Extracurriculars not matching intended major

I’m currently a high school junior and have recently become aware that my extracurricular activities do not really line up with my intended major. Although I want to major in environmental science/ conservation, my activities are sports (3), operation smile club, model UN, and author for a section of a local magazine. While they do not line up exactly, I really do love all of my clubs and am fairly involved (especially in op smile). I was going to see if there were any environmental-y clubs at my school this year, but then I got nervous that it would look like I’m just doing it for the college app, even if I really enjoy it. The reason I’m nervous is because I have seen people say that your college app should have a “theme” and I feel like mine is a bit more random. Would this be a dealbreaker for higher ranking schools, or would it just kinda be neutral because I’m still really involved and passionate.

It’s zero issues.

You should be doing activities that are:

  1. Enjoyable to you

  2. Give you an opportunity to develop tenure and as a bonus leadersihp

  3. Make an impact - i.e. a sport, job, community oriented role.

That it matches or doesn’t match your intended major is not relevant.

Good luck to you.

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“People” are correct…just not the way you think. The ‘theme’ or ‘narrative arc’ of your app should be the story of you. Like a mosaic, when you put the pieces of your stats, coursework, ECs, LoRs, and essays together an AO should get a good picture of the person who would be enrolling in their college. The ECs that are meaningful to you are part of that picture.

AOs aren’t looking for one dimensional students whose only interest in life is their professional career. Spoiler: most adults have interests outside their work life :slight_smile:

In most US colleges and universities you won’t declare a major until 2nd year. Moreover, colleges are well aware that a good third of students change their intended major after they get to college, and (with some exceptions) that is what the system is designed for.

Be all of who you are.


Please don’t worry about “packaging” yourself. You are fine.

In fact, at many schools you can enter undecided on major and decide at the end of sophomore year.

At any rate, it is okay that your EC’s don’t match your major. Don’t stress about this and continue to do what you enjoy and are good at.

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Jeff Selingo’s book “Who Gets In And Why” supports what you’ve heard, as does one of “Inside the Admissions Office” podcasts (Episode 30, “How yo Stand Out and Be Remembered”). Our private college counselor has also given us the same advice.

That said, you can probably still get into environmental science in college. It’s not a super-competitive major with limited spots (like comp sci, engineering, or med school). You should join an ES-related club regardless of how late it is in your HS career if it interests you.

I agree with everyone else that you are fine.

The point of your extracurricular activities is to do what you want to do, and do it very well. If you are the president of a club then make the club better for everyone who wants to participate. If you are in a competition then compete fairly and compete well – winning is not necessary but does help.

Also, extracurricular activities are most important for top universities who get a lot of applications from students who are academically almost perfect, and have to choose which perfect students to accept. You can get into very good universities with relatively little in the way of ECs.

In my case my ECs had almost nothing to do with anything academic at all. The only EC that was even close to having any academic connection was chess club. This was not a problem at all.

By the way, many of the top ranked universities do not admit by major. For example MIT only considers your intended major if you are accepted and if you decide to go in order to pick your freshman year advisor.

If you want to join an environmental club, then join an environmental club.

Just to be clear (I listened to the podcast), they are not saying that you need to have EC’s related to your proposed major. They are saying that you need to understand yourself and should be able to sell you as a complete package, not as separate activities. A successful application writer can take what looks to the layperson as disjointed items and converts it into something that conveys a feeling of “Wow, that is a smart and interesting person. I would like to get to know them better”.

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I think you can tie in your interests at some level. At Model UN get assigned to areas that may take on climate change or other environmental issues. For the article you write, can you write about environmental issues at the local level?

Do not undo anything you are doing, but look for opportunities to explore the major you are interested in as well. Maybe there is something to get involved in next summer for an internship or a place that needs volunteers. That will also help you make sure you are actually interested in this.

Don’t worry about this. You don’t have to have demonstrated interest at the high school level in order to major in something in college. Your ECs sound great! You just need to be able to tell a school why you’re interested in a specific major. I assume that your high school classes line up some with environmental science, and it’s clear from your ECs that you want to make the world a better place.

Our engineering major had zero ECs in high school related to engineering. No robotics, no math team, no math club…none of that. Primary and very involved EC was music.

I personally think colleges are looking for students who are NOT one dimensional. In other words, it’s nice to see someone with interests other than what they plan to do for a major.


And my kid who got into a tippy-top school had no EC that dovetailed with his intended major. He too was music in high school, but not a music major in college.

Do what you love doing in high school, get good grades, and it will all turn out fine.


Well-rounded students take the best parts of what they have experienced in their extracurriculars and translate them to other aspects of life. You do not have to be focused entirely on what you want to study; please do not worry about the extracurriculars you have being different than your major choice. In my opinion, a student who is entirely focused on one thing can either thrive at that thing, or burnout. Continue to enjoy a variety of extracurriculars.


I’m sorry. Wrong episode. The correct one is #24, Crafting Your Activities List. No one is advocating for a one-dimensional student who only does things related to music or only does things related to robotics. However, having one or two awards/activities related to your intended major can help. Right around the 7:00 mark the guest speaker discusses the importance of demonstrated activity/interest. She goes on for a bit, then comes back to talking about how to order those ECs so they don’t get overlooked (starting at 14:15).

As indicated by the anecdotal posts here, lacking related ECs isn’t always a dealbreaker. The argument is simply that yes, they can be helpful in telling an AO that you are serious about the major for which you are applying.

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This is so sad, and such a tall order for the majority of teenagers. This is not against you @Eeyore123. I just had a profoundly sad moment for our teens reading your post.

Is it a tall order, yes. Is it for the majority of students, no. Likely 99.5% of students don’t have to worry about it. This is about getting into elite institutions. Having that level of mental maturity is skill that only a few have at that age. But it is one of the things that differentiates the 4.0/35 from each other. It is also why chance me threads can only really find the ones that have no chance at the elite schools. We don’t see the full package. Anyone that makes it to the elite level of anything (sports, arts, academics) is normally cut from a different block then the merely very good people. If you want to be a good basketball player, you don’t have to shoot 500 baskets a day. If you want to be elite…

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Yes, but most usually reach this elite level later in life, not at 17. I was just reading about the three economists that received the Nobel prize. They all went to great undergraduate schools, but not elite. And I think they would consider themselves merely very good people, although I can’t say for sure since I have not interviewed them. I still believe that idolizing an elite institution for an undergraduate degree is pretty limiting and the wrong educational strategy for anyone.


Frame that and pin it here on CC. Idolizing elite institutes is way toi common among students who come her for advice, as well as among parents


Courtney: In my opinion, you should definitely focus on developing activities that support your interest in environmental science.

First, should do them because according to you, that’s what you want to study. So, just for a substantive reason, you need to check out that field and see if you do love it–the sooner the better.

Second, strategically, it will absolutely help you stand out if you have activities and essays that show an unusually developed interest in conservation. You asked about high ranking schools–they are taking 3-20 students for every 100 they read. So you need to stand out. One excellent way to do that is when your application has a point of excellence: for you, that would be conservation.

You have plenty of time. And there’s so many creative ways to get involved in this field. You’re author for a local magazine? Interview a conservation professor at a school you want to attend on her path to becoming a conservationist; on pressing issues; write a whole series on it. Then use that relationship to ask her for ways you can get involved: maybe she’ll turn you onto a seminar, event, or organization you can work with. Be creative.


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