4 Tiers of Extracurricular Activities - The Complete Guide

April 26, 2024
5 min read


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Do you know what the tiers of extracurriculars are? If you’re writing your medical school application, it’s a good idea to keep reading. Having this knowledge will give you a clear understanding of how to prioritize your activities and make the most impact on your application.

Understanding the four tiers of extracurricular activities is essential for crafting a strong application. It helps you prioritize where to focus your efforts and showcase your strengths effectively. 

By knowing which activities carry the most weight, you can strategically position yourself as a well-rounded applicant. This guide equips you with the knowledge to navigate the admissions process confidently and increase your chances of success. 

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What Are Extracurricular Activities?

Extracurricular activities are voluntary activities students do outside of regular classes. They happen after school, on weekends, or during breaks and cover a variety of interests, such as sports, clubs, arts, and community service. Getting involved in these activities helps students explore their interests, learn new skills, and build relationships. 

They're seen as valuable because they offer opportunities for leadership, creativity, teamwork, and community engagement. Interestingly, extracurriculars began in the 19th century in the USA to add practical and later professional aspects to education. They were meant to give students real-world experience beyond the classroom. 

Over time, they've grown to include more interests and goals, reflecting changes in student needs and school priorities. Today, they're still important for shaping students' experiences and preparing them for life beyond school.

4 Tiers of Extracurricular Activities

When it comes to putting together a strong college application, knowing the different tiers of extracurriculars can be a game-changer.

Tier 1

Tier 1 extracurriculars are like hitting a home run in the eyes of admissions officers. They're rare and exceptional, showcasing outstanding achievement or leadership. 

Picture being a star athlete recruited by top universities, winning prestigious national awards in fields like music or academics, or spearheading a successful community initiative. These activities really make you stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your ability to excel in what you do best. 

Tier 2

While not as rare as Tier 1 activities, Tier 2 accomplishments are still impactful. They show high levels of achievement and leadership, indicating a strong commitment to your interests and goals. 

Holding key leadership positions in well-respected clubs or organizations, winning regional competitions, or gaining recognition for your efforts in self-driven projects are all examples of Tier 2 activities. These achievements may not be as jaw-dropping as Tier 1, but they still demonstrate your dedication and potential.

Tier 3

Moving down the ladder, Tier 3 activities reflect meaningful participation outside of the classroom, albeit without the same level of distinction as higher tiers. 

Think of holding minor leadership roles in clubs, earning local sports or music awards, or engaging in self-driven projects with a smaller scope. These activities show that you're actively involved and willing to take initiative, even if you haven't reached the top of the mountain just yet.

Tier 4

Finally, Tier 4 activities represent the bread and butter of extracurricular involvement. They're the everyday pursuits that many students engage in, showing that you're active outside of class but without necessarily making a huge splash. 

This could include general club membership, participating in sports or music without notable achievements, or regular volunteer work without holding major leadership roles. While Tier 4 activities may not dazzle admissions officers, they still demonstrate your willingness to contribute and be part of your community.

By understanding the distinctions between these tiers, you can strategically prioritize your extracurricular activities to make the most impact on your medical school applications. It's all about demonstrating your strengths, interests, and dedication in a way that resonates with admissions committees.

List of Extracurricular Activity Examples

If you’re still wondering what extracurricular activities are, take a look at these examples to get a better idea of what they are. They can also hopefully inspire you to take action on your summer break, fill up your weekends with meaningful activities, and broaden your horizons.

Jobs and Volunteer Work

  • Get an internship in your chosen major
  • Volunteer at a children’s center
  • Help out at an animal shelter
  • Lead a scout troop
  • Hold a part-time job
  • Tutor ESL students
  • Volunteer at your local senior center
  • Virtually volunteer for a group like Mozilla or the Smithsonian
  • Join a service organization like the Kiwanis or Lions

Social Justice

  • Volunteer with groups like Amnesty International
  • Join groups like Black Lives Matter
  • Organize a Pride event
  • Start a non-profit
  • Fundraise online for a cause
  • Join or start a GSA club
  • Start a Queer book club
  • Participate in March For Our Lives
  • Volunteer for virtual anti-racism work
  • Assist a group advocating for a cause

Visual and Performing Arts

  • Take painting or drawing lessons
  • Join drama club
  • Take part in community theater
  • Create a YouTube Channel
  • Shoot a film
  • Organize an art festival
  • Volunteer at a museum
  • Volunteer or intern at a gallery
  • Start an art-focused podcast
  • Create an online art shop


  • Take an online coding class
  • Create a website
  • Develop an app
  • Participate in a hackathon
  • Join a computer science club
  • Volunteer IT support to a local non-profit
  • Go to coding camp
  • Volunteer to teach seniors about technology
  • Create a video game

