Keeping the Faith: High School Faith-Based Activities and College Admissions

When it comes to college admissions, a student’s grades and course rigor are the most important factors of consideration. But, without a doubt, a student’s extracurricular activities, including faith-based activities, can make a big difference in an application.

Not only are extracurriculars great for students as they develop and discover their interests, but they also showcase a student’s leadership, perseverance, collaborative abilities, compassion, reliability, and desire to help improve the world in college applications.

Over the years, more and more students have shied away from involvement in faith-based activities for a variety of reasons. Some believe, for example, that admissions officers may be prejudiced or prefer a particular religion. While this may be true – and impossible to know – why would a student want to attend a college that feels this way? And, given our experiences with college admissions, we’re incredibly confident that this idea is based more on fear than on fact.

Other students think colleges might prefer applicants who can showcase a sport or performing art over religious involvement. Many high school athletes spend up to three hours daily on a sport, believing this will be the “key” to gaining admission. And, in very, very few situations, it is. But, for most students, this “one activity” resume is something colleges are generally not looking for.

Getting involved in a religious youth group often provides students opportunities to showcase their positive traits, including leadership and character, while gaining service hours and even work experience. Traveling on a mission trip, taking on a leadership role in a youth group, playing music at a religious service, volunteering to teach in a Sunday school, and much more can all look great on the college application.

Also, a lot of great nonprofit work comes out of religious organizations. Of course, you can go online to find nonprofits looking for teen volunteers. Or, you can reach out directly to your place of worship to find out about one of the many service projects taking place in your own backyard. What you are looking for is quality involvement with a purpose. To shine on an application, a student should maximize the time spent in extracurricular activities by finding meaningful commitments.

While religion is not for all families, don’t discount faith-based involvement for fear it will not provide the leadership you need for college. There is no one “best” activity for college admissions. Although Abraham Lincoln was not referring to college when he said, “Whatever you are, be a good one,” we think it pretty perfectly describes our thoughts on extracurriculars!