"One of the better predicators of success is the ability to dedicate oneself to a task and do it well."
Lee Stetson, Dean of Admissions, University of Pennsylvania
In 1998, Harvard University rejected over 50% of its applicants with perfect SAT scores and 80% of applicants who were Valedictorians.
Colleges and Universities, needing to prepare students to compete in a global economy, “are selecting applicants who can not only perform well academically but can also set themselves to an endeavor and succeed in extracurricular activities.” [...]
But according to a Wall Street Journal’s study, "not all extracurricular activities are created equal."
Participation in some of the more common sports in high school athletics, soccer, basketball, volleyball, horseback riding, skating, and baseball, did very little for applicants.
The Wall Street Journal report did specifically highlight a "consistent trend" that dedicated participation in drama and debate has significantly increased the success rate of college applicants:
State and national award winners have a 22% to 30% higher acceptance rate at top tier colleges and being captain of the debate team "improved an applicant's chances by more than 60%
This is significantly better than:
school newspaper reporter (+3%)
sports team captain (+5%)
class president (+5%)
and band (+3%)