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Best Extracurricular Activities For Ivy League

If you want to get into a top school it is imperative you know about the best extracurricular activities for Ivy League, because some extracurricular activities are more prestigious than others. For example, it’s probably not a great idea to join a chess club as a high school student. If you want to get into an Ivy League, you’ll probably need to focus on more “prestigious” pursuits like academic clubs, research with a professor, internships, or even starting your own business that you are profiting off of and making a huge impact in.

 This blog post will explore some of the best extracurricular activities for applying to Ivy League schools so that you can maximize your chances of acceptance at top-tier universities like Harvard and Princeton. You want to show colleges that you’re not just someone who plays video games all day and that you have interests outside of academics and can get involved in your community.

best extracurriculars for ivy league

Which extracurricular activities will make you stand out when applying to an Ivy League?

As you begin to think about what extracurricular activities to participate in, keep in mind that the admissions officers at Ivy League schools are looking for students who are passionate about one or two things. They actually are not looking for well-rounded students. If you do so many activities it can be difficult for admission officers to see what you are interested in and what you want to focus on. It can make you look scattered and confused about what you want to do. You should do activities that you are passionate about and that you find fun so that it doesn’t feel like work. A specific thing that colleges actually look for is passion because Ivy League colleges want to accept students who they think will become rich and famous and donate money to their institutions later in life. The reason why passion is so important to colleges is because passion for something is how people overcome obstacles/roadblocks in one’s career. You can read more about what qualities colleges look for.

In addition, colleges also want to see that you are doing your extracurriculars for an extended amount of time. The earlier you can start doing your in-school extracurricualrs the better. It would be ideal to pick out a few in school extracurriculars that interest you and that you are passionate about in your freshman year of high school, and then continue doing those throughout all four years of high school. Doing in-school extracurriculars for an extended amount of time doesn’t just look good to colleges, but it also makes it more likely that you will be able to get a leadership position in that activity, and top tier colleges love students with leadership positions.

The following list provides some examples of the best extracurricular activities for Ivy League applicants that will give you the best chance of standing out from the crowd when applying:

  • Being a leader in something you are passionate about: Being president of an organization or holding a leadership position within an activity shows that you take charge, have leadership experience, and that you know how to get things done. 
  • Student government: Student government is a great way to get involved and make a difference. Ivy League colleges really like student government positions, especially student body President because that means that student has been recognized by peers as someone who is well-liked, popular, has good ideas, and knows how to lead others effectively. Student government also helps students become better leaders and meet other people. If you are passionate about political science, you should definitely try running for student government positions.
  • Research: Research is one of the best ways to get experience in a number of areas. You will be writing, editing, interviewing, working with an editorial team, and taking on a project at a high level. Ivy League colleges LOVE students who do research. UPenn had a statistic that said about half of their accepted students have done some sort of college level research in high school. Research is typically for STEM fields, but there is also research done in the humanities. Getting involved in research can help you improve not only skills in your subject of interest, but also in analysis and writing.

  • Internships: Ivy League colleges want to see that you are not just doing extracurriculars that are offered by your school, which is why doing internships and research and some of the best extracurriculars for Ivy League colleges. Internships are also a great way to get experience in your desired field and make connections that can help you find a job after graduation. This website,, has a master list table of high school internships on the home page, and you can filter the high school internship table by country, region, and internship category. Internships can be paid or unpaid, depending on the organization. You should aim to do a paid internship, of course. Most summer internships for high schoolers start opening their applications in the fall. You can look for summer internships during the fall if you are trying to build up your resume before applying to Ivy League colleges, but many companies only offer summer internship positions so it’s important to check with them beforehand. You can find a master list of high school internships on the home page of (the website you’re on now). You can also read my guide on how to find an internship in high school. In this post, I discuss how to cold-call to land an internship in high school if there are no high school internships in your field of interest that you can apply for online in your area.

  • Debate Team, Model UN, Science Olympiad, or Math Team: The above extracurriculars are common extracurriculars offered by different high schools across the U.S. These in-school extracurriculars are the best extracurriculars for Ivy League applicants. What is great about each of these extracurriculars is that each of them can demonstrate your passion for something, and like I explained earlier, demonstrating passion is very important in getting into these top tier institutions. For example, by doing Debate and Model UN you can strengthen your narrative of being passionate about political science, and, similarly, doing and excelling Science Olympiad will show your passion for science. However, besides passion, Ivy League colleges want to see that you have awards. There is an award section on the Common App and the Coalition App, and students who get into these Ivy League schools all have excellent awards. You can get easily get awards from doing any of these three activities: Debate Team, Model UN, Science Olympiad, or Math Team. These three teams hold multiple competitions throughout the school year where students compete with other high school teams to win awards.

model un

  • Running a business: Running a business is one of the best extracurricular activities for Ivy League applicants. Running a business shows an entrepreneurial spirit to admissions officers. It would be an even greater boost if you were able to have a large impact on others with your business. Running a business and excelling in the business shows admissions officers that you can succeed and colleges want to admit people who they feel will succeed and become rich and famous. Besides that, running a business is one of the best ways to prepare for the real world. It teaches you the basics of how a company operates, including how to set goals and achieve them. Running a business also helps you learn how to interact with customers, employees, and suppliers who will be important in future jobs. Start by making sure that your business idea has long-term growth potential and then conduct market research to make sure there’s enough demand for it. Once you have a solid plan in place, start looking for funding options like crowdfunding or angel investors (individuals who provide capital). Networking can help build relationships with people who may want access to your product later on down the line so use social media as well as networking events in person when trying to find support for your company.


Worst extracurriculars for Ivy League applicants

  • Sports teams: Sports do not really show a passion for any specific academic subject, and because so many students do sports, it does not really stand out. Plus, sports take up a lot of time which could be spent working on a passion project, or doing an internship in a field you are passionate about. If you are winning a lot of awards in a specific sport and are really good at that sport, have a leadership position in that sport team, and are passionate about that sport, you should continue it though. However, if you don’t have those three, it would be a good idea to switch to another activity.
  • Honor societies: Honor societies just do not take up that much time. At my school, the National Honor Society only met about once a month. 


Hopefully, this article has provided some ideas for extracurricular activities that will help you stand out when applying to Ivy League schools. 

But remember: there are many more options out there! The best thing about extracurriculars is that they can be anything as long as they are meaningful to you and bring value to others. So if none of these sounds like what you want, don’t worry—just do something else!

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