Employers Want to See These 8 College Activities on Your Resume

Two college students wait to graduate from college.
College students from the University of Tampa attend their commencement ceremony at Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

When you’re a senior in college, the freedom that awaits you after graduation day is thrilling.

On the other hand, the reality of finding a “real job” is terrifying.

After all, how can you stand out on a resume? If you’ve been dedicating yourself to your studies, your work experience is probably limited.

Good news: employers look at much more than just work experience when perusing resumes. They know there are plenty of reasons to hire recent college graduates, and it’s not just because of their enthusiasm and willingness to mold to a company’s way of doing things.

As a result, one of the best ways to stand out on a resume is by listing your extracurricular activities.

Each extracurricular makes a statement about what you value and can provide insight into who you will be as an employee.

Before we get into which clubs look great on your resume, here are a few tips about how to choose the ones that are right for you.

Know What Characteristics Employers Are Looking For

The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ surveys show that employers look for candidates with leadership experience and the ability to work as part of a team.

After these two qualities, the most important characteristics are problem-solving skills, written and verbal communication skills and work ethic.

Next were the applicants’ initiative, analytical skills, adaptability and technical skills.

Consider the Soft Skills

Student Government Association doesn’t just show employers that you understand how government works. Your participation in this club also tells them a lot about the soft skills you’ve acquired.

Hard skills are the quantifiable things you learn to do in a club or job, such as creating a spreadsheet or analyzing data. Soft skills are the less tangible traits you learn in these positions, such as organization and teamwork.

In short, participating in clubs can help you develop the soft skills that employers specifically desire.

Quality, Not Quantity

Two students listen to music as they get work done at USF in Tampa. Florida.
From left, Alexa Izquierdo and Dani Patel listen to music together as they do work on their laptops inside Marshall Student Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Think deep, not wide. Monster.com iterates that your resume looks more impressive if you dedicate yourself fully to two or three clubs than if you cram your schedule with eight clubs.

Enroll in clubs early on, preferably freshman year. Stick with them to show that you are passionate about certain matters and that you have invested the time and energy to hone the corresponding soft skills. If you work your way up in those clubs, all the better!

For example, I joined Inter-Religious Council my sophomore year. I started out as a class representative of the club, became secretary my junior year and served as president senior year.

Here are eight extracurriculars that stand out on resumes, both for their prestige and for the soft skills that make you valuable as an employee.

1. Newspaper

Writing for your school paper shows you can work as part of a team, which includes taking direction from your editors. (If you become the editor, that will really stand out on an application!)

By working for the paper, you can build a writing portfolio to demonstrate to potential employers that you’re a strong writer who possesses those written communication skills they seek. If employers believe you can craft well-written reports and emails, they’ll be excited to have you on their team.

2. Greek Life Leadership

Greek Life is a great place to seize a leadership opportunity. Holding a position shows that your peers entrusted you with a responsibility. If your Greek life brothers or sisters elected you to lead them, your employer may be more likely to trust you to lead, manage and gain respect from coworkers.

Leadership in Greek organizations can help you acquire a lot of the skills employers are looking for. Fraternity and sorority members often spend their time volunteering, organizing events and managing groups of their peers. Employers consider these experiences impressive!

Gallup has also conducted research revealing that graduates involved in Greek Life are often more intellectually and emotionally invested in the workplace.

It doesn’t hurt to have a national organization on your resume, either.

From my sorority experience, I must say that if you can lead a group of hundreds of college-aged girls, you can do just about anything!

3. Student Government Association

Student Government Association is the ultimate leadership club. If you join, you automatically become a leader on campus who helps makes decisions that affect others. Members care about what happens on campus and in the lives of their peers.

Just joining looks great on a resume, but if you hold an executive position, you’ll stand out as someone who goes above and beyond to make a positive difference in their environment.

4. The Arts

College students play in the marching band.
Small_World/Getty Images

Participating in band, choir or theater puts you on stage and at the center of attention frequently. Involvement in these activities provides evidence that you can handle pressure and remain poised when all eyes are on you. They also require teamwork.

Spending time in college arts programs shows intense dedication, too. Most actors, singers and musicians adhere to strict rehearsal schedules and commit hours upon hours of their own time to practicing their crafts. Band members spend days standing in the hot sun. Actors usually learn other skills in the theater, such as lighting or set design.

Engaging in these groups is no small feat, and employers love candidates who will dedicate themselves fully to their work and their team.

5. A Club Related to Your Major

If you plan to extend your major into a career, prove your passion by joining a club related to your field of study. If you’re an English major, write for the campus literary magazine. If you’re a religious studies student, join a religious organization.

If you qualify for your major’s honors society, become active in this organization and seek out leadership roles. You will gain area expertise and experience before you even graduate.

6. Public Service

A colleges student tutors a child.
PeopleImages/Getty Images

Volunteering always stands out on a resume! If your university has elite service programs such as the Corella & Bertram F. Bonner or Circle K International, join one of these clubs.

If you don’t have this option, your school probably has plenty of volunteering opportunities, especially on the weekends. Sign up to clean a river, tutor local children or volunteer at a nearby animal shelter.

Not only does volunteer work show you take initiative, it also can give you valuable experience similar to what a club related to your major might provide. For example, if you’re interested in going into the medical field, give your time at a local hospital.

7. Study Abroad

When employers discover that you spent an extended period of time in a different country, they see that you’re not only open-minded, but also willing to take risks and step outside your comfort zone.

If you learn a second language while studying abroad, you’ll really stand out. Being bilingual is always valuable in the business world, especially in Mandarin Chinese, German, Portuguese and Japanese.

8. Start Your Own Club

Maybe you want to join one of the clubs listed above, but your university hasn’t established it yet. Or maybe there’s a completely different extracurricular you think would benefit your campus.

Then start the club yourself!

All it takes is a little bit of paperwork and a few members, and you can start your own club.

Establishing a campus group shows that you take initiative and are a problem solver. You’ll go above and beyond in order to excel at your new job.

Do any of the extracurriculars on this list look appealing? Joining a club won’t only make your college experience more fun and interesting — doing so can have a positive impact for years to come.

Laura Grace Tarpley is a nomad and freelance writer who runs the blog Let’s Go Tarpley!, where she shares tips about budget travel and moving abroad. Follow her on Twitter @lgtarpley.