It’s more than a game: Dos and don’ts of extracurricular activities

learning-stationery----vector_23-2147491042It’s no secret that participating in extracurricular activities helps students to strengthen their college applications, but what’s the best way to do so? Here’s a quick list of dos and don’ts for your students as they begin thinking about how best to spend their free time during this school year.

  • Don’t just sign up for extracurricular activities to “check off the box”. Choose something that you enjoy, whether it’s related to your favorite subject in school. There are dozens of topics to choose from, whether you’re interested in politics or poetry.
  • Do think about what skills you want to strengthen. Ask your teachers and high school counselors for honest input about soft skills that you could improve upon, and ask them for ideas of ways to do so. There’s no right answer for every student. One student might learn patience and perseverance on the football field while another might gain self confidence and build leadership skills as a member of student council.
  • Do develop work skills. Consider choosing extracurricular activities where you can learn new skills that will help you in your future career.  Volunteer opportunities are often a wonderful way to build these skills. Many nonprofits don’t have the budget to pay professionals to take on tasks such as writing, web design, etc.. This gives you a chance to improve your skills—and build your portfolio of work samples. If you already know what you want to do when you get out of school, consider joining a professional organization so you can meet like-minded students and professionals. This is usually a great way to build your network of contacts, which will serve you well once you start looking for a job.
  • Do your research before you sign up. Before you join a club or volunteer to help a nonprofit. Do your research. Sit in on a club meeting before you join up. Check out a charity online and attend a volunteer orientation session before you commit your time.
  • Don’t over commit. Find out how much time is reasonable to commit to each extracurricular activity. Think about how much time you have each afternoon for homework, studying, work, and other obligations. Often it’s better to commit to one activity where you can make an impact, instead of several and then finding you’ve stretched yourself too thin.
  • Do consider skills that you’ll need in college. Joining a literary club or a public speaking group can help you to build your oral and written communication skills, which will serve you well in college and in your career.