Academics are an important part of each student's high school years,
especially since high school grades play an integral role in college acceptance.
Parents spend a lot of time encouraging their teens to study more -- and play
less -- in the pursuit of this goal. They believe that devoting a great deal
of time to studying guarantees success in future college applications.
there is another more playful component of a well-rounded education -- outside
the regular academic program -- that may positively impact students' success.
Extracurricular activities, such as basketball, baseball, tennis, debating,
chess clubs, student government, yearbook, drama, choir and computer clubs
can round out students' academic careers to great effect.
being fun and a great way to socialize with peers, extracurricular activities
can enhance students' time management and stress management skills, improving
overall productivity. Extracurricular activities also increase a candidate's
appeal when applying to college.
"Studies show that students in extracurricular
activities have higher [academic] scores. They learn to manage their time,
relieve stress and learn to strive for excellence in more than one thing,"
says Kenny Smith, a school counselor in Thatcher, Arizona. "Students who are
involved in team sports learn to work in groups. Their written and oral communication
skills improve. These things cross over into 'real life.' The students who
participate in extracurricular activities are held to a higher plane. There
are no team breaks. The privilege [to play on a team] must meet specific requirements."
"Participation in extracurricular activities is a privilege and students
may have to meet and maintain a minimum grade point average to play sports
or take part in clubs." So says Parent Spot, produced by the Capital Region
BOCES Community Service in Albany, N.Y.
Some extracurricular programs
are designed to help at-risk teens. One program, Students Keeping Attitudes
Towards Earning Rewards and Success (SKATERS), in Moreno Valley, California,
involves tutoring, academics, running a food pantry, and participating in
service learning activities. To make it easier for students to participate,
the group meets at lunchtime rather than after school. Having started with
20 at-risk students, there are now as many as 500 participants per year.
Arco is the counselor who started the SKATERS program. She says, "Participation
in extracurricular and school club activities increases resiliency in youth
by promoting protective factors and reducing risk factors. Data shows that
participants have a higher GPA (0.98 percent), fewer suspensions (13.9 percent),
and better attendance (15.8 percent) than non-participants. Counselors come
from as far away as New Zealand and Poland to observe the program, which has
now been implemented in many schools."
Adding extracurricular activities
to an already rigorous high school schedule can be tricky. There may be times
when academic requirements, family life and social activities conflict.
example, kids who participate in tennis must prioritize how they use their
time," says Smith. He tells the story of one student who had a conflict between
an algebra class and a tennis match. Being proactive, she worked out a way
to attend the match and still keep up with her algebra class lectures.
the time and effort involved in extracurricular activities, there are clear
rewards in the form of fun and enhanced life skills. But there's also the
fact that college admission officers are generally impressed by a student's
Parent Spot notes, "College admissions
officers are looking for students who have applied themselves academically
during the high school years and have used their free time in enriching ways...
A roster of extracurricular activities lets colleges know that teens have
made a meaningful contribution to something larger than themselves, can maintain
long-term commitments and can juggle their priorities successfully."
do colleges view the extracurricular activities chosen by a high school student?
The activities offer colleges a snapshot of a student's personality and interests.
Parent Spot notes, "The activities that teens choose to take part in outside
of the classroom tell prospective schools much more than grades on paper."
Overall, students who participate in extracurricular activities will
likely see an improvement in their academic and life skills, including discipline,
goal-setting, teamwork, accountability and responsibility. They will also
find themselves better prepared for post-secondary education. Ultimately,
students may even discover that the lessons they learned outside the classroom,
in basketball or chess club, help them cope with future challenges in the