Activities for the Well-Rounded Student

Oct 3, 2018 | College Admissions

You’ve heard the phrase so many times, but what does “well-rounded student” really mean? Allowing for slight differences from one college to the next, “well-rounded” means good grades and test scores as well as activities that demonstrate the student’s passion, service, and leadership.

Colleges obviously want students with good grades so they know you can handle the workload. But more importantly, they want students who will make an impact on their campus and who will, perhaps someday, become highly successful, which would give the college bragging rights.

Start Early and Plan

If you can, start thinking about your future during your freshman or sophomore year. Think about your interests and create a plan. If you have a career interest already, what will help you prepare? If you don’t yet have a particular career in mind, what do you enjoy? Work to develop a plan of activities that will cover each of the aspects below. If you plan well, one activity could span several categories.

Follow your Passions

If you love sports, pick one or two sports in which to excel, leaving some time in your schedule for other activities of a different nature. If you love writing, join the school newspaper or the sci-fi writing club. Do you love languages? How about the International Club? If you’re interested in social issues, maybe there’s a Peace & Justice club or a “Knock Out Hunger” club.

If you don’t see a club that interests you, start one! This shows leadership, passion, and courage. And it’s okay to change your interests over time. You may find that as a freshman you enjoyed the Spanish Club, but as an upperclassman you want to focus more on the needs of immigrants. Not only is it okay to change, but it can show an evolution that demonstrates a real maturation of your interests and personality.

Volunteer in the Community

This is a perfect opportunity for an interest to double as a service to your community. If you love to play chess, volunteer to teach younger students chess at the public library or the local elementary school. If you’re in the “Knock Out Hunger” club, volunteer with the local food bank.

Be a Leader

Student government is a great way to show leadership, but it’s not the only way. If you’re in a club, hold a position like president or treasurer. If you started the “Knock Out Hunger” club, colleges (and scholarship judges) will see a future leader who will truly make an impact on society and work to make the world a better place.

Maybe you can’t think of some big leadership role, but try to initiate something, even if it seems small. Perhaps you can organize neighborhood teens to clean up the trash along the side of the road. Think outside the box. There are leadership opportunities everywhere.


Holding a job or an internship demonstrates responsibility, hard work, and the soft skills necessary to do well in a professional environment. If your job or internship is in an area of interest demonstrated in your other activities, all the better.

Keep Track

Keep an ongoing list of your non-school activities and make sure they are covering these essential categories: interests, volunteerism, leadership, work-ethics. Choosing activities that cover several of these points is going to allow you to shine with just a few extracurriculars, allowing you plenty of time to study and rest.

If you feel lost or confused and need some college admissions consulting, please reach out. We are here all hours of the day and night helping students navigate the common application forms, write compelling college essays, understand the college admissions process and present themselves authentically and strategically.  We provide college admissions counseling in Bucks and Montgomery Counties and around the world.