Description: The following article talks about extra curricular activities, showing you the types of them, how they benefit students in the short term and long term, how and why they are important to the university admissions process.
We’re going to explore the importance of extracurricular activities to you. We’re going to talk about different types of extracurricular activities so that you can understand many different things. We’ll talk about the different kinds of skills you might develop while participating in different activities outside of school. We’ll explain why they are important in the context of and how they affect your chances of admission to a u.s. University.
Think about your favorite activity outside of school. It doesn’t matter if it’s something to do with athletics or creativity or reading. If you are an animal lover or you like building things and tinkering, these kinds of activities can give you opportunities. You might be a musician, an artist, or an athlete.
Maybe you like photographing and creating things. All of those activities are qualified as extracurricular activities which means that they are performed outside of school. These are not courses BUT activities. There are many other examples of extracurricular activities that you might be involved with.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it should give you an idea that there are many different things. You can explore things which are of interest to you or for other reasons.
Participating in extracurricular activities is a great way to build yourself to grow and to be mature. It can teach you different types of skills like discipline, leadership or teamwork. Depending on the type of activity that you’re involved with, you may learn something special that is not about yourself, but can help you in the rest of your life. Having good discipline will empower you to become more effective for jobs or activities.
Being a leader at a young age is a good opportunity for you to learn and develop those skills. If you learn leadership as a young person, you don’t get it right the first time. However, over time you find yourself perhaps consistently being put into leadership positions. In today’s society, you don’t have many opportunities for individual work. You must interact with other people whether you’re an author who writes your own books or you’re doing something that you think as a solo activity.
You need to be able to work with a team, because some activities are no longer solo. Participating in extracurricular activities is also important, because it gives you a chance to learn how to manage your time, how to create, how to follow your own priorities and how to balance yourself from activity to activity.
You’ll have many demands, but later in life, you’ll have many competing priorities. You’ll have your career and your work obligations which could be substantial. You may also have family obligations that you want to tend to. You may have other interests.
Learning how to manage yourself, your time and balance at a young age can help you later in life. Another reason to pursue extracurricular activities is the safety factor. In high school, you have a wonderful opportunity to try many things.
You are able to do those things in a safe and supportive environment so that you can experiment and try new things. You can see what works in a particular activity and what doesn’t. You can fail safely, so you don’t have to be perfect every single time.
Nobody who plays the guitar can pick it up on the first try and is able to play. They picked it up, pluck the strings, hear the sound, and experiment. Slowly they developed their skills to a level where they could play a song that people would recognize.
You may have never done some of the extracurricular activities that are available to you. You can try them and assure that 20 years from now or 10 years from now, nobody will care if you struggled at them. You may stumble on to an activity. That’s hard at first, but over time it can become easier and easier.
Let’s talk about why these things are important to the u.s. university admissions process. The process itself is holistic. That means that it takes in to consideration of different features or different qualities. It seems like different documents and these documents represent you at different stages of your life.
US universities specifically are looking at grades for the entire four years of your high school experience, but not your 12th grade academic work. They want to see what courses you chose to take in your electives; how hard your classes were and whether the curriculum was difficult or not. They’re looking at four years of activities. On the US university applications, you have a chance to talk about your activities and leadership activities that you’ve been involved with.
They may ask you how many hours you participate in this activity every week and how long you have done it. They’re more interested in seeing somebody who has a commitment to something and has done it for many years rather than somebody who has only done one activity for a few weeks and then quit. All of those high turnovers show that you’re sampling things and they don’t show that you have a commitment to personal growth.
I’ll explain about the growth curve in a minute. Having a commitment to a single or a few extracurricular activities that are the core of who you are is a good idea, because remember that we’re looking for four whole years of activities. There are some tests like the SAT, the ACT, the TOEFL or the IELTS, these are important tests, but they are something that you only take in the eleventh and twelfth grades, so they don’t represent you over an entire four-year period.
You won’t even get those until late 11th grade or early 12th grade typically 12th grade, so they don’t always represent what you did in 9th or 10th grade, so the entire package comes together and represents you. You get to have a voice in the application process through your essays.
Schools are looking for many different essay questions, but the essays are a single snapshot moment. This entire set of things represents you in the eyes of the admissions committee, so you can see it’s very holistic.
There are only two things that cover your entire 4-year period extracurricular activities and grades. The grades are documented well on your transcripts so that we can focus on the extracurricular activities. I mentioned the growth curve a minute ago. In the world of extracurricular activities, there are four stages. There’s nothing that means you’re not participating in any activities, but doing your academic work.
I don’t know what you spend your free time in. Maybe you play games. Maybe you hang out with friends. You’re not doing any organized extracurricular activities. Universities don’t like that. They like to see you as a well-rounded individual, somebody who has lots of background or who has some interesting activities.
The lowest level of involvement that a university would respect is the participation level. Being a participant in a lot of activities doesn’t give you all the benefits that you could have.
If you are committed to an activity, there’s a natural curve that will happen. First of all, when you join the activity, you show up at the meetings or you do the minimum amount necessary to try to grow and develop. The next step is that you can start to contribute or give something back to the organization.
Imagine that you’ve joined an organization at school like the Model United Nations, you might go to the regular weekly or monthly meetings at your school. Then later, you’ve been in the organization for a while, and somebody asks you or you have an opportunity to chair a committee which is part of the Model UN system.
That’s a contribution to helping the organization. That’s a contribution to other people who are still at the participation stage or who are young. And you chair a committee for a year and then in the the next year, you have an opportunity to become a leader.
