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6 Unique Extracurriculars That Will Make You Stand Out On College Apps

When it comes to college applications, you probably already know that it’s all about setting yourself apart. Whether it’s through a creative topic for your personal essay or having a standout story for your interview, you want to do whatever you can to leave a lasting impression on each school that you apply to.

However, there are things you can be doing in high school right now to help you stand out in your upcoming college apps (and no, we’re not talking about upping those test scores or GPAs). We talked to real collegiettes, and came up with a list of the most unique extracurricular activities that will help set your college applications apart from the rest.

1. A book publishing group


Calling all creative writers and future English majors—this one’s for you. If you have a passion for writing and want to establish a collection of published work before you step on campus, joining a book publishing group is a great way to make a statement in your college application.

“I believe being a part of a community book publishing group was a huge factor in my success not only in college, but beyond that,” says Alaina Leary, a grad student at Emerson College. “The program allowed each of us to write and create our own book, and I got to meet the mayor, who gave me a citation for my work. It was a huge selling point when I wanted to go to school for creative writing. It was definitely a unique extracurricular too, because while I was editor for the school newspaper and yearbook, as well as a regular animal shelter volunteer, everyone else I know did those things as well.”

If you’re looking to get involved with a student book publishing group, talk to an English or creative writing teacher at your school about the opportunities in your area.

2. A semester abroad


While studying abroad in college is becoming increasingly common, doing so in high school is a great way to gain a competitive and academic edge on fellow applicants. Not to mention, it’s a great way to get ahead in your study of a foreign language. “I did a semester abroad in high school, which definitely made me stand out and was one of the best experiences of my life,” says Ariel Vaisbort, a junior at Western University. “This looked good on my applications, because it showed that I could take initiative and handle being on my own.”

If you’re looking for study abroad opportunities in your high school, talk to your foreign language teacher or another representative of the foreign language department. They can help guide you to school-sponsored programs and potential scholarships for study abroad.

3. A mock government program


Regardless of the career you want to pursue, having a basic understanding of the legislative and judicial systems is guaranteed to be beneficial in the future. “In high school I was actively involved in the Youth and Government program through the YMCA,” says Kirby Nicole, a senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It brought thousands of students together from all over the state to do mock government and learn about the process. We did everything from lobbying for and against bills written by students to acting on a judicial court. It’s an incredibly fun program, taught me so much, and also looked really great on my resume.”

If you’re interested in getting involved in a Youth and Government program through a YMCA in your area, you can get more information here.

4. Girl Scouts


While growing up as a Girl Scout is fairly common, it’s much harder to find someone who stays with the program throughout high school. “People were certainly surprised that I was a Girl Scout,” says Ciarra Crowe, a sophomore at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. “To get my gold award I had to do over 70 hours of work and present my information in front of panelists. This gave me practice speaking and presenting my ideas, and I gained a strong work ethic that I now benefit from in college.”

While being involved in a variety of extracurriculars can make you well-rounded, colleges like to see activities that you have devoted several years to. This proves that you have the passion and the work ethic to devote yourself to an organization long-term, and is a sign that you’ll be successful in the professional world. 

5. Dual enrollment


While you’ve probably heard of dual enrollment partnerships between high schools and colleges before, it’s an opportunity that not many pre-collegiettes are well informed on. Taking dual enrollment classes at a local college is a great way to prove that you have what it takes to succeed in college-level coursework and balance multiple responsibilities at once. “For my junior and senior years of high school, I got to spend more than half of my time taking college courses for both high school and college credit,” says Samantha Burke, a senior at college?. “If I had taken the right credits I could have graduated a year early, but I knocked all of my useless electives out of the way.”

If you’re interested in getting a head start on your college coursework, talk to a high school teacher or guidance counselor on the potential dual enrollment opportunities in your area.

6. A STEM camp or organization


For many pre-colliegettes with an interest in science, technology, engineering or math, it can be difficult to find activities that allow you to pursue your passion outside of the classroom. While there are opportunities for joining competitive academic teams such as chemistry club, they don’t always allow for hands-on projects and involvement.

Luckily, the internet is a great resource when searching for STEM-related clubs or organizations. Adding one of these programs to your resume is a great way to help you stand out amongst other applications at highly-selective schools. The Center for Stem Education for Girls offers a list of oppportunities for high school students interested in STEM fields, including a summer institute you can apply for.


While applying to college is always nerve-wracking, remember that it’s not all about just numbers. Having a strong and unique resume is a great way to prove to potential schools that you have what it takes to succeed at your dream college. Pursue an extracurricular that you’re passionate about and don’t look back. You’ve got this, pre-collegiettes!

Brianna Susnak is a sophomore at Indiana University Bloomington where she studies journalism and Spanish. Her passions include social media, music, traveling, culture and the arts. Outside of class, she hosts her own weekly radio show and writes for the campus newspaper. In her free time, you can find her running, eating Nutella out of the jar and annoying her neighbors with loud music. Follow her on Twitter @briannasus.