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Royal’s Recommendations: A Source of Stand-out Extracurricular Activities for Stand-out College App

How do students stand out in the new college admission landscape of test blind in the case of the University of California and California State University campuses, and test optional in hundreds of other universities across the country? The answer is that students should keep doing what they do best: explore their interests then engage in a meaningful way as they discover what topics they are passionate about. Sounds easy enough. But what does it mean to engage in a meaningful way?

I created Royal’s Recommendations as a weekly post to my Instagram page as a way of sharing the flood of information I have found year after year on outside of school enrichment activities that can take student’s engagement in an academic area of interest to a higher level. I have listed a dozen examples from the nearly 50 posts I’ve shared just this year to illustrate examples of activities that will demonstrate meaningful engagement.

12 Stand-out Extracurricular Activities

from Royal’s Recommendations


Students interested in American history and those who have a goal of law school after earning their undergraduate degree, might consider participating in the pre-College Program in American History at William & Mary University in Virginia. The National Institute of American History & Democracy (NIAHD) hosts this residential program for high school students across two sessions each summer. Students will dive deep into American history learning about the people, places, and events that shaped this nation, and they will also develop skills and resources that will take them beyond their high school years. Applications are due in mid-February.


The School of New York Times Summer Academy is open to high school students (grades 10-12 and Graduating Seniors. Students choose from over 33 two-week-long courses ranging from learning journalistic techniques and stylistic tricks to tell effective, captivating sports stories in a variety of forms like a professional reporter, to foreign correspondent reporting and learning how to find and report compellingly on international stories in an increasingly dynamic world and a rapidly changing media landscape. Applications are due in mid-March.

Via the School of New York Times


Advanced Science Exploratory Program, held on Stanford University’s campus, is a 4-part seminar that educates students how to do think like a scientist. Mentorship Seminar Bootcamps are held each summer and are open to high school students who are in grades 10-12. The program’s goal is to ignite excitement about science, scientific research, and scientific career paths. Students can attend seminar- and workshop-style courses on professional and knowledge development, access to scientific journaling internships, and merit- and financial-based scholarships to fund summer research internships at major academic universities.


Girls in STEM

The New York Academy of Sciences, one of the oldest scientific institutions in the world, offers a free STEM mentorship program for high school girls: The Junior Academy and the 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program. Students work with female STEM professionals who guide them on building the skills to prepare them for college and their future career.

1000 Girls, 1000 Futures was designed specifically for young women—it’s tailored to address girl’s particular needs and questions. Girls work to complete challenge modules focused on 21st century skills development. During this time they will learn from mentors in the network who can answer questions and provide advice. The program is built with flexibility in mind so that students and mentors have enough time to work around busy schedules. The program starts September 2021 and runs through the academic year.


Student filmmakers can expand their skills into documentary film and compete for cash prizes totaling $100,000 with StudentCam - C-SPAN's annual national video documentary competition that encourages students to think critically about issues that affect our communities and our nation. The competition is open to all students in grades 6-12. Students may compete individually, or in teams of either 2 or 3 members.

The StudentCam theme for 2022 is "How does the federal government impact your life?"

Explore a federal policy or program that has an impact on you or your community. Evaluate the effectiveness of this policy or program by researching multiple perspectives on it.

Documentaries must include clips of supporting or opposing C-SPAN video that relate to the chosen topic. Winning StudentCam documentaries will thoroughly explore a variety of viewpoints related to the chosen topic, including those that may oppose the filmmaker’s points of view. We recommend that you interview experts on your chosen subject.

Documentaries must be between 5-6 minutes in length. C-SPAN launched the updated StudentCam website for the 2022 competition in August to coincide with the beginning of the new school year.

Creative Writing

Student’s with a passion for creative writing might enroll in the online course through Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development. Creative writing is a genre that brings personal experiences to light in manifestations of fiction writing, memoir, music, podcasts, or art, other media. In this course, students utilize creativity through reading and writing different genres of literature and applying them to their own work.

Upon successful completion of this course, students will understand the components of creative writing, such as character development, types of characters, setting, theme, author’s tone and purpose, and dialogue, and apply them to various types of creative writing such as short stories, poems, plays, and art. The program is offered on an asynchronous basis and runs from September - April each year.

Computer Science

CodeREV provides coding, technology, and robotics classes through unique creations and hands on projects. Classes are project based, allowing students to engage in deep learning through unique creations and hands on projects. CodeREV offers classes year-around virtually and in a variety of locations throughout Southern California.


