From guidance counselors to nagging parents, we have all been told, “Extracurriculars help boost your resume! Get involved! Colleges like to see commitment!”
Though college is a strong motivation to join a club or sports team, there are better reasons to do so.
During my freshman year, I participated in no extracurricular activities. During the whole year, I worried that when I started applying to colleges, I would have nothing to say about my passions. As a freshman, I was worried about college applications, and it was largely because clubs and sports were emphasized as part of a college checklist rather than as a fun social activity.
Now, as a junior, I have a leadership position in stage crew, over one hundred volunteer hours, and a part-time STEM job. I have met some of my closest friends, and I have learned a great deal in the process.
Ultimately, extracurriculars are beneficial because they help students find new friends and interests, keep them fit and healthy, and increase their knowledge. However, the pressure to find extracurriculars in order to expand their résumé adds unnecessary stress, when they should be a stress reliever instead.
When you join a club or sports team, you meet a group of people with whom you share a common interest. This can also help build essential teamwork skills that may make you a better student.
Alexia Frangopoulos ‘19 joined Greek club as a freshman and is now the president. “I joined because I thought it was interesting to meet the rest of the Greek community and connect with them.”
Monica Cai ‘18, a member of Key club and Japanese Culture Club, said that “extracurriculars allow you to socialize with people and to try new things.”
When volunteering or doing an internship, you can meet a diverse group of people with whom you would not normally have come into contact. These people may become valuable connections to a field you want to explore. They also may offer or connect you to an actual job or become a trusted mentor. Such activities can also help you discover what you like to do, helping you plan for the future.
Many extracurriculars can also keep you healthy and in good shape. Sports teams and dance clubs provide a fun workout that many enjoy. But even clubs that are not focused on physical activity get students out of the house. Having a meaningful purpose after school can put you in a much better mindset than sitting on the couch watching Netflix.
“I think extracurriculars are as important as you want them to be. Like everyone says, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Do you just decide to join these clubs and sports because you think colleges will think you’re cool, or do you want to do it because you genuinely enjoy what you’re doing?” Sabrina Raouf ‘18 said.
Challenging yourself to try something new can also have a huge impact on your overall mood. Breaking the routine of school, homework, sleep can provide a creative outlet that schoolwork alone usually cannot.
There is no denying that high school can be stressful at times. But if you find an activity that you enjoy doing, it can become an effective stress reliever. Spending time with friends and doing something that you love will take your mind off any upcoming tests or deadlines.
“I think basketball is the biggest stress reliever,” Sabrina Raouf ‘18 said. “It’s fun and helps get my mind off whatever is stressing me out.”
Raouf is a great example of someone who likes to get involved. She is the student council secretary; a member of congressional debate; has participated in S!NG; is a member of JV basketball and soccer; and has done internships at The New York Hall of Science and The Museum of Natural History.
“I think extracurriculars are as important as you want them to be. Like everyone says, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Do you just decide to join these clubs and sports because you think colleges will think you’re cool, or do you want to do it because you genuinely enjoy what you’re doing?” Raouf said.
There are undoubtedly drawbacks to extracurriculars. More time dedicated to after school activities means less time to do homework and get enough sleep. If students are overwhelmed, they could become stressed and their grades could start to suffer.
But on the flip side, this very situation may help a student learn time management skills and organization. After a few nights of staying up until 3 a.m. doing homework, a student will probably start using her free periods for work and ease up on the procrastination. We are all guilty of it.
“It got really stressful. I had to rush to get my work done. If there’s one thing I learned last year, it’s that time management is extremely important,” said Raouf, regarding her academic workload on top of her busy extracurricular schedule.
“Overall, extracurriculars help grades because it forces students to learn time management,” Cai said.
Unfortunately, many students feel pressured to join a club or sports team simply to improve their chances of getting into their dream college. This could lead to a student feeling trapped in an activity that they do not particularly enjoy for the sake of their future. I got really lucky with stage crew, and I found an activity that I love and look forward to.
Extracurriculars are supposed to be a place where you can find new friends and de-stress, not continuously worry about college applications. You can spend time with close friends and make the memories that will define your high school experience.