How do you like to spend your time after school? Did you know that how you choose to spend this time could be one of the most important ways you shape your future?
Extracurricular activities are a critical component of your college application, and you need to impress colleges with your interests. But you might not know what good extracurricular activities look like or what you should be spending your time on.
We've got you covered here in our guide of hundreds of examples of extracurricular activities. Read on to get some inspiration for how to spend your valuable free time during high school!
What Is An Extracurricular Activity?
An extracurricular activity can be almost anything that isn't required for high school credit or paid employment that you do while you're in high school. These activities will become very important later, such as when you are applying to colleges, because they help you develop your talents, interests, and passions. They can also teach you practical skills like time management.
With so many options out there, all students should be able to find an extracurricular that they are interested in and can develop a passion for!
Remember that extracurricular activities do not have to be sponsored by your school, so you should also consider things that you do with your family or within your community as viable options.
Below I've listed many popular activities that you may not have thought of as extracurricular activities. Take a look at the list and see if your activities are already on the list, or if anything you hadn't considered before catches your eye.
Of course, this list isn't complete, because you can turn almost any interest into an extracurricular. If you are actively involved in something that you don't see here—meaning you spend a significant amount of time doing an activity that is allowing you to develop a talent or interest, be a leader, or help out your community—then you should definitely consider that an extracurricular activity, as well!
What doesn't necessarily count as an extracurricular? Any interest of yours that's very self-centered is probably not going to make the cut.
An extracurricular should be an activity that demonstrates a talent or primarily contributes value to other people. If you have to really contort to find justification for something being an extracurricular (my taking drivers ed will make the roads safer for everyone! Keeping my vaccinations up to date helps immunocompromised people!), then chances are, it won't count as an extracurricular.
There's a spectrum here, though—for example, improving your hair quality or braiding hair for fun isn't really an extracurricular. But starting a YouTube channel around beauty tips or creating a club for teen health enthusiasts definitely does.
But if you're still unsure if something counts as an extracurricular, or you need some inspiration, then read on for our complete list of extracurricular activities.
How Should You Use This Extracurricular Activities List?
Not sure how you should use this list of extracurriculars? Just follow the six steps outlined in this section, and you'll be on your way to choosing the best extracurricular for you!
Step 1: Brainstorm Extracurricular Ideas
What are your interests? Have you always wanted to try out something related to art, but weren't sure if it would be worth your time, or if it would be viewed favorably by a college admissions team? Keep in mind that colleges don't really care about what kind of activity you are doing—instead, they want to see that you are doing something that you are passionate about. So make a list of all of your interests—both things that you are already interested in and other areas that intrigue you and you'd like to learn more about.
Step 2: See Which Extracurriculars Fit Your Interests
Look through the list below and see if any of the activities match your interests. You may see some ways that you hadn't thought of before to pursue an interest! Keep in mind that there can be a lot of different outlets for each interest you have. For example, if you want to play an instrument, you can take private classes, play in your school's marching band, play in a community concert band, or work as part of the orchestra for your school's next musical.
Step 3: Research Different Extracurricular Options
Research to see if these activities are available at your high school or in your community. If there is something you are very passionate about that's not already offered, consider starting up a group of your own. But if you aren't sure that the interest will stick and you only want to try it out, it's probably best to find a different outlet for your curiosity.
Step 4: Join Some Activities
The next step is to start doing activities! But how many should you do? If you are a freshman, I would recommend trying out a bunch of different activities--up to ten if there are that many you have an interest in. The idea at this stage is to sample a variety of extracurriculars. Once you start to get an idea of which activities are going to really help you develop the interests you are most passionate about, you can dedicate more time to those and drop the others.
Step 5: Narrow Down Your Extracurriculars
If you are a sophomore, junior, or senior, you should hopefully already have an idea of the kinds of activities that you want to focus on. Make a list of the top five activities that interest you. If you have the time to try out all five, go for it. This will give you a bit of time to experiment and see what's most of interest. If you don't have time, try to narrow down your top five to three activities.
Step 6: Increase Your Impact in a Few Activities
Remember to not spread yourself too thin, especially if you are above freshman year. It's more important to spend significant time in each activity than it is to have a long list of activities. Choose activities that will allow you to make a meaningful impact, either in your own development, or in the community.
Extracurriculars List by Category
This list is organized into categories to make finding an activity that matches your interests easier. However, we recommend at least skimming all the extracurricular options below, even if you think they're categories you're not interested in. You never know what might catch your eye!
Note: not all schools will offer formal clubs in all these categories. If you see something you're interested in that your school doesn't offer, try joining a community group or even a national or online group to explore the interest further! Many of these topics are available as summer camp activities, as well.
You can also consider starting a club at your school if you are looking for a way to get involved in something you are interested in while also showing leadership and initiative.
These activities are based on a certain academic subject, and include both clubs (groups to discuss and practice certain subjects) and competitive teams. Academic teams have competitions that take place at all levels, from local to national.
- Architecture Club
- Astronomy Club
- Biology Club
- Chemistry Club
- Economics Club
- Electronics Club
- Engineering Club
- English Club
- Distributive Education Clubs of America
- History Club
- Life Sciences Club
- Literature Club
- Literary Magazine Club
- Math Club
- Mu Alpha Theta: Math Honor Society
- National Honor Society
- Peer Tutoring
- Poetry Club
- Physics Club
- Psychology Club
- Quill and Scroll
- Robotics Club
- Science National Honors Society
- Trivia and Quiz Clubs
- Web design/coding club
- Writing Club
Academic Competitive Teams
- Academic Decathlon
- Academic Triathlon
- American Mathematics Competitions
- American Regions Math League
- Caribou Mathematics Competition
- Chemistry Olympiad
- Clean Tech Competition
- Creative Communication Poetry Contest
- Educators Rising
- FIRST Robotics Competition
- High School Innovation Challenge
- Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
- Kids Philosophy Slam
- Math League
- National Academic Quiz Tournament
- National French Contest
- National History Bee
- National Spelling Bee
- Odyssey of the Mind
- Poetry Out Loud
- Questions Unlimited
- Quiz Bowl
- Science Bowl
- Science Olympiad
- Other Trivia and Quiz Competition Teams
These activities will allow you to express yourself artistically—on paper, through a lens, on stage, and through several other media. Unleash your creativity!
- Anime/Manga Club
- Art Club
- Art: drawing, painting
- Drama Club
- Fashion design
- Graphic Design
- Jewelry Making
- High School Theater Program
- Community Theater Program
- Video Game Development Club
Cultural and Language
These activities may help you reconnect with your roots, or allow you to get a taste of the world's diversity without ever leaving home. There are many other cultural and language-related activities that you can participate in. Some of the most common ones are listed below.
- African American Student Alliances/Clubs
- American Sign Language Club
- Chinese Club
- French Club
- German Club
- International Food Club
- Latin Club
- Pacific Islanders Club
- Russian Club
- South Asian Student Society
- Spanish Club
These activities will allow you to get involved in your community.
- Community Festivals
- Do Something
- Habitat for Humanity
- Key Club
- Kids Helping Kids
- Leo Club
- Mountaineers Club
- Sisters on the Runway
Interested in making a difference in your school, community, or on a larger scale, through policy? Try a government-related activity to see if this could be a career interest for you!
- Community Youth Board
- Student Council
- Student Government
- Community Government
These activities could be a fit if you're a natural leader, skilled at motivating, directing, and inspiring others.
- National Beta Club
- Peer Leadership Group
If you love writing and communicating, consider getting involved in a media activity to help bring news and information to your school or community.
- School or local magazine/journal
- School or local newspaper
- School or local radio station
- School or local television channel
- School or local web site
- Work on a movie
- Yearbook Committee
If you are interested in learning about discipline, teamwork, and leadership, then you may be interested in a military-based extracurricular activity.
- Civil Air Patrol
- Junior ROTC
If you want to try playing an instrument or singing, there are many opportunities to try music-related activities. These are usually available both in your school community and in your wider community.
- Any musical interest club
- School Chorus/Choir
- Community Chorus/Choir
- Church Chorus/Choir
- Chamber Music Group
- Concert Band
- Singing Lessons
- Marching Band
- Jazz Band
- Solo music
- Your own band
- Tri-M Music Honor Society
Love to ham it up? You'll find there are many outlets both in your school and in your community to get on a stage and make an audience laugh and cry.
