July 22, 2013

Get Ready for College With Me: Extracurricular Activities

Welcome back to my blog! In the last post of this series Get Ready for College With Me, I talked a bit about taking AP classes, which you can find by clicking here. So today I want to discuss extracurricular activities and give general advice to high schoolers who are juggling several activities or want to be more involved.

Being involved in extracurricular activities is important for getting into college. But the beauty of it is that unlike taking challenging classes and doing well in those (there is a set number of classes offered after all), the choices that are available for these extracurriculars are unlimited.

The options vary because people vary--we have differing passions. So with that in mind, it's important to spend your time doing what you love.

Keeping in mind my advice from the post regarding AP classes and that you should definitely take as many as you can possibly handle, let's put a couple of things into perspective.

There are 24 hours in a day, and the average student requires 7-8 hours in order to function healthily. So if we factor in sleep, breakfast, and dinner, that leaves us with about 15 hours. School lasts for about 7 hours, and homework takes an average of 3. Which leaves us with roughly 5 hours to do whatever we want every day.

What do we do with these 5 hours?
Quick Tip: Count your hours! I often hear people saying that they didn't have enough time to do an important project--but how come these individuals are the only few out of the entire class who doesn't finish the project in the given time frame? Personal problems are sometimes the reason and are acceptable, but those are usually rare. Usually, the problem is that these people haven't put into perspective their time frames and haven't paced themselves properly. You could accomplish a ton in five hours, but it's also the length of two movies, so manage your time wisely.

Well, I made a resume of my high school activities for some college and scholarship applications, and here is a list of a few of the major things I included:
  • Community service (through church, hospital, and the library)
  • National Honor Society and Tri-M (which is the music honor society)
  • Part-time job at a fast food restaurant
  • Orchestra
  • Tae Kwon Do
  • Wrote a blog
My schedule changed constantly. If I happened to have a lot of homework a certain night, I would shave down the time I spent practicing the violin or sometimes had to skip Tae Kwon Do. Or when I started dating, I wrote less so that I could spend more time with him. On a couple of occasions, I had to drop everything in order to cover a shift at work. With orchestra there are chair challenges and concerts. With soccer there are games that may or may not be far away. So how can a teenager successfully handle this fluid, sporadic schedule?

My simple answer: Prioritization.

School always came first for me. If maintaining high grades is important to you, then you should naturally spend more time studying and thoroughly understanding the material. (And high grades are extremely important for anyone who wants to go to college--transcripts are usually the first or second things that college admissions look at--and will also help with landing scholarships.) My schedule every day was for the most part structured around how much homework I would have every night.

Next, since fitness is important to me, I usually locked in the 1.5 hours for Tae Kwon Do. Writing took slight priority over playing the violin, so if I was done with homework I would usually blog upon returning from Tae Kwon Do, practicing during breaks.

Likewise, my advice is to make a list of your activities and set them into levels. What are the things that you cannot live without doing? How much time do you spend on TV or surfing the web? What could you do instead?

Moving off of those thoughts, here are is some advice from my ever-so-eloquent Astronomy teacher: "Get good at something." In other words, don't just be a member that shows up to six different clubs and contributes the bare minimum just to impress college. Rather, invest your time into one or two clubs that actually interest you and use that interest to excel at it. Foster some passion. Run to be a president, VP, secretary, or treasurer of the club.

Do something that you love enough to put in a ton of energy. This is what defines you. If you're an athlete, compete on the varsity team, volunteer in a sports camp for kids during the summer, and support other teams in your school by attending fund raisers. If you're a bookworm, join the lit mag, yearbook, or newspaper staff. If you like experiments, join the Science Olympiad. If you like working with people, do some service, join FBLA, Speech and Debate, or Student Council. If you work, talk to your coworkers and/or customers--care more about them, relate to them. Or if you have an odd hobby and like making crafts, make them and sign up for shows, go to craft shows, maybe even start a business.

The possibilities are endless, and if you use those five hours to the fullest, then you really improve your level of happiness because you are literally living your passion.

So here's a question: What if you don't know what your passion is yet?

To be honest, I was one of those people during my freshman and sophomore years of high school. My best advice is to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Two years ago, I would never have dreamed of doing tae kwon do, and look at me now--I'll be testing for my black belt in less than two weeks!

Good luck with the rest of high school, and have lots of fun with these years too!

Take care,
-Riley XO


The next post in this series will include my advice concerning college apps and standardized tests. It will be coming out this Saturday morning, so check it out when you have time! When the series is complete in a week or so, I'll go back to posting little snippets of inspiration--I already have many ideas in store for you guys. Please follow this blog by email, Bloglovin', or RSS so that you can be alerted when new content is posted. I'm also a part of several blogging communities, and the badges can be found on the About page. Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day!


  1. Very interesting post (and series in general)! Our education system (Ireland) is totally different, for one thing, only a minute percentage of people do extra-curricular activities college admission is done anonymously and is exam-scores only - which is both more and less stressful in the long run. Anyway, very informative series, keep it up :)

  2. Thank you! In the US, college admissions usually put the most emphasis on grades and standardized test scores, but extracurricular activities are a great way to help enrich the high school experience. The exam-scores only deal sounds incredibly stressful, but I hope my next post will offer a couple of handy test-taking tips for you. Thanks again for reading!

  3. Wow. A very nice blog with nice content :) You talked about a good point, in fact, that is the case in every country. There should be more extracurricular to make high school a better learning and improving stage. Emphasis on grades can really bore out a student, just like me :D I'll look forward to more of these :) Oh, and thanks for visiting mine. xx

  4. Thanks Bubbles! I agree--there is definitely more to high school than sitting in a classroom, so extracurriculars help complement the learning process, in my opinion.


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