Math and Science

  • Compete in a Math Bowl
  • Take summer science programs
  • Tutor classmates
  • Compete in science fairs or competitions
  • Start an astronomy club
  • Found a math or science club
  • Participate in robotics competitions
  • Take an online science class
  • Conduct an independent research project
  • Get a research-based internship


  • Plant and cultivate a pollinator garden
  • Take part in events like the Great Backyard Bird Count
  • Create a compost area for your home or neighborhood
  • Start a sustainability club
  • Advocate for your school to become zero-waste
  • Take a summer forestry program
  • Organize a tree-planting event
  • Fundraise for a community garden
  • Volunteer with a local conservation organization


  • Participate in student government
  • Join Model UN
  • Participate in debates
  • Write political articles for the school paper
  • Help raise money for a candidate
  • Phone or text bank for a campaign
  • Run for student government
  • Volunteer for a politician
  • Become an online activist
  • Join a youth-focused political organization


  • Participate in school musicals
  • Play in the school band
  • Join a community chorus or choir
  • Take private music lessons
  • Write and record music
  • Organize a community concert or music festival
  • Start a band
  • Provide music lessons
  • Volunteer or intern at a local radio station
  • Start a music vlog


  • High school athletics
  • Study martial arts
  • Coach youth sports
  • Volunteer as an umpire or referee
  • Start a sports club
  • Run a marathon
  • Compete in a triathlon
  • Join a climbing team
  • Teach yoga
  • Start an esports team


  • Work for the student newspaper
  • Create a literary magazine
  • Start a blog
  • Write a novel
  • Self-publish a book
  • Host a poetry reading
  • Start a virtual poetry group
  • Get an article published
  • Participate in a virtual writing workshop
  • Join an online book club

Whether you're applying to PA school, medical school, or any other academic program, knowing the tiers of extracurriculars will help you demonstrate your commitment and enhance your application.

Tips to Develop Your Extracurricular Profile

Here are some tips to help you develop a strong extracurricular profile for your medical school applications:

  • Follow your Passions: Focus on activities that genuinely interest you. Whether it's sports, music, community service, or something else, your enthusiasm will shine through in your involvement.
  • Show Commitment: Medical schools value consistency and dedication. Stick with your extracurricular activities for an extended period rather than jumping from one thing to another.
  • Take on Leadership Roles: Demonstrating leadership skills can set you apart. Look for opportunities to take on leadership positions within clubs, teams, or volunteer organizations.
  • Balance Breadth and Depth: While it's important to be involved in multiple activities, also aim to go deep in one or two areas. This shows your ability to excel and make a meaningful impact.
  • Seek out Unique Opportunities: Look for ways to stand out from the crowd. Whether it's starting a new club, organizing an event, or pursuing a specialized hobby, unique experiences can make your application memorable.
  • Be Proactive: Don't wait for opportunities to come to you—seek them out. Research clubs, organizations, and volunteer opportunities in your community, and don't be afraid to reach out and get involved.
  • Reflect on Your Experiences: Take time to reflect on what you've learned and accomplished through your extracurricular activities. This will not only help you articulate your experiences on your applications but also provide valuable insights for your personal growth.
  • Prioritize Quality Over Quantity: It's better to have a few meaningful extracurricular activities where you've made a significant impact than to spread yourself too thin with numerous activities.
  • Be Authentic: Be true to yourself and your interests. Medical schools are looking for genuine individuals who are passionate about what they do.
  • Start Early: Building a strong extracurricular profile takes time, so don't wait until your senior year to get started. Begin exploring activities and opportunities as early as possible to maximize your impact.

By staying focused on your interests and goals, you can develop an extracurricular profile that highlights your strengths and interests to admissions officers.


Let’s take a look at some commonly asked questions surrounding the tiers of extracurriculars. 

1. What Is Extracurricular 1 Activity Level?

Extracurricular 1 Activity Levels, known as Tier 1 activities, are exceptional and rare, like being a nationally recognized athlete or attending a top-tier summer program based on merit.

2. How Many Extracurriculars Do You Need to Get Into Harvard?

To get into Harvard, there's no specific number of extracurricular activities you need. Harvard values quality over quantity when it comes to extracurriculars. So, instead of focusing on how many activities you're involved in, Harvard looks for depth and impact in the activities you choose.

3. How Many Extracurriculars Should I Have for UCLA?

For UCLA, it's best to concentrate on a few interests, commit to three to five activities long-term, and work on developing leadership skills.

Final Thoughts

To wrap it up, knowing the tiers of extracurriculars is key for your medical school applications. Focus on quality, show your passion, and stay committed. With these tips, you'll be ready to shine in the admissions process and show your unique strengths. 

Remember, medical schools value not just your academic achievements but also your well-roundedness and dedication to your interests outside the classroom. So, make the most of your extracurricular activities to stand out as a strong candidate.

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