Extracurricular Activities for High School Students

Why Extracurricular Activities?

What is Leadership?

Activities and Programs

Why Extracurricular Activities?

While academic achievement is at the very top of the criteria the UCs consider, the majority of the UCs also pay close attention to applicant achievements outside of the classroom. Given how competitive the top UCs are, extracurricular activities are also a way for you to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Make sure you balance your school work with your extracurricular activities during the school year and plan ahead for summer activities but NEVER sacrifice your grades for extracurricular activities.

Extracurricular activities encompass anything you do outside of the school. As long as you have devoted time and excelled in what you do, it doesn’t matter if you are a cheerleader, a school club secretary, the student body president, the church choir lead, the youth orchestra flute section leader, the state yo-yo champion, a homeless shelter volunteer, a barista at the local coffee shop, or in charge of taking care of your six siblings while your parents work five different jobs. Competitive UCs generally like to see applicants with demonstrated leadership potential, and the best way to do this is by describing your academic and/or extracurricular achievements in your UC Application.

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What is Leadership?

So what exactly is leadership? This is how the UCLA Alumni Scholarship Program defines it:

Individual Leadership Qualities

  • Shows initiative, takes charge, sets priorities.
  • Displays intelligence, good judgment, confidence and self-knowledge.
  • Accepts responsibilities willingly and eagerly.
  • Demonstrates courage, resolution, and steadiness.
  • Manages, decides, and sets priorities.
  • Exhibits perseverance, ingenuity, creativity, and dynamism in solving problems.
  • Seeks opportunities and surmounts obstacles, including challenging the status quo.

Group Leadership Qualities

  • Sets an example through commitment and action.
  • Works collaboratively with others.
  • Guides changes and improvements.
  • Makes plans, motivates, follows through and guides the participation of others so that all will benefit.
  • Delegates, trains and shares the responsibility and the credit.
  • Demonstrates selflessness and consideration of others.
  • Assesses potential in others.
  • Shows understanding of followers/constituents, and their needs.
  • Skilled in dealing with people, shows social perceptiveness.
  • Able to win and hold trust.
  • Exhibits adaptability and flexibility in approach.

You don’t need to achieve EVERY quality, but be sure to MENTION every quality you did achieve in your UC Application!

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Activities and Programs

Below is a selection of activities and programs I have come across over the years. Broaden your search beyond the internet; check with your high school career center for local opportunities and browse the library reference section for guidebooks on summer programs and internship opportunities.

Ideally, you should pick two to three areas of interest (in case some don’t pan out, there are couple of backups) and make long-term commitments (three to four years) in three to five extracurricular activities. Development of leadership skills in your extracurricular activities is essential.

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Community Service and Volunteering

You can search for volunteer opportunities using the vetted volunteer matching service providers below. Sign up to receive email notifications when volunteer opportunities in the areas you are interested in become available. Most of these are national listings with opportunities in every interest area you can imagine.

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Educational Preparation Programs

You may have heard about “educational preparation programs” and the UC Application even has a section for them. So what are educational preparation programs?

Well, according to the UCs, educational preparation programs are “programs or activities that have enriched your academic experiences or helped you to prepare for college. Such programs may provide information, counseling, tutoring or other service or offer academic enrichment, research opportunities or special study opportunities, such as study abroad.”

Below is a list of the educational preparation programs that are available to high school students. Look for them at your school and do your best to participate in them.

ATDP (Academic Talent Development Program) – through UC Berkeley (serves students from grades K through 11)

C-STEM – through UC Davis (serves students from grades K through 14)

Cal-SOAP – available throughout California (serves high school and community college students)

COSMOS (The California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science) – available from several UC campuses (serves students from grades 9 through 11)

EAOP (Early Academic Outreach Program) – through all UC campuses (serves students from grades 9 through 12)

EGC (Educational Guidance Center) – it’s now Pre-College TRIO Programs, through UC Berkeley (serves middle school and high school students in the Bay Area)

Educational Talent Search – available at most UC and CSU campuses, search for “trio talent search” or “educational talent search” at a UC/CSU campus near you (serves elementary school, middle school, and/or high school students)

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) – available throughout California (primarily serves middle school students)

MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) – available throughout California (serves elementary school, middle school, high school, community college, and 4-year college students)

Puente Program – open to all students (serves high school and community college students)

UC Scholars – through UC Merced (serves high school students in Central California)

UC-TIP (UC Transfer Initiatives Program; formerly ERA) – through UC Merced (serves high school students going to community college and current community college students in Central California)

UCLA VIP Scholars – through UCLA (I’m pretty sure this program no longer exists)

UCSC SAGE (Students Acquiring “A-G” Expectations) – through UC Santa Cruz (I’m pretty sure this program no longer exists)

UCSF Internships – search “internship” on the UCSF website for available opportunities (most internships appear to be for high school students)

Upward Bound – available from all UC campuses; check with your high school (serves high school students)

Young Entrepreneurs at Haas – it’s now Boost, through UC Berkeley Haas School of Business (serves high school students)

Other educational preparation programs that may be available to you:

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) – check with your high school

College Bound – check with your high school

Summer Search is a national leadership development program that helps low-income young people graduate high school, go to college, gain successful careers, and give back to society

Posse is a comprehensive college access and youth leadership development program for public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes

Study abroad – there are a variety of study abroad and exchange programs available and many offer scholarships to cover at least part of the expenses. Here are couple of programs to help you get started: Abbey Road Programs, AFS-USA, School Year Abroad, and Youth For Understanding

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Most large companies will post internship opportunities on their company website. If you are interested in a particular profession, you may also consider calling businesses in your neighborhood and inquiring about internship opportunities.

