What Does It Mean to Be a “Well-Rounded” Student?

“Well-rounded” is a term that pops up heavily in conversations around college prep and applications. From these conversations, it’s easy to formulate the idea that the well-rounded student is class valedictorian, star-player on the basketball team, and local newspaper intern—as well as prom king or queen. This is a myth; there are many different kinds of “well-rounded” students. Depending on your interests and skills, here’s what it means to be a well-rounded student:


You don’t have to take all AP courses your senior year in order to be considered well-rounded. While you’ll definitely want to do well in terms of grades and have a strong course load to show for, take advantage of flexible requirements or elective courses to widen the breadth of your education. If you’re interested in math and science, you might try a creative writing course or woodworking course to throw into the mix. If you like writing, you might want to learn anatomy as a bonus to understand how systems in the body work. It’s also not a bad idea to further develop interests in a focused way: so if you’re into literature, consider taking journalism, business writing, philosophy, and/or political science. Consider asking your guidance counselor for more ideas, as he or she can be a great point person for advice.

Extracurricular activities

If you like sports, great—but if not, don’t worry about not participating in athletics. You might want to join band or orchestra instead. Check out the theater program, too. Think outside the box; for example, you don’t have to be solely interested in acting to be part of a play—there are stage crew members, directors, prop-makers, and members of the pit orchestra as well. Consider more traditional school activities like student government, but also seek out smaller groups that might speak to your interests like the school newspaper, Best Buddies, or chess club. If you don’t see what you’re interested in, consider grabbing a few friends and starting a club that does fit your interests. Don’t forget that you can also pursue interests outside of school like cooking, blogging, DIY projects, designing clothes, and the list goes on and on.

[RELATED: How to Choose Your Extracurricular Activities]

Community involvement

Getting involved in your community is a great way to become a more well-rounded student. One way to do this is to find an internship or part-time job. If you’re able and want to, consider looking for an internship that is related to your academic interests—but you might also look for an unrelated job that would further develop your leadership and teamwork skills. Community involvement doesn’t mean you have to get paid: try volunteer opportunities in your town like urban gardening, coaching elementary school sports, or helping build houses. Check out your school’s career center or guidance office for short-term programs that might take you to another town or country. Finally, consider language or cultural exchange programs as well.

Personal backgrounds and experiences

Your own particular background and experiences can also play an important part in making you a well-rounded statement. When choosing your college admissions essay topic, for example, consider your cultural background. Where are your parents and extended family from? What kind of experiences did you have growing up? Did you travel a lot or get to know one place really well? How do you see your identity and what kinds of identities and groups do you relate to? All of these experiences help shape who you are as a student and a person.

Being a well-rounded student looks different for everyone—remember that there’s no “right” way to be well-rounded. If you’re looking for different opportunities to try out, ask friends, family members, teachers, and academic advisors for suggestions. You’ll probably get even more ideas than you have time for!