What are Extracurriculars?

When faced with the task of submitting our Admission Information Form (AIF), there is sometimes some confusion over what to list in the “Extracurriculars” section.  According to some dictionaries, “extracurricular” refers to activities at a school, but outside the regular classroom (or curriculum).  While that is true, for university admissions the definition is usually much broader in practice.  So, extracurriculars are not just school clubs and sports.  We look for anything that takes place outside of a classroom, whether organized through the school or not.  This would include activities with community groups, religious organizations, political and activist groups, recreational or competitive sports with community organizations (e.g. hockey and soccer leagues), cultural groups (theatre, choir, orchestra, art), cadets (army, navy and air) and scouts, and many other similar things.

It also includes things you might do on a more individual level, like music (perhaps Grade 8 or 10 RCM exams, or a band or performing group), art/photography, skiing, landscaping, automotive restoration, etc.  It will also include hobby types of activities, like writing poetry or blogs, reading 19th century literature, music, model trains, writing software, raising show dogs or horses, gaming, stock market investing, …

So, for our purposes “extracurricular” means essentially anything outside the classroom.  If it’s something you’re truly interested in and spend some time at, then certainly list it.  This is your chance to show us more about who you are, aside from the grades we see on transcripts.

On the other hand, don’t make a long list of little things that you tried for a few hours now and then.  It is not impressive.  Stick with the significant things you’ve done over a long period, or that required a lot of hours over a short period.

Don’t worry if you only have a few extracurriculars.  That is actually fairly normal and completely understandable.  Also don’t worry if your extracurriculars are not “engineering” related.  We don’t really expect them to be.  Again, this is about you telling us about yourself.  We don’t have any preconceived notions about what people should do in their spare time, so don’t try to second guess what it is we are looking for.

23 thoughts on “What are Extracurriculars?

  1. I just want you to know that some students in my school (redacted) exchange previous advanced functions test and get really high marks. I can’t proof this but they talk about giving each other photocopies of tests. There have been previous tweets about this, but they have deleted them. Apparently this happened last year as well!

    • That seems like something to be raised with your teacher or principal.

      Just for interest, I give out all my exam questions from the past 10+ years to my class at the start of the term. I figure that if they can solve those 40+ problems during the term (in addition to the assignments and projects), then they will certainly learn a lot. I don’t seem to have any problems coming up with challenging new exam questions, so the course average doesn’t get too high.

    • And this is news to you? It must also be news that period one students who write the test tell period five students the answers. This practice has been used *forever* by students. Maybe teachers should start to make new tests instead of cycling old ones – pure laziness in my opinion. I even told my teacher to make a new test. But the issue of fairness comes up and equality of test question difficulty. That’s just too bad, isn’t it?

      • ^ Agreed. Fairness is an issue, but there’s nothing else that can be done. Teachers really do need to become more vigilant in their test making so that old tests aren’t shared and answers learned, or tests written on the same day get leaked to students who have the class later in the day.

  2. Hello Prof;
    I’m slightly confused regarding the “Activity Type” section on this extracurriculars section. What’s the difference between a School organization and a club?


    • The difference is rather vague. Perhaps an organization is something more official, like student council, while a club is more interest-based? It doesn’t particularly matter which one you pick, as long as your description is clear.

  3. Do you see the number of volunteer hours we’ve completed from school records. I have attained a couple more hours than the required 40, so I was wondering if there is a point in submitting those to the school

  4. hi sir, from my school, 5 people are applying to Mechatronics engineering. do the number of people applying from one school affect the chances of getting accepted. for an example, do you only take around 2 people from each school? I have the same criteria as another person who is applying, but his average is slightly higher by 1-2%. Would that affect my chances individually as in only a certain amount can get accepted from one high school?

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  6. I noticed on the Waterloo website that it says that it is recommended to submit the AIF within three weeks of getting the acknowledgement email. I was just wondering what the reason is for this and also if there is a penalty if one does not do this.

    Thanks for your time

    • That’s a generic suggestion, and there is no penalty if it’s not submitted within 3 weeks. The downside though, if it’s not submitted by early to mid-February you probably won’t be considered in the early admission round.

  7. Would you count “running many non-gambling sport pools” an extracurricular? If many hours were spent with a few individuals in the planning, organizing and the running of these pools, would you consider this as an extracurricular?

  8. Would gaming be a positive extracurricular? I know in general, video games are looked down upon because they are distracting and promote procrastination.

  9. Hi prof, first off thanks for doing these posts, they’re incredibly useful! Also for my extracurriculars, I want to put programming as a hobby, however, most of the projects I work on just for fun tend to be school projects i already gave in but that I want to add on too. What happens is that some weeks I only work on a projects for school (so 0h/week of extracurricular) and some other times I work 5-6 hours on a project I’m unrelated to school or that I’ve already submitted. So on the part where they ask how many h/weeks I do this EC do I just put the average? And is it even useful to say?

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  12. Will I not be considered for the early round if I submit the AIF after the application deadline (Feb 1st), but still before the documents deadline (Feb 18th)?


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