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Which Extracurricular Activities Should You Consider in College?


Are you a college student or starting college soon and wondering which extracurricular activities you should be involved in? Extracurriculars are an important part of college, and they are a great way to meet new people and try new activities.

Read this guide to learn how to choose the best extracurricular activities to help you meet new people, learn about future careers, and explore new interests in college.


What Are Extracurricular Activities? How Can You Find Your School's?

An extracurricular activity is any activity not included in the normal curriculum of a schoolExtracurricular activities can vary from official school sports teams to chapters of national organizations, to independent clubs. They cover a wide range of topics and interests, from politics to rock climbing to helping out the homeless and more.

My own alma mater, Michigan State University, has more than 700 student organizations, and when I was a student, I found participating in them to be a great way to make new friends and spend more time participating in activities I enjoyed and cared about.

Many colleges have a list of all the school’s clubs and organizations on their school website. Look at the Student Resources page, search “clubs” “organizations” or “extracurriculars” on the school’s site, or do a simple Google search, for example, "UCLA clubs".

Also, in the beginning of the year, many schools offer a fair or open house when clubs and organizations set up booths for interested students to learn more about each extracurricular, sign up to receive more information on ones they are interested in, and ask current club members questions. These are a great way to learn about different extracurricular activities, and they are often a lot of fun to attend, with many groups offering free games and food.




Which Extracurricular Activities Should You Consider?

Most colleges offer a large number of extracurriculars, so the easiest way to start thinking about which ones to join is to separate them into categories. Below are four categories that cover almost all extracurriculars. Read through each category, and if something sounds interesting to you, see if your school offers some of those types of extracurriculars.


Extracurriculars That Relate to Your Future Career

It’s not just your classes that will help prepare you for your future career; there are many extracurriculars in college that give you job experience and help you make connections in your field. These extracurriculars are sometimes referred to as academic and pre-professional clubs. Some examples of professional organizations include the Academy of Law and Criminal Justice, Future Pharmacists Club, Nursing Students Association, Society of Women Engineers, and the Entrepreneurship Club.

This category also includes extracurriculars that aren’t professional organizations but can help you develop skills needed for your future career. For example, if you want to be a journalist, you may consider joining the school newspaper, if you want a career in the medical field you could volunteer at a hospital, or if you want to improve your language skills you might join your school's French Club.

Some of these extracurriculars offer hands-on activities for specific career fields that you can include on your resume, and they can also offer field trips and job shadows for you to see what a typical day in the life is for certain jobs. Being involved in one of these extracurriculars can involve attending networking events, visiting potential places of employment, engaging in hands-on activities related to the career field, meeting socially with other members, and more.


How to Choose One of These Extracurriculars:

First, think about what you plan to major in and what type of career you’d like to have, and see if your school has any extracurriculars that relate to it. These can be professional organizations or just clubs that let you do hands-on work in your field. Then, think about skills you’d like to gain to increase your employability. This can include computer skills, knowing a second language, improving public speaking, or another skill, then look to see what extracurriculars would help you get those skills.


Benefits of These Extracurriculars:

  • Help you gain more professional experience.
  • Provide a way to make connections in your field.
  • Offer a way to test the water and see if you actually enjoy your envisioned career.
  • Can include membership in a well-known professional organization that you can put on your resume.
  • They can make you more employable by showing that you:
    • Have interests and passions
    • Are social and can interact well with others
    • Are good at balancing your time and managing different priorities
    • Have a strong work ethic



Professional organizations offer a great way to network and meet other students interested in the same career field


Extracurriculars That Introduce You to New Interests and People

College is one of the absolute best times in your life to meet new people, and extracurriculars can expose you all sorts of other students. College is also a great time for activism, and there are many extracurriculars devoted to improving all kinds of issues in the world. Some examples of this include clubs that promote recycling, reducing poverty, improving education or providing better medical care.

Extracurriculars are a great, low-risk way to get involved in new activities or support new causes. Many colleges offer at least a few very unique clubs that let members try something they probably would never have come across before. A few examples of some of the unique extracurriculars that colleges offer are a blacksmith club, stargazing club, and beekeeping club. Some of my own college classmates joined the esteemed MSU Squirrel Watching Club.


