A pedestrian’s view of the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge.

A view of the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge.

  • International students can showcase their unique strengths and make a positive impact with their application by carefully choosing extracurricular activities that align with their interest and goals, actively participating and taking on leadership roles, and reflecting on their experiences.
  • Extracurriculars do not have to be complicated or impressive to make an impact. If you do something because you’re passionate about it—include it in your application.
  • Don’t forget to rest and take breaks. Extracurriculars are important but so is your well-being!
  • Use professional language and key terms to describe your activities and connect them to your long-term growth. Universities love to learn how you will continue these activities in college.

Extracurriculars as an International Student

Summer break offers a valuable opportunity for students to not only relax and recharge but also to engage in enriching extracurricular activities that can boost your college applications. The idea of extracurriculars can be particularly daunting as an international student. Sometimes there isn’t always a strong emphasis on it in high schools outside of the United States.

Universities like NYU care about your activities for of a variety of reasons. For one, it helps make the admissions process a lot more holistic and well-rounded. By carefully choosing activities that align with your interests and goals, actively participating and taking on leadership roles, and reflecting on your experiences, as an international student, you can showcase your unique strengths and make a positive impact.

1. Picking Activities

If you think extracurricular activities have to be world-changing, think again. You don’t have to volunteer at a nonprofit or do something complicated to impress. An extracurricular is anything that you do regularly and are passionate about. I have played tennis since I was 4, and I am really passionate about it. So I chose to list it as one of my activities. Doing this helps admissions counselors better understand who you are as a person.

Being an international student presents a lot of advantages. For example, we have a lot of cross-cultural experiences. So integrating your personal and cultural experiences into your activities is a great way to add a touch of authenticity to them. Community service was one of my activities that allowed me to integrate a bit of “home.” In my case, I took part in helping my local temple when a flood occurred. Don’t feel shy to express your most authentic self because that is who universities want to meet.

The author, Anjana, and a friend pose on a tennis court while wearing medallions.
2. Get Involved!

Maximizing your involvement is one way you can stand out from other applicants. Select extracurricular activities that genuinely resonate with your passions, skills, and long-term goals. Doing so will keep you motivated and engaged throughout your involvement. Participating in your activities a couple of times a week and reflecting on your experiences will help you when writing the activities part of your application. Since I was super involved with tennis, I talked about my experience playing on my application. This gave my passion an opportunity to shine through. 

With all that being said, it is important to balance your activities with breaks. Make sure to rest and have fun! Your activities shouldn’t wear you down—they should be enjoyable and a reflection of who you are.

3. You Have All Your Activities, What’s Next?

Presenting your activities on your application in the right way is super important. Using professional language and key terms instead of simply describing what you’re doing will help capture the attention of the reader. Connect your activities to long-term growth to show how you can take part in them at college. Provide supporting evidence like pictures or references. Or quantify the impact of your activities. For example, if you helped out at a soup kitchen, tell the admissions committee how many people you served. This helps showcase your dedication, effectiveness, and ability to make a tangible difference. Don’t be afraid to rely on your teachers, counselors, and mentors for help. They can often provide you with a lot of insight because of their experience with the application process. 

4. Do Things at Your Own Pace

When I was in the process of writing about my extracurricular activities, I often found myself comparing what I was doing to what my peers were doing. Just remember, you are your own person. It is OK for you to do things differently and at your own pace. I did theatre for two years while my friends did theatre for five years. Either way, the experience still counted and all that mattered is how I presented myself. Your activities should be fulfilling for you and that’ll give you the best shot at standing out.

Summer of Extracurricular Fun

By utilizing the summer break effectively, you can enhance your personal and academic growth, broaden your perspectives, and create a solid foundation for your future endeavors. Whether through volunteering, internships, workshops, or personal projects, you can explore new interests, develop skills, and make a positive impact within your communities. As an international student, these activities can give you a great opportunity to express yourself, and your culture. So make the most of it!

I am currently a senior in the Class of 2024 at the Tandon School of Engineering studying Business and Technology Management concentrating in Strategy, and I also have a minor in Bioethics. I am originally from India but I grew up in Dubai, so I’ve kind of been all over the place. When I’m not working for Admissions Ambassadors or studying you can find me at the closest boba shop or bookstore. And I spend the rest of my free time being an avid Taylor Swift fan.