Participation in team sports, volunteer organizations, and after-school clubs are all great ways for students to spend their free time during high school. Students should choose activities that they really enjoy, not those that might look good on a college application. Working at a library for a month would not make an impression on anyone; setting up an adult literacy program and participating in it for two years would.
Participation in extracurricular activities is an important part of a high school experience because it helps students to explore their talents and interests. If teenagers are interested in acting, encourage them to join the drama club, try out for a school play, or get involved in set design for a community theater. Extracurricular activities can also play a part in college admissions. Colleges want students who can bring unique skills and interests to the student body
James was a strong student with a high school GPA of 3.8 and a 29 on his ACT. He was involved in a long list of extra-curricular activities and community service and enjoyed all of them, but did not have the dedication and time to develop any leadership positions.
Mark was also a good student with a 3.6 GPA and 28 on the ACT. Mark, on the other hand, loved playing baseball and was involved in three clubs where he had participated for four years. He was the president of one and the captain of the baseball team. He also devoted time to the Special Olympics and tutored children with learning disabilities.
When it came time for college acceptances, James was disappointed that he hadn’t been accepted at more schools. Mark had just the opposite problem. How would he choose between the schools that had accepted him? Could extra-curricular activities been the area that made him a more appealing applicant. Did colleges see Mark as a student who would make more worthwhile contributions to the campus community?
There is a lesson here when it comes to extra-curricular activities: It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. And it’s better to have four clear areas of interest than six or seven different areas where your performance is solid but certainly not distinctive.
Students should not choose extracurricular activities over academic achievement and need to make sure they budget their time to be able to do both. Some students may feel that impressive extracurricular activities can help less academically qualified applicants be admitted into their college of choice. Rarely, is that true. They won’t make up for a student’s lower grades and test scores. But, if two students have similar grades and test scores, strong extra-curricular activities just might tip the scale in one student’s favor.