I’m not talking about that everybody needs to become the president of a club but that is a possibility. You might become the vice president for planning or you might become the chair of a conference whose responsibility includes organizing it.
You might be on the organizing committee one year and then run the organizing committee the next year. This growth path goes from starting out at nothing to participating in activities until you’re able to start giving back. You’re taking from these activities as a participant, but then you start to contribute leadership and experiences as a contributor.
This is like a first step towards leadership and then you eventually achieve an opportunity to become a leader of some kind in the organization. It doesn’t matter what your title is. You may be given a special project to lead or you may have a formal title where you have defined responsibilities. It doesn’t matter. We’re talking about going from nothing to leadership over these four stages.
Universities like to see you as far up this scale as possible in the contribution and leadership stages. Let’s talk about art. You’re a painter for example. If you don’t paint, that’s nothing. If you start painting, that’s a participant. I’m a painter. I participant in the extracurricular activity of painting, but I am not a contributor or leader. You don’t have a club. You’re an individual artist, so what would you do to move into something like this contribution and lead stage?
One thing you could do is to try to organize some kinds of exhibitions of your work. There might be a chance to bring your work to school like Arts Day. If you led the organization of the Arts Say, that’s leadership. So even individual activities can qualify on this growth path. Remember that and look for chances in all of the extracurricular activities you do to move from participate, to contribute, and to lead.
You want to try to get as high into the leadership opportunities as possible. When you’re looking at different opportunities, you can’t do everything, so you need to try to choose extracurricular activities. How will you do it? This is a metric or framework you can use to choose. They are excellent extracurricular activities. Not every activity lives up to this, but most activities do. If you like it, then there are some other benefits that come from that.
First of all, you should try extracurricular activities that you like or try ones that you think you might like. The best extracurricular activities for you to do on a long-term basis are the ones that you enjoy, because you will do them more frequently and have a higher commitment to it. If you like it, you can become good at it.
Sometimes you do not start off well, such as playing guitar, painting or any individual talent activities. The key to going from beginning to being good at it is that you have to do it. That means you have to participate or do this activity as much as you have a chance to. It doesn’t have to displace other activities that you are doing, but you have to make a commitment. I’ll give you some examples.
You don’t play the guitar in your room and say that you’re a great guitarist. You have to try to create or participate in opportunities to get your work out there in front of the public. You have to be confident enough in your extracurricular to put this work out for people to see.
That means if you’re at an athlete participating in athletics competitions, do it. If you’re a runner and you run for a hobby, but you don’t compete, you can move from running as a participant.
Speak to a contributor who is competing in an organized fashion. The best extracurricular gives you a chance to compete or to participate publicly in that activity. They are the ones that you enjoy doing so that you can have a higher commitment to it, the ones that you’re good at which means you have potential to discover a future career.
I have three or four examples. One example is this book dancing alone. Nagi is a talented writer and he’s written for a long time, but all of his writing rested at home on a hard drive on a computer someplace. He never had an opportunity to do it publicly and we published his book. It’s available online. It represents him saying that he is confident enough in his skills as a writer to put this work out publicly. That’s the difference between participating and contributing or leading. He is now contributing something publicly for the world to see.
I’ll give you a couple of other examples. A student that we worked with has a passion for film-making. He wants that to be his life’s work. He had an opportunity to support a conference a TED conference as a cameraman and to build a couple of short videos that would be shown during that conference.
This was a chance for him to exercise his passions and to apply his skills to this particular extracurricular activity. That’s what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Doing it means more than having your own camera and making some videos. You have to show them to people.
Another student we worked with has been the captain of the volleyball team at his school. In this role, he doesn’t plan a career in volleyball or in athletics. but it gave him a chance to develop leadership both on the court and off the court.
People looked up to him as a leader. They looked up to him for advice and guidance about different issues. Some of them weren’t even related to volleyball, but this was where he had a chance to grow and develop skills in leadership that will help him in his future career. He’s interested in a career at an international NGO like the United Nations and certainly that requires leadership.
A third example is about another student. She is a very talented singer and songwriter. She’s written over 25 of her own songs and she can play them by heart and she’s quite good at playing guitar. It’s an example of potential. You see she has participated to speak as a guitar player, but she has never done it publicly. She lacks the confidence necessary to go out and perform her songs for other people. It’s an untapped opportunity.
If she can develop the confidence necessary to record some of these songs, she can release an album of her very own. These things aren’t going to make her rich and that’s not the goal. The goal of this kind of extracurricular is to go from being somebody who can play guitar and there are many people around the world who can play guitar. That is to perform your own songs publicly and then even more remarkable to record and release your music publicly in an album.
A u.s. university would love to see that kind of confidence. They would love to see that kind of accomplishment. In fact, all four examples, the writer, the cameraman, the volleyball team captain, and the guitar player are great for university admissions. They didn’t start off as experts. They started off in all of these things as participants.
In this case, the guitar player has more opportunity in front of her. The others have already done activities that will be valuable to university admissions offices. They will love to see this kind of growth and personal development.
I have to ask some questions. What are you going to do with your own extracurricular activities? What kind of choices will you make to let you move from participation to contribution and hopefully to leadership? When you’re deciding? What extracurricular activities to sign up for this semester? What activities or hobbies you want to continue doing for the next few months or a year?
Consider that. The better you are at something, the better you can distinguish yourself from other university applicants. It’s quite important for you to recognize that extracurricular activities are an essential part of your university applications.
You’ve got grades. You’ve got test scores. Those are very objective. The extracurricular activities are very subjective. This is where you and your own personal decisions can make a huge difference in your competitiveness for universities. Good luck with your university applications and good luck choosing your extracurricular activities.