20 Best Extracurricular Activities for College Students

They can help you grow as a person and improve your employability.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Illustration College Campus Students

Though your primary focus as a college student should be working on earning your degree, you’ll still need to balance studying with socializing, exercising and resting, for the sake of your wellbeing.

Luckily, there is a way to achieve that balance while also developing some sought-after transferable skills that will come in handy down the line, once you’ve finished your studies and started looking for your first graduate job.

What we’re referring to here is, of course, extracurriculars!

In this article, we’ll go over the different types of extracurricular activities a college student can pursue, talk about their importance, and outline 20 activities that can benefit you in more ways than one. These activities can even align with your hobbies and interests.

Why extracurricular activities are important

Pursuing extracurricular activities can be a great way to develop professional skills and make yourself more employable in the future. Regardless of the type of activity you choose to add to your routine, you’re likely to end up developing essential skills such as communication, collaboration and time management.

In addition, extracurriculars allow you to expand your support network, forming friendships that can sometimes last a lifetime. This can do wonders for your mental and emotional health, increasing your resilience and confidence, and helping you unwind from all the stress that comes with being a student.

If you’re looking for additional support while engaging in extracurricular activities, consider exploring reliable student services. These offer resources to enhance your overall wellbeing during your academic journey.

Types of extracurricular activities

There are three main kinds of extracurriculars that college students can pursue. These are:

  • Academic activities, meaning ones that help you develop your knowledge or ability in a particular subject or field. The model United Nations and debate society are good examples of academic clubs!
  • Community activities, referring to things like volunteering and fundraising. These can be particularly useful for students aspiring to work in healthcare or caregiving, or anyone who finds selfless work rewarding.
  • Personality activities, which typically bring students together for recreation. They include anything from sports and athletics to photography, jewelry making and theater.

20 best extracurricular activities for college students

Below, we’ll talk about some of the most popular extracurriculars for college students and how they can offer benefits on an academic, professional or personal level.

1. Contributing to the school newspaper

Writing, editing or designing for the school newspaper can be a great way to develop hard skills for future use!

If you’re hoping to pursue a career in journalism, publishing or a related field (or simply enjoy writing about current affairs or niche topics!), the school newspaper can be a great way to get your feet wet.

2. Cheerleading

Cheerleading has far more benefits to offer than many give it credit for. For starters, it helps students build their confidence, discipline and resilience: three examples of soft skills that can come in handy in any profession.

Besides that, participation in sports and athletics is good for your physical health and mood, too.

3. Joining the debate club

Does this sound intimidating? Good! Because the debate club is all about building confidence and honing your public speaking skills so you can learn to convey ideas accurately, concisely and with a sense of conviction.

This can do wonders down the line when you’re interviewing for the job of your dreams!

4. Joining the student government association

Taking on a leadership position within the student council can give you the chance to make your school a better place for students. You’ll be responsible for hearing their concerns and then putting your strongest skills to use to devise solutions, be that record keeping, budgeting, speaking or writing.

5. Working a part-time job

Some people might not expect having a job to count as an extracurricular activity. It’s still something that you do in parallel to your studies, though!

Gaining some work experience prior to graduating can be a great way to boost your résumé and strengthen vital skills and qualities, including your work ethic.

6. Volunteering

Did you know that one of the many benefits of volunteering and community service is a lower mortality rate? That’s right — that’s how beneficial helping others can be.

Whether through your university or with a local organization, contributing to a cause that matters to you will boost your employability, skill set and overall wellbeing at once.

7. Joining a sports team

From football to volleyball to softball (and even Quidditch!), there are many intramural and club sports to choose from at university. This can be your way of releasing stress and learning valuable soft skills, including teamwork, time management and leadership.

8. Joining the Model United Nations

Joining the MUN can be a great way to meet students from all over the world, overcome any fear of public speaking, and become more informed about global challenges through diplomatic simulations. Even if you aren’t considering a career in politics, the MUN can help you develop your research, critical thinking and writing skills.

9. Running a blog

Remember, the term “extracurriculars” isn’t limited to the clubs and societies you can join on campus.

Maintaining your own blog on a subject you’re passionate about can make for an excellent addition to your résumé and help you sharpen your attention to detail, discipline and creative thinking.

