If you’ve ever applied to a job you’ve probably heard of the phrase “extracurricular activities” as something you should include on your resume.
The question is, what do extracurricular activities mean and why are they important?
Here’s a little secret: extracurricular activities are simply any activity you do outside of your school work. Easy enough, right?
Well okay, that’s great, but why are extracurricular activities important?
Isn’t getting great grades in school good enough? And if you do participate in other activities, why does it matter? Doesn’t everyone do at least one activity that has nothing to do with school?
Luckily, you’ve come to the right place.
I’m here to answer any and all questions you may have about extracurricular activities.
So sit back, relax and enjoy the read.
The Definition of Extracurricular Activities
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s take a deeper look at the definition of extracurricular activities.
The word extracurricular is a combination of the prefix extra, which translates to “on the outside” and curriculum, which translates to “a running course/career.”
As I said above, extracurricular activities are activities that fall outside the scope of your regular curriculum.
Completing extracurricular activities means you are going above and beyond your school requirements.
However, simply playing soccer with your friends on the weekends for fun isn’t actually an extracurricular activity, even though it has nothing to do with school.
Extracurricular activities require a regular time commitment and initiative such as being on a sports team, forming a student newspaper, playing the violin in the local orchestra or taking an online course on robotics.
See the difference?
Great! Now let’s get into the importance of extracurricular activities.
The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities
1. Improved Academic Performance
Some students worry that participating in extracurriculars may take away too much time from their schoolwork, thus hurting their grades; however, extracurricular activities can actually improve your grades and your outlook on school in general!
Participating in activities you are passionate about can increase your brain function, help you concentrate and manage your time better, all of which contribute to higher grades. High endurance sports, for example, will train you to focus and build stamina in the face of intense difficulty. This gives you an advantage when it comes to studying and taking exams.
Heaps of studies have been conducted on the relationship between extracurricular activities and academic performance, and they all show that student who participate in them have higher grades, more positive attitudes toward school and higher academic aspirations.
That being said, taking on too many activities can detract from your school work, but don’t worry we’ll talk about that later!
2. Explore Interests and Create Broader Perspectives
When you participate in multiple different activities, you’ll get the opportunity to explore a range of interests and unlock passions you never knew you had!
Plus, diversifying your interests subsequently broadens your world view.
Think about it this way: if you join a philosophy club you’ll begin to look at the world through the eyes of a budding philosopher.
You’ll begin to question everything and anything you see or hear, which may annoy your friends a bit but will also help you think more critically and not take everything at face value – both valuable skills in today’s “fake news” world.
3. Higher Self-esteem
The more you achieve success through activities you’re passionate about, the more your self confidence will improve.
For example, let’s say you’re really good at maths and your teacher encourages you to get involved in competitions. You join the school team and start training for the national Maths Olympiad. During the process you realise how fun maths can be and how talented you actually are, which gives your confidence a massive boost. This is exactly what happened to Australian student, Seyoon Ragavan – now he’s studying maths at Princeton University in the US!
Working hard and mastering new skills in a fun, relaxed – and sometimes competitive – setting allows you to be successful without the pressure of getting a good grade.
Plus, once your confidence improves, you’ll be more open to taking risks in all aspects of your life, not just in Maths Olympiads.
4. Social Opportunities
Let’s be honest, making friends can be hard but one of the easiest ways to make friends is, yep you guessed it, through extracurricular activities!
Each extracurricular you engage in provides you with another opportunity to expand your social network, which will also come in handy when you’re looking for a job.
Plus, if you make friends in your extracurricular activities, you’ll be more likely to get more deeply involved.
For example, if you make a few friends doing community service at school you might decide start a volunteer club together and really make an impact in your community!
5. Productive Breaks
How much would your life suck if all you did was go to school, do homework and sleep?
Luckily, extracurricular activities give you something fun (and parent approved) to do aside from school.
Take the much needed break, you deserve it!
6. Essential Life Skills
On top of all of the benefits of extracurricular activities we already talked about, one of the greatest advantages extracurricular activities give you are “real world” skills.
