Extracurriculars are beneficial to your college application. However, many high quality universities will easily accept you if your grades are high enough. Now I’m from Canada so things may be different here, but I did relatively few extracurriculars. I had grades above the entrance requirements for every university in the country, and I got accepted to those which I applied. I think this is the case for most students here. If you want to get into Harvard, things are obviously different.
That being said, there are many schools that allow you to create your own groups and clubs. You can get people together and create clubs that do relatively little. On top of that, you can give yourself and others fancy titles. Depending on how intensive people are looking into the matter, it’s advisable to do some things. If you take charge of your own clubs, you can decide to do things that specifically make you look good to prospective universities. This isn’t cheating and frankly, if you want to get into the top universities, your chances of succeeding go up depending on your willingness to do whatever it takes. Getting on a teachers good side can influence grades despite what they say. This doesn’t mean being a teacher’s pet and annoying them. It’s a fine line.
Volunteering is useful. Work experience isn’t important in my view. If you volunteer at two places instead of work and volunteer, I think you are just as well off in that situation. If your extracurricular is silly, I wouldn’t worry about that. It will tell them that you engage in social activities and have skills outside of academia. They want well rounded people who will succeed in the workforce and make their reputation in society continue to rise. Anti-social prodigies will likely get in to schools of their choice, but the average highly intelligent anti-social might have more difficulty.
How much padding you need is going to depend on how high you can get your grades. It’s a trade off. For some students, the jump from an A to an A+ requires more effort than it would to volunteer and do extracurriculars. You might value the benefits of those things over the increased grade. I would put a difference that high over anything. Frankly, I’d put grades before all the other stuff. You might eventually peak at a high average. This might be due to subjective marking for essays, casual mistakes, difficulties with a concept, etc.
I’d also like to remind people that your High School years and college experience is designed to help you determine how you want to live your life. I did few extracurriculars in High School because I disliked most of them. I was mature for my age, and I didn’t really have much interest in associating with a lot of people who were obsessing over trivial school elections. That being said, my friends and I still built robots, managed a school store, and did a few other things here and there. Part of the trick is to go to things a few times to establish membership then no longer show up.
If you dislike extracurriculars and volunteering, it might be worth it to you anyway. You might decide the boredom will be justified by the results it gets later in life. The extracurricular people and volunteers will say you’ll like it if you try. Certainly, I encourage everyone to try those things. However, the reality is some people don’t like them and if your school is small there are sometimes limitations.
There is a common thing people need to be reminded of, and it’s this. A student will put their happiness second to succeed in High School. In College, they’ll do the same thing. After college, they’ll do this for their job. After that, they’ll continue working hard and sacrifice themselves for their children. You get the idea. It’s important to achieve a balance in life. If you are going to put your short-term interests aside for long-term gain, I commend you. However, make sure you have your sight set on something that will satisfy you.