Adding extracurricular activities to your transcript can be downright fun! They give a dash of flavor and spice to any transcript by demonstrating a student’s interests beyond academics. Colleges appreciate well-rounded students with a diverse background, and extracurricular activities are one of the best ways to show it.

Sometimes, though, it’s tough to know where to even start when adding extracurricular activities. So we’re here to help!

What are extracurricular activities, anyway?

Think of them as any pursuit outside of school that contribute in meaningful ways to a student’s life. Common examples include:

  • Community service
  • A part-time job
  • Charity volunteer work
  • Sports
  • Clubs
  • Writing for a newspaper
  • Music
  • Performing arts
  • Missionary work
  • Boy or Girl Scouts

If you’re looking for specific extracurricular activities in your community, start are with your local church or house of worship, YMCA or similar civic/volunteer organization, and sports teams and associations. Part-time or full-time summer jobs can be among the best activities to select because they demonstrate initiative and hard work.

It can be tempting to line a high school transcript with loads of fun and interesting extracurricular activities, but it’s important to be selective. Not everything needs to go on the transcript! In fact, think about the college you’re applying to when selecting extracurricular activities. Consider creating multiple versions of your transcript that have extracurricular elements tailored to the individual school.

Also consider ways that you can integrate extracurricular activities into other elements of your college application process. For example, make them part of an admissions essay or suggest that a teacher, boss, coach, or mentor include them in a recommendation letter.

How to present extracurricular activities

Any extracurricular activities your student has participated in, or academic honors your student has received, should be listed on her transcript. Some examples are:

  • “Straight A” student during Junior year
  • Served as a volunteer at the Oak Street Library
  • Won third place in a 2013 state science fair
  • Started a successful small business at age 16

Don’t be afraid to mention the best qualities of a student in this section. This is your chance to show a college admissions officer that a student actively pursued challenging activities outside of normal coursework.

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It’s important to choose a good mix of activities and honors that demonstrate your student is well-rounded both academically and experientially. You want to show that he has participated in a variety of extracurricular projects, not just those directly related to the field of study he wishes to pursue.

For example, the following activities section, while impressive, doesn’t have the variety a college is looking for. It’s clear this student is talented at computers, but it’s not clear if he would be able to easily participate in other activities that don’t involve computers:

  • Designed, built, and deployed a website for a local animal shelter
  • Wrote a computer program to check password efficiency and entered it in a science fair
  • Designed and built a gaming computer using spare parts

Here is a better list of activities demonstrating a more well-rounded academic experience:

  • Organized three blood drives for the Red Cross
  • Earned a General-class Amateur radio licensed
  • Performed in multiple plays as part of a local drama group
  • Earned “Competent Communicator” award in Toastmasters club

While variety is important, it’s best not to pad your list of activities with lots of entries. Colleges would rather see deep involvement in a few activities than shallow involvement in dozens. Aim to include two to three significant extracurricular activities on the transcript, along with any honors or awards the student has received. Keep each entry short. One or two sentences should be adequate to describe the activity.