How important are in school extracurriculars

How important are school extracurriculars to a college? My daughter has pretty good stats but is very light on in school extracurriculars (which actually kept her out of NHS last year).

School extracurriculars:

*Musical (Sophomore-Senior). Sophomore year they were a week away from opening when the schools closed, Junior year they were able to squeeze a cabaret type show which was live streamed. Hoping it will all come together Senior year.

*Tennis player (Freshman-Junior)

*Tennis Manager for Senior year - due to post concussion syndrome her neurologist will not clear her until at least a month into the 6 week season.

*She plans on doing STEM club and maybe Quiz bowl this year. I’m not sure 1 year will matter but she wants to do them for fun.

Outside extracurricular:

*competitive dance (15-20 hours per week Sept to June, 10 hours a week Summer), teaches younger dance classes, 3 team national titles, 1 solo national title. No competitions last year but still had classes)

  • summer library volunteer (5 hours a week-since 6th grade except last summer)

*Summer theater (Pre-Sophomore and Pre-Senior year)

Her Freshman year she was only able to do tennis and library because we had to sign a contract at her old dance studio saying she would not participate in any activity outside of dance. The director gave her special permission for those since they ended before the more intense season began.


*GPA: 3.85 unweighted; 4.3 weighted

*Class rank: 15th of 225 ish

Not sure if these matter:

Intended major: Computer Science (maybe Cybersecurity?) or Engineering

Schools (some may be cut)
York College PA

I think that your daughter is fine for extracurriculars.

ECs are most important for universities such as Harvard and Stanford with acceptance rates in the low single digits where nearly every applicant is close to a straight A student. For example Stanford said a few years ago in an article in their alumni magazine that 80% of applicants are academically qualified to attend and do well (but they accept closer to 4% of applicants). Out of every 20 academically qualified applicants Stanford needs to find a way to reject 19 of them, so they consider ECs.

For normal very good universities (which is what I see on your list) you can get admitted on academics and good references alone.

Also, ECs that are outside of school (eg, dance, summer theater, a job) also count fully as ECs. ECs do not need to be through the high school.

We did not consider the specific schools on your list (we live well north and east of you). However, I think that your daughter’s ECs are fine for the schools on your list.


She’s going to be fine. She has extracurriculars. It’s important she does what she’s passionate about - not just to build a list. She has sports, dance, etc. When someone lists 10 activities, colleges know it’s padded.

I think you’ll be 100% acceptance with those schools.

I think you might want to update your list. Rider, for example, has Cybersecurity - but not engineering.

Dickinson has a 3/2 engineering - so you start there and after 3 years go to RPI or Case Western. Forgetting it’s an extra year, you also show up after three years not knowing anyone. A Lafayette or Bucknell or Union might be better fits…they are LACs with 4-year Engineering all in house…or even a Lehigh (a bit bigger).

Didn’t see an SAT/ACT - but while your daughter’s list is fine, you might find schools that have all her interests - and honestly, in my opinion, these are all targets and safeties and if this is your dream list, that’s great and no reason to change…but you can find more competitive schools that she’d have a shot at - for example, the four I mentioned are all sticking on the small and close by which it appears you want.

Good luck.


My son graduated Bloomsburg with a degree in Digital Forensics. He had a lot less Ec’s and was awarded their largest scholarship which was 5000.00 a year at the time. He was also accepted to Wilkes with an honors program scholarship. So, she’s good for those 2.


Phooey to the NHS for not letting your daughter in due to her “lack” of extracurriculars! Competitive dance requires a lot of time and the fact that she teaches younger classes demonstrates leadership. And her library volunteer hours demonstrate her community involvement and service.


It makes zero difference if ECs are in school or out of school. What IS important is that your D is involved in activities she cares about.


Another thing that might be worth mentioning: This is not a contest to have the longest list of ECs. Schools would prefer that you show a commitment to a few ECs, and that you do well in those few ECs.

To me this looks like exactly what you daughter has done. I think that she is in great shape.

And I agree with “Phooey to the NHS”.

1 Like

She has good ECs! School music, school sport, intense dance team outside of school, with awards, theater, volunteering. Why isn’t she in NHS? She’s got the grades, and she does volunteer work. The only volunteer work my kid did was raise a guide dog puppy for 3 months, and they let her in!

It seems to me that your daughter’s list is all safeties and matches. Where are her reach schools?

1 Like

Every school has different requirements for NHS. Ours had such stringent volunteering requirements that unless volunteering was one of your main ECs it was hard to qualify. A lot of kids, including my daughter, didn’t even bother with it. The good thing is that colleges don’t care about NHS.


I don’t think NHS or Mu Alpha Theta or any of those is that big a deal. She has solid ECs. At many schools, NHS is just fluff and the colleges know.

Maybe it’s an ego issue for your daughter and I understand. But she’ll be fine regardless.


You didn’t mention test scores, or money. But to me, with about 7th% rank, and nice ECs, and being a woman interested in STEM, how about some more selective schools? Lehigh, Union, RPI, Drexel? Maybe even Haverford? Bryn Mawr if she’s willing to go to an all women’s school that is across the street from Haverford, and part of the Quaker consortium. Seems to me that she could be looking at schools with acceptance rates as low as 15-20% for reach (especially if they’re looking for women in STEM fields), and I bet she’d get into virtually all schools with acceptance rates of 40% or higher. Your list looks like a “Good Schools for Average Students” list, and your daughter is NOT an average student! She’s an A/A+ student! And her ECs are very good.

She shouldn’t sell herself short. NHS not taking her means nothing. Her GPA/rank and her busy, involved schedule of activities says a great deal about her, and it most definitely does NOT say “75% acceptance rate” school.

1 Like

I agree that your ECs are fine. My daughter has great ECs but most are not at school.

I do disagree that only top schools care about these. With test optional/test blind they will be a more important way to evaluate a student by looking at commitment and interest in major. After touring an LAC it was clear they want to get a sense about how active the student will be on campus — will they continue ECs at the college? I think that’s important to all schools — how will this student contribute to our campus community?

1 Like

I think schools have their own requirements, our had a certain amount of volunteer hours that were school related and not school related. One of mine was kicked out last year (senior) for not submitting his school related volunteer hours (he did them, just needed to get they signed for, he’s lazy). His twin got her senior hours in (they volunteered together).

1 Like

Extracurriculars are relevant (NHS not at all), but in different ways than HS students and parents might think.

It’s not the length of the list that matters, it’s NOT a competition. Quality over quantity!

For colleges, when everyone applies with same GPAs and scores, it tells them a story about this student, their interests, the depth of commitment, persistence, personal growth, etc. that is going to be different from everyone else.

It gives them a small window to see beyond numeric grades.

1 Like