10. Joining a board game club

Besides providing a great opportunity to socialize and get your mind off studying, playing board games can help you boost your memory, reasoning ability and creative thinking skills.

In addition, it can help you develop the ability to focus for longer periods of time, which will definitely come in handy when you’re pulling all-nighters before an exam. (Although try to avoid sacrificing your sleep, please!)

11. Joining a charity club

Joining a charity club where you fundraise, raise awareness around issues and collect donations for your local community can be an incredibly rewarding way to spend some of your free time at college.

Not only will you be enjoying the health benefits associated with selfless work, but you will also be showing future employers important qualities such as being empathetic and eager to take initiative.

12. Becoming a college choir member

Singing in a group can induce a strong sense of togetherness, thus reducing feelings of isolation. So, if you’re the sort of person to give amazing recitals alone in the shower, consider sharing your secret talent with others!

13. Joining a hiking club

Spending time outdoors can do wonders for your wellbeing. Some of the benefits of hiking frequently include a better overall mood, stronger bones and muscles, and improved heart health. Not to mention you’ll probably get to see some stunning views you otherwise wouldn’t have!

14. Joining a book club

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ll be doing enough reading as it is!”

Though this might be true, reading books that are unrelated to your course can be a good way to relax, broaden your knowledge, and pick up new expressions and vocabulary to embellish your own writing with. Group discussions will also allow you to strengthen your verbal communication.

15. Learning a foreign language

Many universities offer language courses to students, but you can also do this outside of your school through in-person or online tutoring. Learning a language has been shown to improve people’s memory and concentration, thus enhancing academic performance.

16. Working at the radio station

Does your college campus have a radio station? You can get involved in various ways and learn different skills, such as how to present shows, write for shows, conduct interviews, and use various equipment and software.

17. Joining the yearbook committee

Did you know that the tradition of the yearbook dates to the 19th century? In fact, some universities published theirs before cameras were even invented (minus the headshots).

Today, there are many roles you can take on if you want to get involved with your university’s yearbook creation, like that of photographer, designer or editor.

18. Taking up filmmaking

If you’re interested in a career in the arts, research or even policymaking, putting together a film or documentary can be an excellent way to build your portfolio and develop some of the technical skills you’ll need in the future.

19. Joining the college orchestra

If you haven’t taken your old violin out of its case in a few years, perhaps it’s time to rekindle your relationship with music.

Joining an orchestra can be a great way to combat stress, improve your posture (remember how often your instructor would tell you off?) and strengthen an array of skills.

20. Engaging in social activism

Social activism in your community can look like many different things, from fundraising and educating others to letter writing and petitioning. If there isn’t a club dedicated to a cause you care about at your university, you could even start your own.


Have you still got questions around college extracurriculars? Let’s answer some common ones!

Q: What counts as an extracurricular activity?

An extracurricular activity is an activity that you pursue in addition to your main course of study. After all, it’s called that because it serves as an extra to your regular curriculum. As such, it can be anything from playing sports to having a job!

Q: How many extracurricular activities should a student have?

This will depend on the person. It’s better to be committed to a few activities and really invest time in them than sign up for multiple ones and either give them up shortly after or burn yourself out trying to juggle it all.

Q: Do employers really care about extracurriculars?

Just as college admissions officers love to see extracurriculars listed on high school students’ applications, recruiters appreciate it when they see such activities on recent graduates’ résumés. It can mean that you’re motivated, can take initiative, and have a rounded skill set!

Key takeaways

A few years after you graduate, you’ll remember some of the stuff you learn in class (hopefully!) and probably none of your test scores. But you’ll always recall with ease all the people you bonded with over common interests!

To summarize what we covered in this article:

  • Extracurricular activities play an important part in boosting college students’ employability.
  • Juggling a degree with any type of extracurricular activity automatically demonstrates good time-management skills and drive.
  • Part-time jobs do count as extracurriculars, and so do personal projects such as writing for your own blog or filming and editing documentaries.

Can you think of any other popular extracurriculars we haven’t mentioned? Share your thoughts in a comment below!

Originally published on September 7, 2019.