting “facts,” such as awards or achievements (that clinching soccer goal) — the college wants to know what enduring traits are behind those fleeting achievements.

More articles on’s admissions-boosting methods:

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The College Extracurricular Activity Essay

Mark montgomery.

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How will you write your extracurricular activity essay?

The Common Application used to ask you to “elaborate” on one of you extracurricular activities in 150 words. Now this essay is not quite as common. At least it is no long required on the Common App.

However, many other colleges do require it, either as a part of their application, or as a “supplement” the  Common Application .

extracurricular activities college essay examples

Either way, this short paragraph can be an essential component of your entire presentation as an applicant.  In just a few sentences, you must convey something personal, meaningful, and interesting about yourself.

Seems impossible, right?  “How can I sum up my experience in my favorite extracurricular activities in just a few sentences?”

Well, it’s time to tackle the impossible. These tips may help you decide which activity to focus upon, and how to write a well-structured paragraph that gives the reader a deeper understanding of your motivations and your priorities.

Choose the Right Activity

Don’t necessarily pick the activity that looms largest on your resume or activity list.  If you are a star tennis player and possible recruit for a college team, that fact will be clear on your activity list.  If you are the best clarinetist in the city, then your activity list should reflect that fact.  Remember, the prompt asks you to “elaborate” on the activity.  It doesn’t say you have to choose the one that takes up the most time, nor does it say that it must be the one that is your primary extracurricular focus.  More specifically, it may be that the activity in which you have achieved or excelled the most is not the activity that will be the best to elaborate upon in this short essay. Consider the other activities that may help to round out your application and present another view of what motivates and interests you.

Consider which activities carry the most personal meaning to you.  Look back over your resume or activities list and ask yourself, “Which of these would I miss the most if I could no longer do it?” Perhaps it’s that annual scouting trip, or the weekends skiing with your family.  Or maybe it’s that concert you organize at the nursing home twice a year that brings you particular joy. Choosing the right activity is the first step as you write your extracurricular activity essay.

Your “Hidden” Activities

Consider elaborating on an activity that is not on the activities list or resume.  For example, perhaps your extended family shares Sunday dinner together regularly, and this ritual has had a big influence on you and helped to shape your feelings about family.  Maybe you actually enjoy mowing your lawn every week, making it look nice by paying attention to details. Perhaps you ride your bike to school every morning, and you use that time to notice details on your route, and get your head together before and after your workday.

Not Necessarily Your “Best” Activities

Consider taking one of your activities and giving it greater specificity and detail.  As you know, the space on the application in which to elaborate on your activities is very, very limited.  So use this short paragraph to pull out some details. For example, perhaps you mention on your activity sheet that you have done volunteer work at a hospital, and that you have several responsibilities.  But perhaps there is one responsibility, in particular, that you most enjoy.  That one responsibility could be the focus of your extracurricular.

To take another example, perhaps you are a guitar player, and your activity list indicates that you’re fairly good, but not great.  However, there I some particular aspect of playing the guitar that you enjoy. Perhaps you don’t mind playing scales over and over in order to improve your technique. Or maybe you go to a music store on Saturdays where a bunch of bluegrass players get together and jam, and you join in, despite the fact you aren’t the best player; or you are a huge fan of Andre Segovia and have listened to every piece he has ever recorded.  These sorts of details can say a lot about the depth of your interest in an activity, even if it is not where your greatest accomplishments lie.

The Focus:  “Why?”

Your activity list or resume should address the questions of “What, When, and Where?” (the “who” should be apparent:  you!).  This list explains your accomplishments and the range of your commitments.  But it doesn’t explain your motivations or your priorities.  This short essay-ette gives you an opportunity do some explaining.

As with your primary college essay and with the supplements, the aim here is to give the admissions officer reading your file a bit more information about yourself.  What you convey in this short paragraph is something that they won’t find in the essays, and that they won’t really know from reading your activity list.  This is another opportunity for you to present another interesting and important facet of your personality.  All the essays give your application depth and dimension.  Don’t throw away this opportunity to tell the reader more about yourself.

Tips for Writing the Extracurricular Activity Essay

Start with a list of reasons you participate in this activity.  What do you get out of it?  Why do you enjoy it? Why would you miss it if you suddenly were unable to do it anymore?

Remember that not every aspect of your participation may be enjoyable.  Are there reasons you participate in this activity that actually help you accomplish something else that is, in fact, even more enjoyable?  For example, weigh training may not always be fun, but it can make you stronger.  Practicing the flute may be enjoyable in some respects, and not so much in others—but practicing makes you a better player.

Once your list of reasons why you participate in this activity, pick the top three.  Write your essay in 5 sentences.  One to introduce the activity, three to explain why you do it, and 1 to spare, either as a conclusion or as an elaboration on your introduction.

Video Course for College Admissions

Some Prompts to Get You Going

If you are having trouble, try completing these sentence prompts to get you going.

The Extracurricular Activity Essay – Final Notes

For most of us–adults as well as teens–our activities are good reflections of our priorities, talents, and motivations. We often demonstrate excellence through the things we do outside of school (or outside our jobs or professions).

This Common App supplemental extracurricular activity essay is a great way for you to share more about who you are as a person. If you focus on WHY you engage in these activities, you’ll be able convey those motivations and priorities.

You have fun engaging in your extracurricular activities. Now enjoy writing about one that is especially important to you.

Mark Montgomery

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