The skills and experience you develop through student activities can be what puts you ahead of your competition in applying and interviewing for schools and for jobs.

Extracurricular activities build the qualities - teamwork, commitment, responsibility, and leadership that admissions reps, as well as employers, value.

Whether your preferred activity is the college newspaper, student government, a theater production or athletic team, your involvement indicates that you possess the communication and teambuilding skills they value.

Develop real-world skills

Extracurricular activities can provide you with a higher level of responsibility and opportunities to supervise than those available at summer jobs. They can hone time management and organization abilities that will cross over into the professional world.

"Being involved in an organization where the students are setting goals and objectives and motivating other students is more beneficial than spending a summer looking at a spreadsheet or crunching numbers," said Dana Ellis, firm director of recruiting for a financial services firm.

Admissions reps and job recruiters look for students who have shown that they're effective communicators, can work as part of a team, and have good networking and relationship-building skills.

Student activities are also great for helping you figure out possible paths. Most organizations offer a wide range of roles and responsibilities that accommodate a variety of interests and talents.

You can experiment with different roles that will help you identify your own strengths, weaknesses and preferences.

Enhance your resume

Use student activities to add to your portfolio. This is especially important for visual and liberal arts majors, but it can be useful for all students.

Keep a souvenir or copies of materials from events and activities you helped organize.

Press kits, theater production programs, even a budget spreadsheet you created can provide a better sense of your skills and accomplishments.

Also, maintain a record of your tasks and projects within student organizations. What was the purpose of your role? How did that contribute to the organization or project?

Don't over-commit

While being involved in a large number of activities might show good time management skills, most colleges and employers would rather see a person who has achieved senior or leadership positions in only a few organizations.

Keep in mind that extracurricular activities are still just one part of your resume. Remember that a good balance is also important.

• Bob McDonnell is executive director of Arizona College Planners, L.L.C., a member of the College Planning Network, the National Association of College Funding Advisors and the National Association of College Acceptance Counselors. For questions, email

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