The Importance of Extracurricular Activities in a Student’s Life

From performing arts to athletics, the importance of extracurricular activities in a student’s life cannot be overstated. Read on to learn more!

Extracurricular activities defined

There are many types of extracurricular activities, but they generally all have one thing in common: these activities are not academically required. By definition, “extracurricular” means outside or in addition to the regular academic curriculum, and it’s important for both students and parents to understand this distinction.

As an example, let’s say a high school freshman decides to take a Japanese foreign language class. Foreign language is often a mandatory academic course and provides credits that count towards the student’s grade point average. As a result, this would not be considered an extracurricular activity by itself. Furthermore, the majority of colleges and universities require at least 2 years of foreign language to apply – not to mention that foreign language courses are a high school graduation requirement in many states.

On the flip side, if the same student were to sign up for a local club or after-school program celebrating Japanese culture, history, and tradition while simultaneously organizing and participating in community-driven events – this would most certainly qualify as an extracurricular activity. The important distinction here is that this activity is not something the student is required to do in order to graduate, but rather a passion they have elected to pursue on their own.

One more detail to keep in mind: extracurricular activities can still take place during school hours (and often do). The most common examples of this are fine arts (typically band or orchestra) and team athletics. While these activities do provide course credits and may satisfy a single elective requirement, they are not strictly mandatory for all students. 

In fact, most students who consistently pursue extracurricular activities will likely end up with more elective credits than required for graduation. For instance, California currently requires only two courses in physical education for high school students. As a result, a student who participates in team sports for all four years is going to earn far more credits than they need, but that’s expected – after all, these activities are meant to be extracurricular!

Common extracurricular activities

The best thing about extracurricular activities is that they are incredibly accessible to students everywhere. According to a federal study, 99.8% of all American public schools offer extracurricular activities, with the most popular being:

  • Sports (both individual and team)
  • Performing arts (play production)
  • Academic clubs
  • Vocational clubs (job skills, career training)
  • Publications (journalism, writing clubs)
  • Student government and honor societies
  • Service clubs (community events, volunteer work)
  • Hobby clubs

We encourage all high school students to research various extracurricular activities offered by their school or community sooner rather than later. It’s no secret that extracurricular activities are an important addition to any college application, and it’s a good idea to start participating as early as freshman year!

The benefits of extracurricular activities

For many high school students, the primary appeal of extracurricular activities is to provide them with an impressive boost to their college application. This is certainly a valid reason, and it’s a well-known fact that colleges and universities look favorably upon applicants who have shown dedication to these activities – for more information on this topic, check out 5 Summer Activities to Boost Your College Application. Students generally accept this at face value, but there’s an often-overshadowed reason why extracurricular activities are actually valued so highly by colleges and universities. 

Put simply, extracurricular activities are highly correlated with positive academic performance overall as well as aspiring to higher levels of education. Research indicates that nearly a third of all students who participate in these activities maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above while also scoring in the top quartile on math and reading assessments. In addition, 70% of these students are projected to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher. From a university’s perspective, a student’s participation in extracurricular activities is a good indicator towards future success. 

Participating in extracurricular activities also encourages students to build a connection with other students, their schools, and their communities. Incredibly, the majority of students who participate in extracurricular activities had no unexcused absences during their first semester of senior year in addition to never skipping a class. In other words, extracurricular activities provide students with the internal motivation they often need to maintain consistency throughout their academic careers.

For high school students ready to get started, check out Choosing Extracurricular Activities That Will Appeal to Colleges!