Choosing the right extracurriculars

Posted by Neal Schwartz on July 14, 2021

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A post-pandemic approach to choosing the right extracurriculars


When building a college profile, it’s important for students to have well-chosen extracurricular activities. Besides being a good student, college admissions officers care about what students are doing in their free time and outside of the classroom, which shows where their real interests lie. But this year, student athletes, dancers and performers are just some of the groups that were all hit hard during the pandemic when everything was suddenly cancelled.

Now that the world seems to be opening up again, students and parents feel a strong need to make up for lost time and to sign up for everything they couldn’t do before. But the pandemic has forced us to reconsider the role of extracurriculars in a student’s life.

According to a recent New York Times article by Shalini Shankar, students should be wary of returning to their pre-pandemic packed schedules. Why? Because we can’t deny the real toll that the pandemic has taken on mental health, and kids just may need to re-evaluate their values. Here are some important questions to consider when re-building an extracurricular schedule.

What do you love to do?

Don’t pick activities just because they supposedly “look good” for college. Now is the time to tailor your list of activities to make sure that you’re doing things for the right reasons. You don’t always have to pick academic-related activities to “impress” colleges. Admissions officers want to see commitment, engagement, and growth through your activities, and they’re not so picky about quantity so much as quality. It’s important to be humble when choosing your activities and not worry about outside opinions. It’s better to choose one or two things that you love than five activities that stress you out and stretch your schedule too thin.

How will you make a difference?

Think outside of the box when if comes to extracurriculars. An activity doesn’t have to be something you sign up and pay for and do twice a week. An activity can be even more meaningful if it comes from you. These days, college admissions officers are really looking for entrepreneurial trail-blazers: students that are not afraid to take the initiative to create a business or organization, to manage an event or build an app. Even starting your own dog-walking business may be more meaningful then spending time on the debate team. Or getting involved with local elections, for example. Shankar urges parents to instill in kids the value of civic participation and community involvement. Especially after what we’ve all been through, engaging in our communities is key. She suggests, “Taking your kids to volunteer or to protest injustices they see in the world are good ways to show them what it looks like to give back and replenish. The human and nonhuman connections they will make at food pantries and animal shelters can help kids cultivate empathy — itself a valuable skill for navigating life — while offsetting the anxiety footprint caused by today’s inflated standards for success.”

How can you benefit from boredom?

The pandemic has disrupted a lot of the structure that weekly activities gave to students. However, a lack of structure is not necessarily a bad thing. Leaving time to be bored can actually be beneficial. Boredom allows us to be more creative and to find new hobbies, to research new fields and start projects that we’ve always put off. Doing activities is not about keeping constantly entertained, but there is importance in free, unstructured time that can be valuable for reflection and bonding with friends and family.

For some help building a schedule of extracurriculars, give us a call and get a free consultation!


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Topics: Community Service, college preparation, college admissions, SAT/ACT, college counseling, high school senior, high school junior, extracurriculars


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