The importance of high school clubs: How to approach your involvement

October 01, 2013

​I meant to share this article from a month ago, but, since it’s directed at younger high school students, the advice is still applicable and can/should be implemented now.

No one denies extracurriculars are a worthwhile pursuit. As the article states, “Students who are involved in high school and then continue to be involved on campus . . . generally perform better in the classroom, network better and tend to enjoy their academic experiences more.” But, how should you choose which ones and how many to get involved with?

The obvious answer is to focus on quality over quantity. You can be involved in 10 different clubs, which may sound impressive to people who ask, but you’ll only be viewed as a jack of all trades and a master of none. It is way more valuable to choose an extracurricular activity in which you have a genuine interest and are willing to delve into wholeheartedly. Not only will this passion come across in your application . . . you’ll also be happier as a person. High school is tough enough as it is. Why kill yourself over an activity you don’t even enjoy?

It’s not necessarily even that important to be the captain or president of the sport or club; it’s more important that you be able to demonstrate your commitment and attempt to tie it into what you’d like to pursue at the college level, whether that be academic or extracurricular. Not that you shouldn’t try for a leadership position, because it should be something you strive for, but the point of HS activities is to gain experiences that will guide you in college and beyond.

Let me give you an example: Most people at my high school got caught up in the rat race of climbing to the top and obtaining an executive position (I did myself.). Many founded clubs and organizations with only a couple of members just to be able to put that leadership title on their applications. But, I realized how misplaced this all was when I learned about a recommendation letter a teacher wrote for a student in the year below mine. The letter highlighted the fact that, though this student was not the captain of his swim team and was not the best swimmer in the county or even the school, he never missed a practice and never showed up late . . . EVER. His dedication and focus made him an invaluable team member whom the rest of the team could depend on and exhibited a level of maturity that made him stand out as a candidate.

The message is this: demonstrate responsibility, accountability and humility over scrambling for that title. What schools want to see from your extracurriculars is a sustained interest that will translate to how you approach other parts of your life. As the article states, the key is to show you can manage your time effectively to make the transition to college—an environment of self-management—a seamless one. And, it doesn’t hurt to want to be able to continue to pursue that activity at the college level or be able to tie it in with the bigger picture of your application (e.g., if you’re interested in studying business, get involved in a business-related club).

Associate VP of undergrad admissions at UCF said, “We are looking for students who have built a resume that suggests ‘I’m interested in this particular discipline, I’ve followed that discipline and it’s been meaningful engagement.’

Takeaway message: pursue what you love and this will not only be apparent in your application but will also enrich your high school experience through personal growth and satisfaction and create a network and support group of people with similar interests.

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