Leadership & Extracurriculars


Apr 16, 2017
I am a sophomore in high school and I need more leadership positions and extracurriculars. I currently teach swim lessons, am a part of two church clubs and a leader of one of them, I volunteer at an animal shelter, and every year I go on a mission trip and teach underprivileged kids. I am also a varsity athlete. I know this isn't enough and I have a lot to improve on in this area, but can I get some ideas on other extracurriculars I can be doing related to the ones I already have? Especially things I could do this summer outside of school?
I would Highly suggest Civil Air Patrol, if your school does not have JROTC. However, as a sophomore you would need to progress rapidly to get to a significant position before you need to apply. But only join if you are genuinely interested in the program, as people who only go for the resume do not end up getting very far (or they end up really enjoying it and progress).
It isn't QUANTITY!!! It's QUALITY!!!

If you can find time to do other things you like, that's fine. But it would be BETTER for your application, and BETTER for your Growth and Development, if you got leadership experience and positions in your EXISTING activities. E.g. One of the leaders in your mission trips. Captain of your varsity team. Add on maybe running for a class officer position; volunteering for Boy/Girls's State; etc. I'd rather see you in 5 activities and sports and having a leadership position in them; instead of 10 activities and simply being a "Member" of them.
While I would agree with Christcorp, quality over quantity is always the focus, I would highly recommend looking into Civil Air Patrol (CAP). This provided a peek into the Air Force and allowed me to explore my interests within the field and in a sense, solidify my decision to apply to USAFA (appointed this year). I joined CAP in my sophomore year as well. While CAP looks great on your app, it is a timely extracurricular and will require your unwavering commitment! CAP also provided me with many other opportunities and connected me with great sources of contact as well. My time in CAP was well enjoyed and I have much to say about, feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions about it or just want to discuss it. Another big one I can think of is Boys/Girls State (junior year), I have heard this adds a fair amount of leadership points to your app. Overall, get involved with a program you genuinely enjoy and you will be sure to do great things and excel. Best of luck.
While I believe CAP and JrROTC are excellent programs, and they definitely let you get a "PEEK" into the military (Small peek); it is not "Special Block" that looks any better on your application than most other activities. You don't get more points for CAP/JrROTC/Scouts than being involved in Student Government, Academic Teams/Clubs, Debate, Internships, Culture Clubs, School Newspaper, Sports, and an endless list of others.

Too many people have a misconception that because CAP/JrROTC/Scouts wear military style uniforms and even has some military affiliation, that it somehow gets you "More Points" on your academy application. IT DOESN'T. If you WANT to get into CAP/JrROTC then do it. If it's not of interest to you, or your time is restrained because of other activities you'd rather be doing, then DON'T get involved with CAP/JrROTC.

The key with ANY of these activities, is to grow in them. Expand your TEAM MEMBER Skills; and advance your LEADERSHIP Skills. Drum Major; Captain of the Debate Team; Captain of a Sports Team; Class Secretary/Treasurer/VP/President; Head Cheerleader; etc... ALL LOOK BETTER on your application than just being a MEMBER of CAP/JrROTC. And starting in your Junior Year something like CAP/JrROTC is probably not going to get you into a leadership position.

But if it's something you WANT to do, then you definitely should. For whatever reason. Just don't believe that it somehow is better on your application than any other activity. Again; LEADERSHIP in the activity is more important than the activity itself.

And for what it's worth, I help a lot of kids apply to traditional universities besides just the academy. And all of the universities, including the Ivy's and prestigious universities, love extracurricular activities. And the ones looked at most impressively are:

Student Government
Academic Teams and Clubs
Debate Team
The Arts: Music, Drama, Visual
Culture Clubs
Volunteer Work/Community Service
Student Newspaper
Part Time Job

Does this list look SIMILAR??? It should. The academy looks at these same types of activities. But again, with the academy, you could add 100 other activities to the list, and what is important to them, is that you built team building and leadership experience in the activities.

So join CAP/JrROTC if you want to. But don't believe that it's a SPECIAL ACTIVITY that's going to get you more or better favor on your academy application. It doesn't pull any more weight than any other activity. It's the leadership and team building you do in it that matters.
My DS applied for the SAME (Society of American Military Engineers) summer camp that is held at each of the Service Academies. It is run by SAME but is held on the grounds of the academies. There are current and former cadets involved as well as active duty and retired military members. He was awarded a spot by our local chapter and went last year between his junior and senior year in high school. This was a great opportunity for him to demonstrate his leadership skills in a short time on a practical scale. In addition he was able to better pinpoint his short term and long term goals for a career in the Military. Finally, he was privelaged to meet many great people who have mentored him this last year through the application process. Two were motivated to write some of the multitude of recommendations needed. If you are interested, I encourage you to research your local SAME chapter and prepare an application for next summer.
As for other activities, I wholeheartedly agree with becoming more involved with what you are currently doing and what you enjoy. Maybe it will be CAP etc. My DS was involved in scouting long before he ever decided to apply to USAFA. He loved it so he went to all of the high adventure camps, became a senior patrol leader, attended and staffed a National Leadership Training course, He basically took every leadership opportunity he could find. He excelled in part because it is his passion. This summer he is running a leadership course for younger scouts for his own satisfaction and he continues to mentor even though he's aged out of scouting. Not to diminish the sports side, he is also a varsity XC athlete so you need a balance.
So coming to my point... my DS did what he wanted to do then we made sure to emphasize and expand those things. For example we documented all of his scout service for the Presidential Service Award (gold) and used that for NHS as well. On his resume we described his leadership positions to include how many people he was in charge of and concisely explained his duties. So if you love your church activities or teaching swimming... do it to the max., coach a team, staff a camp. Organize an improvement project or supply drive at the animal shelter where you volunteer. Challenge yourself to find, create, and practice leadership. Learn how to overcome obstacles then be effective in how you communicate your accomplishments. I truly believe this will be the key to success and the SAs know how to recognize this. The question my DS got the most was, "what is your leadership style?" And "what setbacks did you encounter and how did you deal with them?" Good luck to you, hope this helps!
Last edited: