This is the final video in my series on extracurricular activities.

If you missed the previous posts you can find them here:

In this video I give you dozens of specific suggestion to help enhance your college-bound resume in the areas of

  1. Activities
  2. Honors / Awards
  3. Service / Volunteering

The goal is to look for ways to expand on a current interest or talent. Some suggestions involve organized programs, but others are more “do-it-yourself” (DIY) ideas that can be done at anytime.

If you have other questions about extracurricular activities or college admission, join our free Facebook group:


I’m Megan Dorsey with College Prep Results and today we’re going to talk about what specific actions students can take to enhance their resumes, their extracurricular activities for college admissions and scholarships, and really to enhance their own experience and get ahead in their choice of major, their ideas about future careers, testing their likes and dislikes, and developing some of their interests, talents, and skills.

Over the last number of weeks I’ve talked about why colleges value extracurricular activities. The difference a good extracurricular resume can make, especially if you’re applying to a very competitive university or program at a specific university, and today I’m going to give you some ideas of what to do. You can see I’ve got my whiteboard here behind me and I’ve listed out three columns that we commonly see on applications:

  • activities,
  • honors and awards, and
  • volunteer service.

These are areas for everybody to think about. “How can I enhance this?” “What can I do to go above and beyond?” “What can I do to help myself stand out?”

I just wanted to give a couple of suggestions. Obviously you’re probably not going to do all of these, but you could probably find something to add in to what you’re already doing.

I like the idea of certain activities, like Scouts, that can run across all three of those categories. My daughter was in Girl Scouts; my son is in BSA. It’s both an activity– they get some fun out of it– my son likes camping, going canoeing, rafting. There are also opportunities to earn honors and awards– the Girl Scout Gold Award, the Eagle project– built into it. There’s a lot of service.

You might find a program like this in your community. It doesn’t have to be Scouts, but the idea is sometimes instead of having to create your own opportunity, having things that are almost ready made with a particular peer group or a group of friends can be easier and it can be a fun way to get more involved in activities that might also cover honors and awards and service. Just an overall good idea.

Let me give some more specific ideas related directly to activities. The first thing I want to mention is that if a student has already shown an interest in a particular major or field of study or a particular career, wouldn’t it be a great opportunity sometime in high school, maybe during the school year, maybe during breaks, to pursue that area of interest.

A lot of people say, “well, but I may be interested in architecture. There’s not an architecture program or club at my school. How do I do that?” Or “I’m interested in Marine biology” or list all of the other things that may not have an academic course or extracurricular activity at your school. What can you do? Here are just a few possible options. Online classes, a lot of universities are offering free open online classes. You might Google “M. O. O. C.”– massive open online course– to find some of the free programs offered by different universities.

Test out whether you really are interested in psychology or engineering or types of economics. And you can, in many cases, do that for free. Keep track of or truly look at summer programs. Yes, I understand that some of these can have a pretty big price tag, but you might find some in your area or offered by some of the schools on your list that are more affordable or worth the money for what you’re getting. It can be a great way to test out both a particular campus as well as an academic field.

Students who are interested can write articles or start their own blog. I had a student a few years ago who was particularly interested in sports broadcasting and journalism who started writing articles when he was in seventh grade. So you can definitely create your own opportunities these days with technology. You can even start your own podcast. Look for a way to express your own voice.

I had another young lady who one summer tried to apply to do some fashion writing, she had written to probably 20 or 30 publications in the greater Houston area. Never heard back from most of them. She just started her own online blog and started doing it herself.

Plenty of ways that you could take a little initiative with that. Start your own business for the business minded individuals. You don’t necessarily need to write articles, but get out there and hustle and keep track. Worked with a guy who mowed lawns. You think, “well, mowing lawns, that’s not a big deal.” Keep track of the numbers. He had impressive statistics on the amount of money he earned. He took this $200 lawnmower investment into multiple thousands of dollars each summer growing at each one. It doesn’t have to be you starting your own Facebook or Microsoft, but keep track of the numbers, be business minded about it. And that’s definitely a great extracurricular activity.

Quantify a hobby. A lot of times people say, “well, it’s just something I do for fun.” That’s great. Keep track of it, but also be able to put some numbers to it. “I worked 15 hours a week rebuilding a car from parts”, and you’d have to describe the details of it. I can’t do that myself from start to finish. “I trained for the marathon. This took me, you know, six hours a week running plus other activities.” Be ready to put the numbers to it.

Sometimes students are already doing things that would count as activities, but they see them in their mind as hobbies because they aren’t an organized club. It doesn’t have to be run by somebody else but be ready to have the numbers to back it up. Leisure learning (this sort of ties in with the idea of an online class) but sometimes there are courses in your community, maybe at the community college that you could take.

Maybe it’s something like an online course through the Great Courses program that you could follow or even teaching yourself through something like Khan Academy or YouTube, but if you have an interest in an area, document your online learning in that particular subject. That’s great for students who have interests in things like archeology or a particular area of history.

Summer research, it’s great if you can get it. It can sometimes be difficult to find for high school students, but that doesn’t mean the possibilities aren’t out there sometimes. I just mentioned archeology. There are some programs open up that will happily take a mature high school student to go out and dig during the summer or help catalog material. At your local history museum. There can be opportunities you have to ask.

Job shadowing. If you have an interest in particular field, ask around. Maybe you have some friends or neighbors who know someone who you could spend, you know a couple of days or even a week or so shadowing. So think about all of those as enhancement activities. You can see the idea here.

Honors and awards can sometimes be a little harder to do as a DIY.

Many of the things I suggested over here are not through an organization. You can start it up on your own today, I’m putting this out right before winter break. You could be doing many of these things before you go back to school in January. However, when you start your own blog or business, I guess you could award yourself blogger of the month or employee of the month, but that’s not quite the same as receiving an award or type of recognition from an organization. So these might be a little harder to come up with on your own.

Finally service. There are a number of things you could do and you can definitely tie this into your interest. Maybe you do have an interest in history and you could look for service opportunities to tie in with a local nonprofit.

I know a number of students who are interested in government who are getting ready to volunteer in this election a year coming up for a number of political campaigns. Definitely some places to look into. And with technology you might be able to do your volunteering from home or by computer instead of necessarily having to show up in person. That might open up some opportunities, especially to work around a student’s schedule.

Develop your own project. It’s always an option. Yes, it’s a little harder than doing some organized service through a group or organization, but it’s a possibility. And then simply volunteer. Students who are interested in premed, volunteer at the hospital. If you’re interested in veterinary medicine, volunteer at the animal shelter. There are so many places where you may not be doing glamorous work, but you’re getting into the field. You’re putting yourself in contact with people who you can ask, “what do you like about this?” “What did you study?” “What would you recommend I do if I want to pursue a career in this area?”

And just getting out there is going to give students so much exposure and that is why college is like students who have taken the initiative to get involved.

Hope I’ve given you some ideas, some practical tips. If you have questions, I’ve got an open Facebook group that you could join that search for it. It’s “College Prep with Megan Dorsey” and I’d be happy to answer any of your other activity questions over there.