These skills include (but are not limited to):
- Goal setting
- Time management
- Problem solving
- Analytical thinking
- Public speaking
The more you push yourself in your extracurricular endeavours, the more you’ll develop these skills. If you’re passionate about coding, you might join the school coding club, where you’ll develop teamwork, problem solving and analytical thinking skills.
But you could take that passion even further and create your own coding club, where you’ll develop goal setting, time management, prioritisation, leadership and public speaking skills.
Phew! That’s a lot of responsibility. Each and every step will teach you a new skill you can use for the rest of your life.
Without much previous work experience, one of the only ways hiring managers can assess your ability and work ethic is through your extracurricular activities.
For example, if you were on a debating team, the manager would know that you work well with others, can argue a point professionally and have public speaking experience - all awesome skills to have in the workplace!
8. University Applications
Last but not least, university applications!
Whaaat? Since when do universities care about your extracurricular activities? As long as you get the right grade, you’re in!
Well, yes, that is usually the case in many countries, like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand, but I’m talking about US and UK university applications. It’s pretty much impossible to get into any university in the US or UK without extracurricular activities.
Universities in the UK want to see that you’ve gone above and beyond in your intended area of study and have made a difference and/or excelled your field.
If you want to major in chemistry, a UK university is more likely to accept you if you’ve joined a chemistry club, taken extra chemistry courses at your local university and volunteered in a lab.
Although that sounds like a lot, extracurricular activities are even more important to US universities. In fact, extracurricular activities and leadership account for about 30% of your application!
That being said, US universities don’t limit you to just one passion so if you want to study science but also love filmmaking, taking part in activities such as scriptwriting, directing your own films, international film competitions, holding movie nights to raise money for an environmental science cause you care about and being the president of the science club on campus will immensely increase your chances of getting into your dream university.
It’s okay if you’re not the next Spielberg (although, that might help), as long as you participate in deep and meaningful extracurricular activities that you’re passionate about, you’ll have a fighting chance!
A quick note if you’re considering the US study path:
US colleges want to see very specific things from your extracurricular activities. Make sure your activities are ticking the following boxes to increase your chances of getting in:
1. Longevity: You stick with one type of activity rather than joining a new activity every week and quitting one every other week.
2. Passion: You truly care about your extracurricular activities and aren’t doing them just to get into uni.
3. Leadership: You have taken the initiative to become a leader within your activities and community.
Extracurricular activities aren’t all roses; there are a few thorns as well!
Unfortunately, extracurricular activities often come at a price.
Clubs often come with participation fees.
Innovative extracurricular activities such as producing films come with camera, makeup and location costs.
Even sports teams come with a plethora of costs!
Luckily, there are many opportunities for you to fundraise money yourself (which, by the way, also looks great on US college applications and teaches you the value of hard work).
2. Overloading and Prioritising
While you may be interested in hundreds of activities, it’s important to only take on as much as you can handle.
If you oversaturate yourself with extracurricular activities, they’ll stop working for you and start working against you.
No matter how tempting pasta club and model owl making club may seem, It’s just as important to leave time for fun, homework and spontaneity as it is to be involved in extracurricular activities, so think long and hard before you sign up for any activity!
P.S. Don’t forget to leave time for sleep as well.
3. The Well-rounded Myth
Back to the US university point; extracurricular activities can be your downfall if they make you “well-rounded”.
There is a longstanding belief that US universities look for students who dabble in a bit of everything.
A student who writes for the school newspaper, rides horses, is a member of the chemistry, maths and photography clubs and volunteers for Habitat For Humanity is a great example of a kid who is trying too hard.
The truth is, US universities are looking for well-rounded classes, not well-rounded students.
Universities want to ensure that every person they admit is interesting and brings something different to the table.
So instead of forcing yourself to get involved in multiple different activities that you aren’t actually passionate about, try to pursue one or two interests deeply.
If you want to be involved in the science, photography and maths clubs, that’s totally fine! But make sure you’re pursuing each of those interests in other areas, too.
Although you probably already participate in activities outside of school, take the time to think about the benefits of extracurricular activities and how to maximise your passions.
The lessons you’ll learn from participating in meaningful extracurricular activities will help you with everything from getting a job, to applying to universities overseas, to just living your life.
So go join a club, start an online class or volunteer. What are you waiting for?