Sports, academics, arts, community service — whatever the focus, extracurricular activities keep students busy beyond the school hours. But those groups, teams and organizations do more than keep kids off the streets. Participants benefit academically, socially and emotionally when choosing meaningful extracurricular activities.
Even if a job or college isn't in the immediate future, getting involved in extracurricular activities now is beneficial down the road. When a student participates in groups or on teams for an extended time, she shows that she is committed to the activity. Longer-term extracurricular experiences also seem more genuine than a high school or college senior who suddenly joins every club possible to bulk up her applications. The optional activities a student chooses shows a college admissions department, hiring company or scholarship selection committee that she is well-rounded — balancing both academics and outside activities. That balance of activities shows responsibility and specific skills. For example, if a student plans to major in business, leading a student business group in high school demonstrates skill and interest in the area.
Extracurricular activities provide participants with an immediate benefit socially. Students in a particular group or on a team share at least one common interest. The participants may spend a lot of time together, especially participants of a team with regular practices. The extracurricular involvement allows students to make new friends, build relationships and develop social networks that make school easier to navigate. Getting involved beyond school may introduce students to other people they wouldn't normally meet.
The focused nature of extracurricular activities allows students to explore their interests while still in school. Obvious choices for extracurriculars are those that match current skills or passions. A student with a strong singing voice may naturally lean toward the show choir, for example. These groups and activities also give kids a chance to test out potential interests. Joining the debate team is a way for a teen to test out his public speaking skills. A high school student considering a career as a nonprofit manager might join a community service group to explore the field.
Regular participation in an extracurricular activity builds a variety of skills in students. For example, active participation in an extracurricular activity improves time management skills in students by requiring them to balance coursework and after-school activities. Other general skills include teamwork, accountability, problem-solving and leadership. Extracurricular activities also build specific skills related to the focus of the group. Students in the drama club hone acting and set construction skills. Prom committee members get a hands-on lesson in event planning. Sports team members build on their existing physical skills. Improving those skills builds confidence and provides participants with real-world knowledge and ability.