Colleges aren’t just looking for students with good grades and test scores; to be accepted you’ll need to show admissions officers that you’ve been productive and taken the initiative during high school.
Academic Honors: If you’re very good at a subject, try to do more than just get good grades. Find out from your teachers if there are other ways to get involved. If you’re great at physics, look for science fairs. If you’re a writer, try submitting your essays or poems to competitions.
School Clubs & Organizations: To join most clubs and groups, all you need to do is show up, so try a few. You can learn something and meet people while you build your admissions resume. Joining is the first step toward doing something more impressive. True, joining the Spanish club or math team won’t get you into college, but doing so will show that you’re involved and possibly head to other opportunities in those areas.
Sports: You don’t have to be a future professional athlete to be involved in high school sports. In addition to keeping you in shape and allowing you to meet new people, involvement in sports shows colleges that you have discipline, initiative, and experience working with a team.
School Government: While only one person can be school president, there are usually a number of slots for representatives, treasurer, etc. Being a part of the school government shows colleges that you care about issues around you, changing your environment, and can work collaboratively.
Community Service: There are always community service opportunities available to give you experience. Some popular choices are Habitat for Humanity, working for a homeless shelter, and doing service projects at your church or religious institution. While any contribution you make is helpful, you’ll get more mileage during application season if you can show you were substantially devoted to an activity (they’ll actually ask how many hours per week you spent there)!
Debate & Speech: At schools with forensics, debate, or speech teams, it’s usually easy to find a specific area of focus (anything from policy debate to poetry reading) that interests you. Being able to speak well publically is not just a skill that will enable you to ace a presentation, but something very applicable in the workforce. Entering competitions will also give you an opportunity to showcase your abilities and impress colleges.
Music: Pursue your musical interests even if it doesn’t lead to any type of formal recognition, as it shows another facet of your personality. A passion for music also provides a unique essay topic possibility.
Hobbies: While you obviously won’t get admissions “credit” for everything you do outside of school, activities that you’re passionate about will frequently spill out into accomplishments or interests that you can insert onto your applications.
Work Experience: While any job is sufficient, you’ll get more mileage from your employment if it’s related to an academic interest or career possibility. For example, if you hope to be a doctor someday, try to find a job or volunteer position in a hospital. Having a job shows colleges that you have discipline and work ethic.