What kind of extracurricular activities should you highlight in your college application?

Competition for places at universities has never been more intense. Many colleges are receiving record numbers of college applications, and if you've got your heart set on a prestigious university, you need to do everything you can to make your application stand out from the crowd. One way to do this is to highlight the extracurricular activities you're involved in as part of your college admissions essay – but which after-school activities should you mention, and how can they make your college application more attractive to admissions officials?

Depending on what you're interested in, there are many ways to highlight your after-school activities as potential strengths in your college application. For example, if you're a keen sports player, you can mention that you enjoy competition, that you're a team player and that you know how to work with others towards common goals.

If you're on the debate team, you can highlight the fact that you can assess both sides of an argument and articulate your points clearly. You could also mention that you're comfortable speaking in front of audiences, and that you enjoy spirited intellectual discussions. Similarly, if you are a member of the chess club, you can mention that you enjoy mental challenges and appreciate the value of strategic board games. Chess players often develop solid analytical skills, which can be an asset in many career paths.

For students involved in extracurricular activities centered on the arts, you can draw attention to your creativity and desire to express yourself. Painting, sculpting, writing and other creative pursuits can often benefit students' problem-solving skills, as such pastimes encourage the use of creative thinking. Musical activities can also demonstrate your ability to perform as part of a team, especially if you are involved with school bands. Being a member of the school band also demonstrates that you take pride in your school, which you could use to mention that a sense of community is important to you.

For students involved in the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) or other military-focused activities, a sense of discipline is something you can mention as part of your college admission essays or interviews. Many students taking part in activities organized by the armed forces take pride in their communities and country, which can look good on your college application.

Volunteering and charity work is another extracurricular activity that could make your college application stand out. This type of work demonstrates that you care about others and are willing to sacrifice your own personal time to benefit people in need. 

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