In simple terms, extracurriculars are activities at school that don’t pertain to traditional education. They can include a variety of interests ranging from soccer teams to theatre clubs. That said, there are countless opportunities for students to engage in. FLVS itself offers more than sixty clubs to choose from, providing a broad spectrum of activities for students to partake in.
Extracurriculars aren’t limited to clubs at school – there are countless forms, such as practicing after-school karate, volunteering at a shelter, and even winning awards at competitions. There aren’t many limits to the extracurriculars that students can choose from; self-projects such as writing posts on a blog and creating a technological invention can count as extracurriculars done in high school as well.
However, with the addition of activities to an already hectic schedule, it makes students wonder – exactly what good do extracurriculars do? Some of them might even seem pointless to take. However, every extracurricular opportunity can bring a spread of positive doors for future needs, such as college applications. These plus points can be broken down to the following benefits.
Career Research & Decision Making
Deciding on a future career path can be a challenging process for students — many of them aren’t able to figure out what major they want to pursue after high school is over. However, this is when extracurriculars can prove to be useful aids. When students join clubs relating to their future career, it can provide insight on their interest, allowing them to experience it and figure if they want to dedicate their studies to their chosen major. Extracurriculars can even bring out passion from students who haven’t figured out in the slightest where they’re going after high school, serving as important steps to shaping a future path.
For example, a student named Han is convinced that he wants to major in computer engineering. He joins his school’s coding club yet realizes that he finds difficulty in learning computer languages and scripting. For a change, he decides to join the theatre club and finds himself enjoying it much more. Due to his experience with extracurriculars, Han was able to save himself from the possibility of having trouble in college. Instead, he found his hidden passion for theatre, and would like to pursue a major in the said subject.
It’s common to find students like Han, for it isn’t every now and then when you find a student who’s wholeheartedly dedicated to a specific future. In fact, the process of finding a future major can be one of trial and error, exemplifying how the use of extracurriculars can help narrowing down options.
Self-directed projects can also reel out passion from inside students, encouraging them to pursue studying in a subject they find enjoyment in. Say a student finds passion in writing and utilizes her skills to write helpful study posts on her blog. Her experience as a blog writer can help her figure that she wants to pursue a career in writing.
Developing Practical Skills
Extracurriculars also help students build practical career skills they’ll need for the future, whether they be speaking, social, or even team skills. When joining a club or volunteering, there are always people involved allowing one to develop better social skills. In addition to learning how to talk to others, students will also learn the importance of teamwork or working with other partners on projects.
Such skills are often achieved by those in sports teams, where communication, teamwork, and sportsmanship are important skill sets that all members learn.
Practical skills can also become routine with the help of extracurriculars. The addition of another task in one’s schedule can make a student better at managing their time and redistributing what they need to focus on more. In simpler terms, it allows students to juggle more at once than they previously could. Such skills can prove useful when high schoolers transfer to college and pursue further education, where the workload is more intensive.
Most high-ranking schools commonly search for one characteristic in students: leadership skills. They want to be the educators of future leaders who are capable of changing the world, thus making leadership abilities a need for schools and favorable skills for students to adopt. Clubs or sports teams are top choices when finding extracurriculars that offer leadership positions. For example, captains of sports teams can include their leadership role on their application, proving to admission officers that the student knows how to lead a group (especially if the student has led their team to official championships).
Having a high position in other clubs can also offer leadership experience. The editor-in-chief of a newspaper club has a higher position than that of other editors, enabling them to learn how to lead others. Such a position can then later be written in college applications to impress admission officers.
One of the greatest examples of holding a leadership position is being part of the student cabinet or council. The tasks carried by the council such as managing and planning school events promote leadership skills in members. This makes the council a perfect candidate for building leadership skills.
Another option is beginning a school club. Not only does starting a club exemplify a student’s independence and ability to begin projects on their own, but also ensure that they will have a leadership position once the club officially begins. (Depending on how the school operates, students can contact faculty to begin their own club if they have a sponsor and a few members.) Such an act shines greatly on college applications for the schools that are in search for future leaders.
Alongside engaging in club activities and volunteering, earning awards from competitions can be just as important. While club activities demonstrate that a student has spent time in a specific aspect, winning an award from a competition ensures that they are more than proficient in the said subject. When adding components to one’s college application, the addition of achievements add more to show for a student’s skills. When admission officers look at a student’s application, they wish to find someone who isn’t well-rounded in everything — they want a student who has shown evident dedication in a specific interest, going far enough to win an award for it.