The Community Science Academy, is a professional learning community and science teaching center promoting research in areas relevant to community needs, e.g. agriculture, environment, urban planning, etc. Students will learn core science and engineering skills. CSA collaborates with Caltech researchers to translate their work into educational opportunities and experiences.

Students attend a six-week program at the Caltech campus in Pasadena during the summer. Students learn science and engineering from university researchers and gain hands-on experience performing experiments and building projects in Caltech labs and facilities. Classes are held at Caltech’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach; and in Caltech’s undergraduate teaching labs. Community Science Academy applicants are typically rising 9th-12th graders, although younger applicants will be considered on a case-by-case basis. A limited number of scholarships are available for qualifying applicants.


Leadership Seminars is a competitive, 10-day program on Notre Dame's campus for academically talented students who show impressive leadership within their communities. Approximately 120 students are admitted to Leadership Seminars each year, and students are eligible to receive one transferable college credit upon completion of the program. Tuition, housing, and meals for students admitted to Leadership Seminars will be paid for by the University.

A student testimonial describes the experience well:

"The professors take a unique approach to teaching - they are not afraid to confront controversial issues. They teach us how to think and the possible implications of everything we could do in the future could be. This experience taught me how to apply what I learn to real world problems and issues."

Applications for summer 2022 open October 8 and are due by January 24, 2022.

Genetics and Genomics Research

Jackson Laboratories offers the Summer Student Program which is designed for students who want to immerse themselves in genetics and genomics research. It emphasizes laboratory discovery, communication of knowledge, and professional growth.

Students participate in an ongoing research program with the support of an experienced scientific mentor. They develop an independent project, implement their plan, analyze the data, and report the results. At the end of the summer, they present their findings to researchers, other students, and parents.

Every year, a diverse group of 48 undergraduate and high school students are chosen from all over the United States. They can meet and connect with research-focused students from different backgrounds who quickly form a community of motivated science scholars.

One Program, Two Campuses

The Summer Student Program is available at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine and The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Connecticut. Outside the laboratory there is much to explore. Depending on the location, students can visit the sights of Boston, New York, or the trails and vistas of Acadia National Park.

Summer Student Program applications will be open in October 2021 for consideration in the 2022 Summer Student Program on the Bar Harbor, ME and Farmington, CT campuses.

Political Science

The United States Senate Program welcomes pages come from all 50 states. Appointed and sponsored by a senator, they must be high school juniors, at least sixteen years old, and attend school. Senate page duties consist primarily of delivery of correspondence and legislative material within the Congressional complex. Other duties include preparing the chamber for Senate sessions and carrying bills and amendments to the desk.

Pages attend classes in the early morning at the United States Senate Page School, a program fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Contact your senator’s office for more information on applying to be a Senate Page.

Via The United States Senate Youth Program

United States Department of Agriculture Pathways Internship Program

The Internship Program provides paid work experience to students currently enrolled in high school or an accredited college or university (this includes Home-Schooling, Certificate Programs and Community Colleges). Interns may work during the summer, fall, spring, or year-round.


  • U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident

  • Age 16 years or older

  • Enrolled in, or accepted for enrollment to, an accredited high school, community college, college, or university; professional, technical, vocational, or trade school; advanced degree program; or other qualifying educational institution and pursuing a qualifying degree or certificate

  • A 2.0 GPA to Good Academic Standing (typically a 2.0 on a 4.0 scale)

  • Apply to an open vacancy announcement

To Apply: The United States Department of Agriculture is looking for highly qualified students who are eager to assist us with meet our mission. To apply, please visit the following links.

  • Step 1: - Review current USDA Pathways opportunities by typing Student Trainee in the search tab.

  • Step 2: - Create an account on USAJOBS and sign up to receive information about vacancies meeting your interests.

  • Step 3: Find the announcement to which you wish to apply and select the ‘Apply On-Line’ button.

Sample list of career paths in the USDA Pathways Internship Program:

  • Agricultural Marketing Service Virtual

  • Food Safety Veterinary Studies

  • Foreign Agriculture

  • Information Technology

  • International Agricultural

Final Tip

Many of these programs take place during the summer when students have capacity for deep dives into the areas of study they are passionate about or are wanting to explore. Due to high demand, many of the programs open their applications in the fall and have due dates early the following year; so, don’t wait!

If you are interested in learning of more programs, please follow us on Instagram @royalcollgeconsulting and watch for Royal’s Recommendations posted every Monday.


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This blog was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.

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Phone: (714) 319-0399


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