If you’re applying to college, you probably know that your list of activities and extracurriculars can make or break your admission results. But what distinguishes a good list from a great one?

According to many admissions officers from top universities, it’s important to a show deep commitment to your extracurriculars. Take on leadership positions. Focus on your growth. Spend quality time, preferably over the course of several years, pursuing activities that you are passionate about.

On that note, everyone knows that it’s easier to dedicate time and energy to something that you genuinely care about. But how do you find the passion that will help you stand out from the crowd? Check out the list of extracurricular ideas below to find out how some of CollegeAdvisor.com’s Admissions Experts spent their time in high school in order to develop their skills and gain admission into top universities.

Q: What is one main extracurricular that helped you stand out in the college applications process?

“Music — I competed in a few competitions and participated in national orchestras.”

– Grant R., Harvard University

“Lighting Design for theater.”

– Finn B., Harvard University

“Model UN – I was my school’s Secretary-General, and I won several awards at local conferences. I also attended a MUN summer camp.”

– Elinor M., Brown University

“I was part of my junior town council, which sparked my interest in public service and community-based action.”

– Lara V.R., Harvard University

“I co-founded a mock trial team at my high school.”

– Caroline M., Notre Dame University

“I think that being co-captain of the swim team helped me stand out because I was part of the first swim team at my school.”

– Zoe E., University of California – Berkeley

“Spirit Chair of the Athletic Council on Leadership – I planned pep assemblies, Special Olympics Events, fundraisers etc.”

– Kaitlin L., University of California – Berkeley

“I don’t think any one extracurricular activity (as in school organizations) helped me stand out. Instead, I think what made me stand out was my extensive involvement in the six organizations I was a part of. I held leadership positions in five of my six extracurriculars.”

– Carolyn H., Stanford University

“Writing and publishing.”

– Richa G., Stanford University

“My volunteer work and four years of lab-based research.”

– Rashmi B., Vanderbilt University

“STEM contests and leadership – I led my school’s Math Team and Science Olympiad, and I won many awards in both.”

– Lily X., Washington University in St. Louis

“The extracurricular that I was asked about most during interviews was my hobby chemistry. My favorite subject was chemistry, and I would often try chemistry projects in my backyard (like extracting precious metals from silverware). This gave me a lot to talk about and showed my serious interest in the sciences.”

– Sami E., Yale University

“MUN: I was a leader of a top-five nationally ranked team. I was also a three-sport varsity athlete + captain on all three teams.”

– Lillian E., Bowdoin College

“I was the president of the human rights club at my school, and we raised thousands of dollars for local causes.”

– Alli H., Stanford University

“I think Russian class, as well as my interest in photography.”

– Leonor W., Georgetown University

“My mental health advocacy: I founded an organization to advocate for youth mental health for students, themselves. We made a lot of impactful changes, such as advocating for new legislation and creating a suicide prevention video for my large school district.”

– Allison T., Harvard University

“Had a work-intensive leadership role as senior captain of Quiz Bowl/Knowledge Bowl team where organized trips and a whole invitational tournament at school.”

– Daphne M., University of Chicago

“Starting my own student-run theatre company.”

– Mariko R., Yale University

“Extensive research and physician shadowing.”

– Marisa P., Yale University

“Debate: I was a member of the USA Debate Team, and individually, I was 2nd in the state.”

– Arham H., University of Pennsylvania

“Music- I won national awards and participated in national and state-level ensembles in high school. I was also invited to perform at the Grammy Awards as part of a national band.”

– Lucas W., Harvard University

“I started the Walk for Wisdom partnering with Mothers Across Continents. This walk spread awareness of current events in South Sudan and raised money to help students attend the local school. I was in charge of event coordination, and I also helped make the walk an annual event.”

– Bryan A., Stanford University

“Research and working at a suicide hotline – I also did a cardio thoracic surgery internship.”

– Katie C., Brown University

“I started a non-profit that held donation drives at schools, hospitals, and universities in the US and sent goods to missionary organizations across the world.”

– Maria A.R., Harvard University

“Probably my performance on academic teams. Most notably, I got 1st Place in MA for the American Computer Science League.”

– Austin B., Stanford University

“Being the owner and founder of the school coffee shop (i.e. starting a business).”

– Bailee P., Brown University

“Biology Olympiad – I ranked top 12 in USA in biology, and finalists (top 20) have consistent admission success.”

– Henry S., Stanford University

“Model UN/Student Government.”

– Arman R., University of Pennsylvania

“The Community Service Council. It was a student-led body in my high school with that worked to organize and coordinate service projects and opportunities.”

– Kaveh B., Princeton University

“President of two clubs – National Art Honor Society and JETS (Science and Engineering competition club). I think the combination was unique.”

– Phillip H., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“I was heavily involved in HOSA, having grown in the club from both a leadership and accomplishment perspective.”

– Gagan V., Duke University

“Leading BJC Hospice group at my high school.”

– Emma K., Cambridge University

“My accolades in science olympiads helped me to stand out during the process.”

– Rouhin G., University of California – Berkeley

“Not sure — I talked about all my ECs equally, and I don’t think it was just one EC that made me stand out.”

– Ishaani K., Brown University

“Tennis – USTA and Varsity player.”

– Sumona H., Harvard University

“I was a member of student government at my community college, where I helped plan the events for the campus. In student government, I organized social events as well as student workshops centered around diversity and equity. This experience made me stand out because I was very passionate about what I was doing, and the knowledge I gained from this extracurricular informed many aspects of my academic career. For example, in my application I often brought up my interest in ethnic studies, which stemmed from my experience in student government.”

– Ruqaiyah D., Yale University

“I think the variety and rigor of the various performing arts extracurriculars I participated in are what helped me stand out. I pursued every theater and music opportunity offered to me through my school, danced five days a week (ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and pointe), and played classical viola in one of the most prestigious youth orchestras in my city.”

– Genevieve L., Harvard University

“I founded a debate team at my school and helped coach and train my classmates. I believe this demonstrated my leadership abilities and commitment to my activities.”

– Tara B., Dartmouth College

This article was based on interviews with CollegeAdvisor.com’s Admissions Experts. If you want to get 1-on-1 help with your college applications from a CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expert, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.