- Comedy Club
- Classic Film Club
- Film Production Club
- International Thespian Society
- Slam Poetry Club
- High School Theater Group
- Community Theater Group
You can usually find these groups in your community.
- Church groups
- Fellowship of Christian Athletes
- Jewish Student Union
- Missionary work
- Youth Groups
Did you know your love of fantasy can also be an extracurricular activity? Participating in one of these groups can show a dedication to many different creative skills.
- The Civil War Reenactors
- Dungeons and Dragons Club
- Gamers Club
- LARPing (Live Action Role Playing)
- Renaissance Faires
These groups may have chapters in your school or in your community. If there's a cause you're passionate about, seek out the local group that supports it.
- Amnesty International
- Animal Rights Club
- Breast Cancer Awareness
- Cancer Foundation
- Environmental Club
- Fair Trade Club
- Gay-Straight Alliance
- Girls Lean International
- NOW—National Organization for Women
- SADD—Students Against Destructive Decisions
You will often find these groups in your school or supported by the community. If you have a special interest in something that you can't find a local group for, consider creating one or join a national group. You can communicate with other people who have the same interest online, and attend meet-ups throughout the year.
- Boy Scouts
- Chess Club
- Equestrian Club
- Entrepreneurship Club
- Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA)
- Girl Scouts
- Horticulture Club
- Model Railroads
- Quilt Making
Speech and Political Interest
If you have a knack for recognizing faulty logic and destroying opponents' arguments, try one of these clubs. Many schools will sponsor these groups and some of them are competitive on local and national levels.
- Debate Club
- Euro Challenge
- Foreign Affairs Club
- Forensics Team
- High School Democrats of America
- High School Fed Challenge
- Junior Statesmen of America
- Mock Trial Club
- Model Congress Club
- Model United Nations
- National Speech and Debate Association
- Speech Club
- Teenage Republicans
- Young Democrats of America
Sports and Recreation
You probably already know about the sports teams at your schools, but there are also many opportunities to participate outside of those. Try doing extramural sports, join a club league in your community, or consider coaching a youth team.
- Baseball and softball
- Climbing Club
- Dance Team
- Hiking Club
- Intramural Sports
- Martial Arts
- Ping Pong Club
- Quidditch Clubs
- Skate Board Club
- Track & Field
- Ultimate Frisbee Club
- Water Polo
- Yoga Club
A love of technology can take you far. If you have strong knowledge in a particular area, try sharing with the online community. The bonus of these activities is that anyone with an internet connection can do them—no need for a school-sponsored club!
- Personal Web Site
- Social Media
- YouTube Channel
There are a lot of ways to make a difference in your local community. Look for volunteer groups in your school, your church, or elsewhere in your neighborhood. There are many websites, such as Volunteer Match, that can help you find a local community service project that is of interest to you.
- Animal rescue
- Best Buddies International
- Church outreach
- Hospital volunteer
- International volunteer program
- Red Cross Club
- UNICEF High School Clubs
- Volunteer Fire Department
- Work with a local charity
- Work with a local soup kitchen
If none of the above activities are for you, you're still in luck. Why? You can always create your own extracurricular activity!
Did you know that almost any hobby can be turned into an extracurricular activity?
Starting a business or a website, volunteering, or any unusual hobby can be turned into something that you can write about for college. And if it's unique enough to not be on this list, you can be sure that it will be something new for the college admissions committee, as well!
What matters most is that it's an outlet for your passion, creativity, and leadership.
So instead of thinking you don't do anything interesting, take the opportunity to find a new passion, or to turn something you already love into an activity you can share with the world.
If you think there's something we left off that you want to see something added to this list, leave a comment below.
Now that you know what extracurriculars look like, read about how to write about extracurriculars on your college application.
Did you know that you can use community service work to help pay for college? Check out our step-by-step guide on how to win community service scholarships.
Want your extracurriculars to really stand out? Check out our guide of three amazing extracurricular examples that are sure to impress colleges.
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Mary Ann holds a BA in Classics and Russian from the University of Notre Dame, and an MA from University College London. She has years of tutoring experience and is also passionate about travel and learning languages.