You can watch basketball, baseball, track, tennis, volleyball, and socceer on ESPN, or you can really enjoy them by joining your school team. Not into team sports? How about: French club, 4-H, student council, radio, honor society, yearbook, chess club, drumline, drama, Science Olympiad, choir, math league, ROTC, marching band, Business Professionals of America, mock trial team, or dance club?
So many choices can seem overwhelming, but getting involved in new activities with new people is a fun way to challenge yourself. Here are some basics and benefits of getting involved.
What Are the Benefits of Extracurricular Activities?
So what's in it for you? You get to explore your physical, creative, social, political, and career interests with like-minded people. You'll find friends: Trying something different may bring you in contact with people you didn't know who share your interests and curiosity.
You can get involved with groups as a way to get support from other students with your background, such as Latino or Jewish clubs. A club or group also can be a great way to meet people who are different from you. Lots of youth programs bring people together with those who are different as a way to break down the barriers between people.
Participating in extracurricular activities helps you in other ways, too: It looks good on college and job applications and shows admissions officers and employers you're well-rounded and responsible. Specific activities help with specific goals — if you want to teach language or get a bilingual job, being the president of the Spanish club shows the depth of your commitment.
How Do I Find the Right Activity for Me?
Review the activities your school offers and listen to other students' experiences to find an activity that meets your needs. Think about your interests, abilities, and time — have you always wanted to give acting a shot? Are you tired of shooting hoops alone? Are you looking to meet friends or get support? Do you need to increase the appeal of your college application? Don't limit yourself to the familiar — try something new.
Think about different roles within groups that you might want to try — president, captain, participant, leader, support person. Each role is important. Being president teaches you leadership and management skills, but involves more responsibility; being a member gives you structure and is less stressful. You can also lend your skills in areas that are needed, such as using your math smarts to be a club's treasurer.
How Do I Get Involved?
At the beginning of the school year, teachers and principals often have a list of activities to join — for example, your history teacher might be the yearbook advisor. Check the school's website or posts on bulletin boards. Ask friends what they like. You can join right away or wait to see how your schedule shakes out and sign up later.
Ask questions of the activity advisor before you join. Things to ask about include:
Age. You may have to be a certain age or in a certain grade to join an activity.
Fees. Do you have to pay to join? How much? Are there fees for outings, uniforms, costumes, or other expenses? You may be required to help raise money.
Physical. If you're joining a team, you may need to take a sports physical. Talking with your family doctor may help you decide whether a team is a good choice for you.
Grades. Many groups require a minimum GPA to join.
Time. If you're involved in competitive sports, you need to have the time to practice and compete. Some clubs might meet only every other week, while others meet every day after school or on weekends.
If you don't find what you want, try a community center or volunteer at a local nonprofit organization or business. You can visit websites like VolunteerMatch to find volunteer opportunities in your area.
What if I Take on Too Much?
It's easy to join one too many activities. So ask as many questions as possible before you join. Sit down with your school schedule, work schedule, and other activities and try to map out what's realistic. Are you taking a class that requires extra studying time? Do you need to focus on grades? Does your bus only come once an hour by the time practice is over? Will you have time to eat, sleep, and relax? Everyone needs downtime. If an activity adds lots of stress to your life, it's not for you.
It's important to keep a balance between schoolwork, extracurricular activities, a job, social life, and your health. If you join a club and need to quit for any reason, talk with the advisor or coach. Be direct and polite and explain your situation and feelings. Sometimes it's just not the right fit or takes too much of your time. Perhaps you can participate in a less time-consuming way or rejoin later.