To the ease of students, winning awards can vary from a variety of different interests. Small competitions for creative writing or even essays that offer scholarship money can allow one to win an award, while students interested in music can also win competitions centering around a specific instrument. Students on sports teams can win achievements by winning state championships. The opportunities are endless, and scholarship websites such as UNIGO offer comprehensive lists of competitions open for high schoolers pursuing all sorts of interests.
Officials prefer to have experienced students who have already partaken in group efforts or events that have given them the skills to progress through college. Extracurriculars are just the thing that allow students to build their experience.
A student who writes for the newspaper can build writing and editing experience through their years of high school, allowing them to include in their application that they are experienced in the field. A student who has done scientific research in a nearby institute can add that on their application to provide experience as well.
Even having a job can count as experience needed to prove to colleges that you have work experience prior to entering college. Employment can demonstrate to officials that a student has been in a workplace before, having undergone the conditions and demonstrating skills needed to have a job.
Experience is an important aspect of one’s application. Admission officers will not accept a student who only claims to have a passion for a subject if they do not have any background to show for it. Doing so would be like shooting an arrow in the dark, whereas accepting a student who has experience is akin to the finest shot under clear skies.
Standing Out in College Applications
All of the previously listed components are taken into consideration when a student fills their college application, making them stand out from other applicants. To put it simply, extracurricular activities are what add a ‘spark’ to a student’s record as a high schooler. A given rule for ivy league schools (and other schools in general) is that they do not want to educate students who aren’t going to become leaders of tomorrow. They wish to pick out the finest of students, making their process careful and selective.
According to Allen Cheng, a Harvard alum, Ivy league schools do not want well-rounded students because “mediocre people don’t end up changing the world.” A student cannot just focus on having straight A grades and doing minimum required volunteer hours while aiming for top schools. With that in mind, it’s important for students to engage in extracurricular activities to demonstrate that they are willing to do something.
An impressive amount of volunteer hours on a college application exemplifies that a student has spent much time with their community, while a grand amount of awards voices a student’s excellency in his field. Schools like to consider such students’ abilities as their “spikes,” simply their passion and expertise heightened to a grand level. Cheng also mentions the importance of extracurriculars, and how they truly bring out the best of a student.
Let’s take a look at it in this perspective — three students are presented and only one is to be chosen.
Student 1 is taking Honors classes, attending Piano practice, tutoring math subjects, and writing for her school newspaper. She maintains high grades in all of her subjects, and continues to fill her schedule with extracurriculars.
Student 2 has very high grades and test scores in all of his subjects. He is taking Honors courses and even a few AP courses to count as college credit.
Both of these students are working very hard, and seem to have an excellent amount of achievements to add to their college application. Their high grades are undoubtedly amazing and well enough to get them into college; however, take into consideration that this student is also present:
Student 3 has high grades in literary courses, alongside taking AP courses that revolve around literature, while she has proficient scores in her other subjects. She’s the editor of her school newspaper, has won awards for her writing in countless competitions, and even created her own blog where she posts statistics on social issues. Her social media is popular and allows her blog to gain more reach. She has also started her own club that comes together to find information on social issues around their province.
Out of all these students, the first two seem to be educationally more advanced; however, they don’t have any “spike” and are instead well-rounded students. Student 1 does take extracurriculars, yet they’re very different from each other. Student 3 has the best application, despite not being the best in STEM related subjects. The addition of extracurriculars that demonstrate Student 3’s “spike” — her major capabilities and skills are what heighten her application even more, making her the stand out as an example of how much extracurriculars can mean in the admission process.
If you are in your freshman year or even middle school, the time is ripe to begin working towards your application by involving yourself in extracurriculars. Time isn’t late for juniors and seniors either, for they can make the effort in the time they have left.
For freshmen, high school brings forth an entire restart to your education; it’s important to remember keeping grades in check from now on and starting early with extracurricular activities. Explore clubs to join if it’s possible for you, and whether the student cabinet is accepting members to gradually lead yourself to a leadership position later.
For middle schoolers, it’s never too early to begin working towards your future. Engaging in club activities beforehand can already give you the experience you’ll need through high school, and perhaps even promoted ranks by your freshman year. FLVS offers more than sixty clubs for grades K-12, making the ease into extracurriculars an easier start for you.
Find out which club you want to join next semester to fuel your passion and open a path to more possibilities.
- Cheng, Allen. How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League, by a Harvard Alum, blog.prepscholar.com/how-to-get-into-harvard-and-the-ivy-league-by-a-harvard-alum.
- Sundquist, Kate. “How to Improve Your Extracurriculars Junior and Senior Year.” CollegeVine, 27 Mar. 2020, blog.collegevine.com/how-to-improve-your-extracurriculars-junior-and-senior-year/.