#The High School Experience

Extracurricular activities are perhaps the most fun part of high school and college applications—they are an opportunity to unearth curiosity, build community, and develop new skills. Use this guide to frame your student’s activities for each year of school. If you feel your student would benefit from some more personalized advising, then please reach out to us!

9th Grade
  • Students are just starting their high school journeys, so they should go into everything with an open mind. Now is a low-pressure time to explore hobbies, interests, and potential career paths. It’s important that they try new things and see what they like!
  • Encourage students to try things because they are exciting and meaningful—not because they’ll look good on an application. Remember, better person = better applicant.
  • If a student participated in an activity before high school and enjoyed it, then help them look for ways to continue being involved at the high school level.
  • Students should seek out unfamiliar activities not only to find out whether they like them, but also to find out what they don’t like. They don’t have to stick with everything—the more activities they try, the more they’ll learn about who they are and where they should continue to invest their energy. 
  • Summer: If your student has an interest, then they should go pursue it! Check out our blog post about summer activities for some ideas. But all the while, enjoy summer! 
10th Grade
  • Now that students have done some exploring and know what they like, help them dive deeper into what endeavors are most meaningful to them. Could they volunteer for particular clubs? Are there more community organizations to join?
  • If there is still free time beyond students’ primary activities, then they shouldn’t be afraid to look into new curiosities that pop up. It’s never too late to keep exploring.
  • Students should dedicate energy to a few specific activities they value. Remember, depth over breadth! It’s always more valuable to have a meaningful impact in a small number of activities than it is to be an unengaged participant in several organizations. 
  • Summer: Continue pursuing depth in activities and start researching formal internship and employment opportunities. The more relevant to the student’s interests or career path, the better. They should also start planning SAT/ACT test prep for when they take the exam(s) in 11th grade. 
11th Grade
  • Students can keep exploring activities that spark their curiosity! It’s never too late to find new interests, so they shouldn’t be hesitant to engage with new opportunities. 
  • Continue supporting meaningful involvement in a few activities that the student enjoys. Continuity is important, so they can work their way up to being a leader in their organization(s). 
  • Encourage students to apply for leadership positions in clubs and activities. This is something they should do by 11th grade in order for it to be reflected on college applications (which should be submitted before or at the start of 12th grade). 
  • Summer: Like last summer, students should continue being deeply involved in their activities and look into formal opportunities, such as internships. Focus on completing college applications before senior year starts, too!
12th Grade
  • Keep up the good work! This is the year when students can accomplish the most. If they weren’t elected to a leadership position in 11th grade, then they can continue to take on more responsibilities. The Activities section of their college applications will ask for descriptions of what they did, and not all forms of leadership need to come with a title.
  • If your student was a leader in their activity, then they should be proud and enjoy the fruits of their labor in their final year!
  • Keep expanding accomplishments and updating them on résumés or applications. By this point, students will be doing meaningful things that show they are engaged and working hard. BONUS—if they are waitlisted, then they will genuinely have a more meaningful update!
  • Most importantly, students should have fun in their last summer as high school students. Encourage them to spend time with friends and family before heading off to college!


For more tips, check out our other blog posts on Summer Activities in the Age of COVID and How to Take Advantage of Unexpected Time Off. And, as always, contact us anytime!