Extracurricular Activities for High School Students Interested in Physical Sciences
AdmitYogi, Stanford MBA & MA in Education
6 min read
If you plan to study physics, astronomy, chemistry, or earth sciences in college, you're probably already aware that these subjects have tough admissions processes that make it difficult to stand out. The earlier you begin college preparation, the better you can prepare your college applications to demonstrate your interest in the physical sciences.
Strong grades and test scores will assist in indicating your intellectual capacity to thrive in a physical sciences program, but many applicants will already have these on their resumes. If you want to pursue a career in the physical sciences, you'll need more than just academic aptitude to stand out; you'll also need to showcase attributes throughout your application that show you're a good fit for the major.
Extracurricular activities are an excellent opportunity to demonstrate skills that universities seek, such as leadership, dedication, and passion for the subject. Indeed, extracurriculars that highlight your skillset, passions, and personal qualities will help you stand out to admissions committees and boost your chances of admission to your top choice institutions.
The Four Extracurricular Activity Levels
It can be tempting to participate in every activity your school offers, especially when some of them take only a little time investment, but when it comes to extracurriculars, you should be strategic. Admissions committees are interested in the quality of your involvement as well as what that activity informs them about you as an applicant.
The ideal course of action is to participate in a variety of activities that will emphasize different aspects of your personality, while becoming more deeply involved in a few that you are most enthusiastic about. Some activities will be given more weight than others, and as such, we'll look at how you might determine where to concentrate your efforts. It’s useful to categorize these activities into four levels of involvement.
Tier four activities are those in which your involvement is mostly on the surface. Because these are the activities that college admissions committees see the most frequently, they will not have the same impact as a higher-ranking activity. These tend to be activities where you are merely a club participant with no notable achievements. If the club doesn’t take up too much time, though, it can be a great way of displaying your nonacademic interests or bringing balance to your profile.
Tier three activities are more advanced than tier four activities and usually include some level of accomplishment. This could include being a debate secretary or winning a regional competition in your instrument
Tier two activities are those that demonstrate a high level of accomplishment or leadership and are an excellent addition to your entire profile. This is the highest level of achievement that many students will reach in an extracurricular. Tier two activities include being president of a well-respected student organization, making an all-state sports team or music selection, or forming a club that goes on to accomplish something significant.
Tier one activities are those that exhibit the highest level of success; college admissions committees view them favorably because authentic tier one activities are uncommon and demonstrate an outstanding level of achievement. Being a nationally rated athlete, winning a national academic competition, or attending a highly outstanding summer program are all examples of this. Tier one activities stand out since they are rare, so having one on your application will help it stand out as well.
Extracurricular Activities to Consider in the Physical Sciences
Your extracurricular profile should comprise a diverse range of activities from the various tiers. Your profile will most likely comprise actions in levels two through four, which is what we'll focus on here. After looking over this list for possibilities, evaluate what your school already has available or, if nothing there matches your physical science interests, consider creating a new group to increase your involvement and demonstrate your interest in your desired major.
Clubs Based on a Common Interest
These are clubs that focus on a specific field or issue. Joining one or more of these can help you explore your interests in a more organized way, depending on what you intend to study:
- Astronomy Society
- Physics Club
- Environmental Science Club
- Geology Club
- Chemistry Club
- Meteorology Club
- Materials Science Club
- Bioengineering Club
Aside from interest-based clubs, you might choose to join the Science National Honor Society, which honors achievement in difficult science courses. Additionally, if these clubs don’t exist at your school, it may be the perfect opportunity to start one of them! Colleges will appreciate and reward that type of ambition.
Because the physical sciences encompass a wide range of fields, there are several competitions you can enter to help your application stand out.
The Science Olympiad
The Science Olympiad is a team-based tournament in which teams compete in 23 different scientific subjects, including Anatomy and Physiology, Forensics, Mechanical Engineering, and several other subjects. Success in this tournament can demonstrate, among other things, collaboration and fast thinking.
The Chemistry Olympiad is a science competition in which you can show off your understanding of the subject. It is held across a series of exams, with the top qualifiers moving on to the next round. If you enjoy chemistry and perform well on standardized examinations, you should look into local exams in your area.
Physics Olympiad, like Chemistry Olympiad, is a science competition that consists of a series of assessments in physics subjects. The tests are divided into two levels, with the top twenty finishers of the second level proceeding to an intense study camp and finally representing the United States at the International Physics Olympiad. Making it all the way to the national team would be a tier one accomplishment; progressing through the rounds of this tournament would indicate your passion and talent for the topic, as well as your commitment to hard work.
Science fairs can range in size and prestige, from ones at your local school to national ones like Regeneron ISEF and the National JSHS, but having a new and interesting scientific endeavor on your profile can help demonstrate where your interests lie as well as your capacity for innovation, no matter what level you're competing at. Consider your topic carefully and devote time to your research proposal to give your study the best chance of success.
There are ways to design your extracurricular profile to highlight your specific abilities and interests no matter what subject you desire to study. These extracurricular activities are just a few of the many options available to you if you want to study physical science. We hope it helps!
Read the essays, activities, and awards that got them in. Read one for free!
Stanford (+31 colleges)
MIT (+11 colleges)
MIT (+14 colleges)
What is a College Application “Spike”?
Colleges seek applicants who demonstrate passion and dedication in a specific area of interest, as these individuals are more likely to become leaders in their field. To stand out in the application process, it's crucial to showcase depth in one or two areas of interest through both coursework and extracurricular activities. Creating a spike that tells a comprehensive story about who you are as a student and individual is essential.
Early Decision and Early Action Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2027
With decisions from the Class of 2027 rolling in, several schools have given us a look into their early admissions numbers! In this article, we'll look at some of the early decision and early action acceptance rates of elite colleges in the US, including EA and ED results for the Ivy League!