首先，让我们讨论一下大学招办在学生申请材料中的课外部分如何评估。在众多高校使用的通用申请平台(Common App) 中，可写10个活动和5个奖项。每个活动可以有150个字符的描述，包括空格和标点符号，并要求学生列出每周和每年的活动时间。对于奖项，有100个字符用于描述，学生还需要列出获得奖项时的年级和认可级别：学校、本地区、州级别、国家级或国际。
原创作者：iBridge Education 顾问团队
Choosing High School Activities
Taking into consideration the eventual college application, it is important to determine what activities a student should pursue during high school. An activity is anything that the student does outside of the classroom for a significant amount of time, at least one to two hours per week. We will not prescribe to you what specific activities to join per se, as each student should have their own set of pursuits that shows their uniqueness. Rather, this article will hopefully serve as a guide for factors to consider when a student is choosing which activities to pursue during the course of high school.
First, let’s discuss what colleges evaluate in the extracurricular section of the application. In the Common Application, the platform used by many colleges and universities, there are ten activity slots and five award slots. Each activity can have a 150-character description, including spaces and punctuation, and requires student to list the hours per week and weeks per year of the activity. For awards, there are 100 characters allotted for the description, and the student is also required to list the grade level(s) when they received the award and the level of recognition: school, local, state, national, or international. The eventual presentation of activities and awards is important to consider, because ultimately, there is not a lot of space given for four years’ worth of activities and accomplishments, so admissions officers need to be wowed by the information that is packed into that space. Accordingly, what the student does during high school needs to be significant. Any activities that go beyond the ten spaces allotted or more than five awards can be listed in the additional information section of the application.
Within the activities and honors section of the application, admissions officers consider a few factors. There is longevity: how long the student has been doing the activity; colleges like to see that students have done activities consistently, ideally since 9th or 10th grade. Further, admissions officers examine the level of involvement of each activity, determined by the hours per week and weeks per year listed. There is a big difference between community service that was done for two hours for ten weeks of 10th grade versus ten hours per week for forty weeks per year during all four years of high school. The latter will show commitment and dedication toward helping the student’s community. Admissions officers try to determine what is important to the student based on their level of commitment to certain activities. Colleges also look for community impact and leadership, demonstrations that the student will engage with the college community. The high school activities provide a lens through which colleges can imagine who the student will be on their campus. Admissions officers also consider how common or uncommon the activity is, such as being in the National Honor Society (common among top students) versus beekeeping (uncommon). This is not to say that you need to start keeping bees but is simply an example.
We have started with presenting what colleges consider, as this provides a framework for choosing high school activities and factors to bear in mind when doing so. A student should show a unique combination in their activities: community service, art, and marine biology for example. The activities demonstrate the passions of the student; colleges consider how these passions will add to the fabric of their campus community. As such, the activities should demonstrate that the student has something to bring to the campus beyond simply being well-rounded. This does not mean that the student must only pursue one area of interest; rather, any area of interest should be backed up with activities and awards that demonstrate the student’s commitment in this area and their willingness to pursue their passion. The total hours per week among the activities are also important, as colleges are interested in seeing how students choose to spend their time outside of school.
When choosing high school activities, first consider the student’s talents: are they interested in music, athletics, dance, writing, or the arts? If so, the student should pursue these talents at the highest level they can, ideally beyond school. This can include regional, state, or even national teams or ensembles. For individual pursuits, such as writing or art, the student should aim for awards and publications at the highest level that they can in order to legitimize their talent in the eyes of college admissions.
The student must choose activities that they can pursue ideally throughout high school. In 9th grade, it is important for the student to join a few clubs and activities inside and outside of school to see if they would like to continue as many of the activities as possible. These clubs and activities should correspond to the student’s interests, including their academic interest, which is important to explore outside the classroom. (We will also note that at this time, it is important for the student to create a digital calendar so that they can manage their time!) These activities should also be ones where the student can eventually gain a leadership position to show that they have grown in responsibility over time, such as becoming president of a club or first chair or section leader in the orchestra or band.
As we mentioned, leadership is important, so this is an area to highlight specifically. Students should aim to have ideally at least two to three leadership positions in their high school career, such as founding a club or leading a service project. They should have a leadership position by 11th grade, though it is certainly great if they have a leadership position before this as well, as long as the position can be maintained and built upon during the course of high school. These leadership positions should point toward noticeable impacts in the community—whether it be in school, local, or even beyond.
It is important that students utilize each summer of high school. A student should pursue summer projects, internships, competitive programs, university courses, research, or summer jobs during their break. Ideally, these summer pursuits will correspond with the student’s main interests. Each summer the activities should have a combined high number of hours per week and weeks per year to demonstrate that the break is being utilized effectively.
Community service is also a common activity, as this demonstrates a student’s interests in serving their others based on a cause they care about or an important issue in their community. It is great if there is a notable achievement such as through earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award yearly. Volunteer hours should be spent on causes that are important to the student rather than simply based on what is available. For instance, if a student is interested in marine biology, they can spend time on a service project that advocates toward marine conservation.
Independent academic research is also becoming increasingly common among top students, regardless of academic discipline. According to the University of Pennsylvania Almanac, one third of the UPenn class of 2026 participated in academic research at some point during their time in high school, many earning national and international awards, such as publications, science fair accolades, and/or attending conferences. This demonstrates the importance of conducting independent academic research—which includes writing a research paper and publishing it in an academic journal or presenting it at a conference—at some point during high school. This can be a great way to spend a summer, or even more than one summer in the case of publishing multiple academic papers.
Ultimately, the activities that a student should pursue during high school vary on a case-by-case basis. However, we hope that this serves as a helpful tool when approaching the nebulous matrix that is choosing high school activities. In the end, the major activities that the student pursues—i.e., the ones that take up the most time and dedication—should also yield compelling stories that can be incorporated into college application essays while helping the student explore their passions and interests.
原创作者：iBridge Education 顾问团队