Some resources and ideas to help you get started with your internship search:

Google “high school internship [city and state or zip code]” for local internship opportunities. You can also try free services like internships.com.

College Board: How to Find an Internship You’ll Value (general information on how to find and apply to internships as well as links to internship search sites).

You can search for “internship” on the website of your congressperson or state assembly member (for California, visit the California State Assembly website and click on “Find My Representative”).

Find the California Superior Court near you and search “internship” on the website (internships are sometimes posted under Volunteer Opportunities).

Your local science center (science and technology museum) likely offers internships. Not sure if there is a science center near you? Search ASTC-member science centers and museums by location.

UCSF Science and Health Education Partnership offers two research internship programs for high school students (limited to San Francisco public high school sophomores and juniors who are nominated by a science teacher at their schools). You can also search “high school internship” on the UCSF website to pull up other programs.

California Highway Patrol’s Explorer Program is designed for young men and women, 15 to 21 years of age, to develop skills and knowledge needed to serve the people of California through assisting the CHP both in office and out in the field.

RISE Summer Internship Program is an intensive 7-week summer program for local Bay Area students (living within 25-mile radius of Stanford) interested in science, engineering, math, computer science, or psychology. Students spend 30 hours a week on the Stanford campus, working in an active research lab under the guidance of a mentor. Participants receive a stipend of $2,500. Deadline is in mid-February.

Introductory College Level Experience in Microbiology (iCLEM) is an eight-week paid summer research program for economically disadvantaged students who are currently enrolled as a sophomore or junior at a high school in Alameda, Contra Costa, or San Francisco county. Participants receive a stipend of $2,000. Deadline is in mid-March.

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Summer Programs

Most of the summer programs listed below are academic in nature.

The Berkeley Summer Session offers Pre-Collegiate Program for middle school and high school students.

The UC Davis Summer Programs portal lists all of the high school summer programs (scroll down to Programs for Youth) that are run by UC Davis.

UC Irvine School of Medicine offers a variety of health and science enrichment programs for high school and middle school students.

The UCLA Summer Sessions and Special Programs portal lists all of the high school summer programs that are run by UCLA. A limited number of full and partial scholarships are available to qualified California high school students for summer study at UCLA.

The UC San Diego Youth Camps and Enrichment Programs portal lists all of the high school summer programs that are run by UC San Diego.

The UC Santa Barbara Pre-College Programs portal lists all of the high school summer programs that are run by UC Santa Barbara.

Your local science center (science and technology museum) likely offers a myriad of summer programs. Not sure if there is a science center near you? Search ASTC-member science centers and museums by location.

The Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences department at Berkeley has a recommended List of Summer Science Programs for K-12 kids; these programs are run by a variety of agencies across the nation.

Stanford Science Outreach Programs for High School Students lists opportunities from self-initiated learning (free online courses) to residential programs (Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies).

Caltech Admissions Office maintains a list of summer programs that many of its admitted students have attended.

MIT Admissions Office maintains a list of rigorous STEM Summer Programs (at the MIT campus and elsewhere) for high school students.

Inspiring Girls Expeditions maintains a list of outdoor/wilderness science programs for girls.

The Summer Program Finder has an extensive directory of summer programs.

FREE! Inspiring Girls Expeditions is a unique mountaineering adventure and learning experience for young women that takes place in Alaska, Cascades, Canada, Icy Fjords, or Switzerland. Each year a team of 8-9 teenage girls and 3 instructors spend 12 days exploring and learning about glaciers and the alpine or marine environment. Deadline is in late January.

Need-Based Financial Assistance AvailableCOSMOS is a four-week residential program for talented and motivated students completing 8th through 12th grade. Students work side-by-side with outstanding university researchers and faculty exploring advanced topics that extend beyond the typical high school curriculum. COSMOS courses are hands-on and lab intensive emphasizing current research underway at the University of California. Deadline is at the beginning of February.

Need-Based Scholarships AvailableCalifornia State Summer School for the Arts is a rigorous pre-professional training program in the visual and performing arts, creative writing, animation, and film for talented artists of high school age. The School was created by the California Legislature, held its first session in 1987 and will conduct its 31st session in 2017. Its purpose is to provide a training ground for future artists who wish to pursue careers in the arts and entertainment industries in California. Deadline is at the end of February.

Need-Based Financial Assistance AvailableScience Internship Program is a summer-long (10 week) research internship program for high-school students in STEM fields. UCSC faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers provide one-on-one mentoring to high school interns inserted into existing research projects at UCSC. Deadline is in late March.

Need–Based Financial Assistance AvailableGRAMMY Camp is a live-in music industry camp where participants with varied interests learn how the music business works. Deadline is at the end of March.

FREE! CDC Museum Disease Detective Camp is an interdisciplinary educational program held at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The camp is open to upcoming high school juniors and seniors. Over the course of five days, campers are immersed in the diverse field of public health. Non-Atlanta residents may apply for the camp, but are responsible for providing their own accommodations and transportation. Deadline is at the beginning of April.

Need–Based Financial Assistance AvailableembARC is a four-week summer design intensive that explores architecture, urban design and sustainable city planning through three components: an Architecture + Urban Design Studio, a Sustainable City Planning Workshop, and a Design-Build project. Deadline is in late April.

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Other Ideas

Check out the 50 ways to spend your summer from the folks at CollegeWise for some last-minute summer activity ideas.

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