How to Choose One of These Extracurriculars:

This can be as simple as reading through a list of your school’s extracurriculars and seeing which ones jump out at you. Choose your favorites among these and attend a meeting to see if you are still interested. Also, think about what skills you’d like to acquire or what movements you’d like to be a part of, and see if any extracurriculars match those interests. You should also consider trying out a club or activity you may not feel you'd enjoy right away, as a way to push your boundaries. Who knows, you may end up with a new interest!


Benefits of These Extracurriculars:

  • Meeting new people gives you the chance to start new friendships, and having a large group of acquaintances can also help you in the future when you’re looking for jobs.
  • Joining clubs that expose you to different types of people can help improve your ability to consider different opinions and see things from a new perspective.
  • Sometimes participating in an extracurricular is all it takes to develop a new passion. When I was in college, I joined the Outdoors Club on a whim, and even years after graduating I still regularly camp and kayak, using the skills I learned in that club.




Extracurriculars That Allow You to Continue Current Hobbies and Interests

You will probably come to college with some hobbies and interests already in place, and college is a great way to continue with them. You may also already belong to certain groups or communities, such as a religious group or cultural group, and wish to continue being a part of them.


How to Choose One of These Extracurriculars:

Think about your current activities and interests. These can be activities you were a part of in school, such as a sport or band, or they can be something you took part in outside of school or own your own. If there are any you'd like to continue with, check and see if your school offers any related clubs or groups.


Benefits of These Extracurriculars:

  • Give you a way to meet similar minded people who share your interests.
  • Allow you to be part of a community you feel comfortable in.
  • Give you the opportunity to continue to develop current skills and interests.


Extracurriculars That Keep You Active

In addition to helping you avoid the Freshman 15, joining a sports-related extracurricular can provide a way for you to meet new people, gain or improve athletic skills, and may even involve some travel if your team goes to conferences. These extracurriculars can be part of an official school team, such as hockey or basketball, or they can be a club sport, like ultimate frisbee. 

If you participated in sports in high school, this is a great way to stay active, but even if you don’t have any experience in the sport you want to join, many clubs are happy to take beginners. These extracurriculars range from traditional school sports like soccer and football, to less common ones like rugby and skiing. Some of the sports teams you school offers may even be very unusual: my college had both a Quidditch team and an underwater hockey team.

You don’t always have to join a team either. There are lots of extracurriculars that keep you active in others ways as well, such as hiking or rock climbing clubs. These extracurriculars are often offered at a variety of competitiveness and skill levels, so you can choose a team or club based how experienced you are and how much free time you have.


How to Choose One of These Extracurriculars:

If you participated in sports in high school, consider whether you’d like to continue playing them in college. You should also look through your school’s extracurricular list and see if there are any new sports you’d like to try.

Next, decide how much time you are willing and able to devote to your extracurriculars; many school teams, even some club and intramural sports, require a significant time commitment. If you are unable to devote a lot of time to a sport, consider less competitive extracurriculars. Remember to pay attention to sign-up deadlines and try out dates because these often occur early in the school year.


Benefits of These Extracurriculars:

  • They give you a way to stay active.
  • Being active increases endorphins which make you happier, and being active also helps take your mind off school which can help keep you from feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Being part of a team is a great way to foster friendships.
  • They offer a way for you to improve or acquire new athletic skills.




Final Thoughts

  • If you signed up for an extracurricular but no longer enjoy it and don’t feel like it’s helping you, don’t feel the need to stick with it. It will just make you unhappy and likely won’t do much for you career-wise or social-wise if you hate it.

  • You don’t need to join extracurriculars in every one of these groups. Choose a few based on your interests and time, and see how well you are able to manage them. You can always join or drop extracurriculars.

  • If a club or organization sounds interesting, but you’re not sure if you want to join it, just drop by a meeting. You’ll get a taste of what it’s like, without needing to commit immediately.

  • Try to join an extracurricular you wouldn’t normally participate in, even if you only attend one meeting. College is maybe the best time in your life to try new things, and you could end up with new skills, a new passion, and new friends!


What's Next?

Do you want to see more examples of extracurriculars activities? You're in luck because we have a complete list of extracurriculars, with hundreds of examples!

For a complete overview of the college search process, read our comprehensive guide on how to choose a college.

Worried about paying for college? Read our step-by-step guide to getting a student loan.



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Christine Sarikas
About the Author

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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