We all know high school is tough. Maintaining a strong GPA while taking rigorous classes is challenging enough, not to mention preparing for any number of standardized tests each year and applying to college. But what if you were to add in extracurricular activities? If you’re already busy and stressed out from everything else, are these really necessary? To sum it up in one word: yes.
What are extracurricular activities?
As their name suggests, extracurricular activities are extra. They go beyond the classroom and can include a variety of activities that may be sponsored by your school, your community, or pursued on your own. Here are some examples:
- School-sponsored activities: sports teams, academic teams and clubs, volunteer organizations, drama club, dance teams, school newspaper, student government, etc.
- Community activities: sports teams, summer camps, cultural groups, community theater, local art groups, religious groups, etc.
- Work: full- or part-time jobs, internships, babysitting, housesitting, dog walking, etc.
- Volunteering: mentoring; tutoring; working at a local shelter, charity, or hospital; spending time with veterans or the elderly; collecting donations; etc.
This list is by no means complete. If you can dream it, you can do it. While extracurricular activities can be completed on your own, a college is not interested in your personal yoga practice or meal planning unless you lead a yoga class or meal plan for a food pantry. Helping or interacting with others is key.
Which extracurricular activities are the best for me?
Clearly there are lots of options when it comes to extracurricular activities. So how do you find the best one(s) for you? Sadly, there’s no perfect formula that will spit out your answer. However, if you follow some simple guidelines, you can narrow down your choices. The first and most important thing is to focus on your interests. Any activity you choose should be something that you are passionate about and that you will be invested in for a long period of time. Once you know what you enjoy, you can do any of the following to find the best fit for you:
- Ask your guidance counselor or teachers. These adults are great resources since they are in charge of a variety of school activities. If you are passionate about science, ask your biology teacher if there is an environmental club at your school. If you prefer reading, maybe your English teacher knows of a book club.
- Ask your friends and family. Taking this route can connect you with school, community, or volunteer opportunities depending on who you ask. Friends at other schools may know of options that you have never heard of. Your parents (and their friends) are going to know a lot more about the community than you do.
- Check school and/or community bulletin boards and websites. If you belong to a gym, there are often public announcements pinned to a bulletin board. You may find a dog-walking opportunity or connect with other individuals who are interested in gaming. A quick Google search for “clubs” and the name of your town may bring up even more opportunities.
- Research national organizations. If your school or community doesn’t have the group you are looking for, consider widening your range. Groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H Club, Key Club, Beta Club, National Honors Society, etc. could be great options! If your school isn’t a participating member of any national organizations, contact a teacher or counselor to see if your school can join the organization or host a chapter.
- If all else fails, consider starting your own group!
How are extracurricular activities beneficial?
Studies have shown that students who participate in extracurricular activities not only surpass their peers academically, but also better learn the life skills necessary for success after high school. Listed below are just some of the many benefits to extracurricular activities. They can help you:
- Highlight your individuality on college applications. In addition to “good students,” universities are looking for well-rounded applicants who make a positive impact on others. Colleges are interested in accepting students who will be involved on campus and bring something to student life.
- Improve academic performance. Studies show a positive relationship between extracurricular activities and improved grades and work habits in school.
- Develop time management skills. Extracurricular activities teach you how to prioritize and manage your time. Between homework, sports, volunteer work, and whatever else you have going on, you’re going to need to keep to a tight schedule.
- Build self-esteem. Being part of a meaningful group and mastering new skills are great ways to build up your self-esteem.
- Build new friendships. Sharing a hobby or common interest is a great way to build friendships, and joining a team or club will introduce you to people you may not have met otherwise.
- Develop collaboration skills. Participating in a club or playing on a team teaches you how to work with others to achieve a common goal. Teamwork and collaboration are essential life skills that are going to be more important than you can imagine when it comes time to start your career.
Is there such a thing as too many extracurricular activities?
Yes! If you stretch yourself too thin, it can have negative consequences. Your academics could suffer if you’re not spending enough time each evening doing your homework or studying for tests. Your commitment to each extracurricular may waiver if you’re constantly rushing to get from Club A to Club B. Not only will you feel extra pressure and stress to get everything done (and done well and on time), but colleges often interpret an excessive number of extracurricular activities as a sign of flakiness or an attempt to pad an application. This can certainly backfire. Many colleges stress the fact that they look for applicants who are invested in a few activities over a long period of time, which suggests dedication and focus.
If you’re questioning whether you are currently participating in too many extracurricular activities, read this blog post to find out more!