Extracurricular Activities for High School Students Interested in Engineering


Kate Sliunkova

AdmitYogi, Stanford MBA & MA in Education



7 min read

Extracurricular Activities for High School Students Interested in Engineering

Engineering is a rapidly growing field with promising career prospects and high earning potential. Many top kids are now choosing engineering as a topic of interest early on, starting their career preparation and distinguishing themselves as college applicants while still in high school.

So, you're aiming to become an engineer, huh? Well, just know that having great grades and impressive test scores won't cut it anymore for getting into top-notch engineering programs like MIT or Stanford. With their acceptance rates dipping into the single digits, you've gotta find a way to stand out from the crowd. But, how exactly are you gonna do that?

So, what's our advice? Go for extracurricular depth! Extracurricular activities are an awesome way to show off your amazing skills in a subject, your commitment to your passion, and your leadership potential – all super important for your application. By thoughtfully choosing extracurricular activities that not only showcase your academic talents but your personal qualities too, you'll really catch the eye of admissions committees and increase your odds of getting in.

The Four Extracurricular Activity Levels

When it comes to extracurricular activities, you may be tempted to sign up for as many as you can handle. This is not the best strategy. Admissions committees take into account not only what activities you participate in, but also the depth of your commitment and accomplishments in them. Because not all activities are given equal consideration, carefully constructing an extracurricular profile is very vital.

It is useful to categorize extracurricular activities into four levels. The lowest tier of involvement, referred known as tier four, contains activities in which your involvement is peripheral or otherwise not significant. This is comparable to being a member of your school's Environment Club or participating on a sports team as a non-captain. These are activities in which you participate on a regular basis but have no notable contributions or accomplishments and have not established a leadership role. While they are still useful in showcasing your commitment, an admissions committee will not give them much weight.

Tier three activities are more advanced and usually need some level of accomplishment or leadership. Maybe you were the secretary of the Spanish club or were chosen to play in the all-district band. Admissions committees take these types of activities into account a little more, but they are still not particularly impactful.

Tier two activities are more remarkable and represent the pinnacle of performance for the majority of students. This is comparable to being president of your student council or winning a regional science fair competition. These activities demonstrate a high level of leadership or achievement and are seen favorably by admissions committees.

Tier one activities are absolutely exceptional and one-of-a-kind. They are also relatively uncommon. Being a nationally rated athlete, a finalist in the ISEF science fair, or winning a national speaking competition are all examples of this. Because these achievements are so uncommon, admissions committees value them the most, and they have the greatest impact on your college application.

Extracurricular Activities for High School Students Interested in Engineering

In case you're interested in engineering, it's a good idea to concentrate on extracurricular activities that showcase your academic skills in STEM subjects and your ability to think creatively to solve problems. To get started in engineering, check out these clubs:

  • 3D Printing Society

  • Programming Club

  • Rocketry Club

  • Robotics Club

  • Graphic Design Club

  • Rube Goldberg Club

You can take advantage of the situation if these clubs aren't available at your school by starting them yourself! Colleges usually see this kind of initiative as a second-tier effort. Plus, there are a bunch of national robotics competitions out there that you can participate in.

VEX Robotics Competition

Teams of students design, build, and code robots to compete in a game in a competitive environment with state, regional, and national championships culminating in an annual global championship at the VEX Robotics Competition. Tournaments are held all year, with the global championship being in April. Participants receive experience in teamwork, leadership, and communication in addition to working on classroom STEM skills and knowledge.

The First Robotics Competition

The format of the First Robotics Competition is similar. It organizes competitions at all skill levels, both technical and non-technical. Students begin by competing locally in a team-based round robin format, then advance to regional, state, and ultimately national contests if successful. It’s a great opportunity to learn engineering skills, but also valuable collaboration and communication skills as well.

Other Engineering-Related Extracurricular Activities

Destination Imagination

Destination Imagination is a multi-month creative problem-solving competition in which teams focus on a single problem. Engineering, technical, scientific, fine arts, improvisational, service learning, and an early learning challenge are among the seven challenges available. Teams can qualify for regional, state, and national competitions.

The Future Problem Solving Program International

The Future Problem Solving Program International is a yearly conference aimed at "developing the critical and creative thinking abilities required to adapt to a changing society." It has competitive elements and attracts students from all around the world. Global Issues Problem Solving, Community Problem Solving, Scenario Writing, and Scenario Performance are the four competitive components available.

The scope of these events allows students to highlight their unique problem-solving abilities without requiring extensive technical knowledge. Each June, the winners of each category speak at the International Conference, and participants may expect to develop critical skills known as the four C's: creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.

International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM)

Students compete for prizes in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (also known as iGEM) Competition by building genetically engineered systems out of standard biological pieces known as BioBricks. The winning high school level project in 2020 built a diagnostic tool that can more easily detect viral infections by using a modified version of rolling circle amplication. This method was then used to assess the quality of natural Chinese medications.

In the field of genetic engineering, students gain not just the necessary skills and knowledge, but also embrace the iGEM values. These values, such as integrity, sportsmanship, respect, honesty, effort, and excellence, are just as important as the technical know-how.

Odyssey of the Mind

Odyssey of the Mind is a long-running creative problem-solving tournament that takes place at all levels, from classroom to global. Students can get involved as early as elementary school, and STEM skills will be integrated with performance, arts, and history.

In past projects, students have transformed Pandora's Box into a video game, designed robotic pets, constructed unique team-created vehicles, and even dabbled in detective work. It's an awesome opportunity to let your creativity flow and dive into some thrilling new projects!


Getting into engineering programs at universities can be pretty tough. It's not just about having high test scores and GPAs; students need to show off their extracurricular activities too.

Joining or even creating your own engineering-focused clubs at school, along with taking part in engineering-related contests, should hopefully help you demonstrate a significant level of involvement in this activity.

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Stanford (+8 colleges)

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Sean Yoon

Stanford (+10 colleges)

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UPenn (+8 colleges)

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