Choosing Extracurriculars: Dos and Don’ts

Last updated Aug 1, 2023 
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Kids participate in plenty of activities outside of school, from soccer and ballet class to karate and Girl Scouts. Choosing activities in high school is a bit different, however. Not only are there more activities to choose from, but whether you choose sports, volunteering, clubs, or a part-time job, those choices have a big impact on a young person’s identity, friendships, and postsecondary opportunities. Colleges, in particular, are looking for students who cultivate an activities list that highlights what makes them unique while at the same time demonstrating desirable qualities like leadership, commitment, and an interest in service. High school students looking for some advice for how to get more involved in their school and community should read ahead to learn about the dos and don’ts of choosing extracurriculars.

Do activities that align with your long-term goals. Think about the person you want to be at the end of freshman year. When you graduate high school and head off to college, what do you want to be able to say you accomplished? Pick extracurricular activities that make that version of you possible. Do you want to make a difference? Help organize the annual Red Cross Blood Drive. Are you hoping to make some new friends who share your passion for gaming? Join the e-sports club. Is it your dream to own your own business one day? Try the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).

Do your research. Visit school websites, take note of posters and bulletin boards, pay attention to school announcements, attend activities fairs, and check out local organizations like churches, community centers, the YMCA, and even community college classes to identify extracurriculars that match your interests and ambitions. When the school year starts, it’s okay to go to the first meeting or two of a club or activity to see if it’s right for you and worth a long-term commitment.

Do something you’re passionate about. Instead of trying to please the person who eventually reads your college resume, pick activities that you genuinely want to do because that’s how you’ll get the most out of them, including meeting people who share your interests and taking on more leadership roles. So, if you’re stuck between a film club and the school newspaper, choose the one that complements your talents and best reflects who you are. And, in the end, that’s what actually matters to colleges: getting to know you! 

Do look for ways to help others. Volunteering and community service activities demonstrate to colleges that you care about making a difference. An impressive GPA and high test scores will only get you so far. Getting involved in political issues and helping organizations that are supporting causes you care about will show colleges that your values reflect their values. Plus, you can choose to serve in ways that intersect with your career goals. Volunteer at your local hospital if you’re interested in medicine, for example.

Do something related to your future. Many of the activities you choose will be related to your talents, academic interests, and things you like to do to give back or have fun. Just make sure that at least two activities are clearly aligned with your college and career goals. Future engineers can try the robotics club while future lawyers should consider the debate team.

Don’t be a cliche.  Colleges are looking for curious and creative students who are willing to challenge themselves. Get involved in a political activist group, sign up for a class to learn American Sign Language, or dare to do something truly unique like become a Civil War reenactor. Don’t worry if an activity seems like it might take you out of your comfort zone. High school is the ideal time to try new things.

Don’t try to do too much. When it comes to extracurriculars, remember that it’s quality over quantity. It is much better to pick a small number of activities early on in high school and stick with them than to spread yourself too thin or never find your niche. It’s okay to explore extracurriculars and ultimately decide a few of them don’t fit your schedule or aren’t a good match, but it’s important to not just build up to leadership roles but also to build an activities list that tells a story about you. That story should paint a clear picture of your values, your talents, your interests, your goals, and your character. 

Don’t forget work experience. A summer or part-time job is another type of activity worth considering. In addition to making extra cash, there are several benefits to getting some work experience. If you’re lucky, you can find a job related to future career goals. Still, even if you’re just scooping ice cream or selling movie tickets, you’re developing a sense of responsibility, time management, and teamwork as well as securing references from people who can endorse your character and work ethic.

Don’t sit on the sidelines. Choose clubs and activities that create an environment for growth, particularly if that means taking on more leadership roles. Prove to yourself and to colleges that you can do more than show up to meetings. Organize club events, run for class treasurer, serve as a team equipment manager, liaise with local business and community leaders, and even create your own club if there’s enough need or interest.

How A+ Can Help

Extracurricular activities offer students the opportunity to challenge themselves, learn new things, and become leaders at school and in their communities. Yes, it’s important to impress colleges, but it’s also important to have fun. So, instead of curating the perfect list of extracurriculars with activities like varsity sports, the school newspaper, and the spring musical, create a list based around the goals you have for yourself: experiences you want to have and future person you want to become. Let us at A+ Test Prep and Tutoring help you. Sign up for our Executive Function Coaching program to set personal goals and develop the skills needed to achieve them. College Admissions Coaching is also available to help guide students through the college admissions process. 

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, we can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at office@aplustutoring.com.

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