How to decide if you should sign up for extracurricular activities

Male coach addressing his team of teens

Before you try out for a sport or sign up for a club, ask yourself these five questions.

Taking part in sports or extracurricular activities can be a fantastic way to get the most out of your high school experience. The trick is to find a balance between your studies and nonacademic interests. Before you try out for a sport or sign up for a club, ask yourself these five questions. If you answer no to two or more of these questions, the timing may not be right for you to undertake extracurriculars

Do I have the time?

The watchword of any athletic coach or club advisor will be “academics come first.” Before joining a team or group, consider how practices, games, travel time, and team meetings will impact your schoolwork. Time management is key to success on and off the field.

Work with your parents to map out your schedule, communicate with your teachers, and use downtime to study and rest. And seek out activities that won’t conflict with school obligations. For instance, if you’ll be taking an intensive SAT prep course during the fall of your junior year, it won’t make sense to try out for the winter musical if rehearsals will interfere with your course time and studying.

Can I afford it?

Student athletes should budget for indirect costs like off-season coaching, training camps, and specialized nutritional needs. Unexpected expenses like injuries and medical bills for treatment and physical therapy can sideline athletes and families financially.

Other activities may involve out-of-pocket expenses, too. Private lessons, musical instruments for orchestra, winter gear for ski club, high-tech kits and travel fees for robotics club competitions — these can add up, and your group’s fundraising efforts may cover only a portion. Before you get involved, talk to the club advisor about any fees and be upfront with your parents about the costs.

Will I really like it?

While you may think you’re going to love being on the cross-country team with all your friends, your desire to try something new can backfire when the activities don’t sustain your enthusiasm. Make sure you really enjoy the activity, and that it’s worth investing your time (and money) into it.

Can participation help my college admission?

Grades tell only part of the story. Your extracurricular activities give admissions counselors a wider view on who you are and what you care about. Playing basketball throughout high school shows commitment, while volunteering at a food bank reflects that you like to help others and serving on the student council demonstrates leadership.

You should also be mindful of how many extracurriculars you participate in. A college application that boasts a long list of different activities can show a lack of focus. Instead, choose a few extracurriculars you enjoy, and dedicate yourself to those activities, like holding a leadership position in a club or serving in student government. This can show active involvement, which is preferable to simply being on a club’s roster.

What can I gain from it?

For the commitment you put into playing a sport or participating in clubs, the rewards are many. You may learn or enhance skills, make new friends, and discover new passions or career interests. Other benefits like learning time management, acquiring leadership skills, and gaining access to opportunities and mentors will stay with you and give you an edge in college and beyond.

Want to read more about managing your senior year tasks?

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