Choosing Extracurricular Activities

As your child enters junior high or middle school, they will be bombarded with opportunities for before-school and after-school activities. While young teens are generally very excited to get involved in programs offered at their school, it is important for you to be involved in your son or daughter’s activity selection process.

To begin with, extracurricular activities are activities go beyond the scope of the school’s curriculum; therefore, they are extra. These activities will demand extra time, extra participation and even extra work of your child. Thus, if your child is interested in several activities, you will want to sit down with him or her and help them make reasonable decisions that will work with their already busy schedule.

The first thing you should discuss with your child when they bring home information about extracurricular activities is how much time the activity will require. Some activities require daily participation, such as sports, and some activities require weekly participation, like a yearbook committee or newspaper staff. Your child must be aware of the commitment they must give an activity before choosing to participate in it.

Go over the time commitments with your child and if they are interested in several activities that are very time demanding, help them choose what they are most interested in. Remind your child that they have the next couple years to explore other activities and they do not have to participate in everything at once. If you do not help your child prioritize and manage their time, they will quickly become burned-out and it may affect their academic progress (see School, Sports, Extracurricular Activities: How Much is too Much?).

If your child is still having difficulty deciding what activities they want to participate in, ask them if they would rather be involved in activities before or after school. Many kids are not excited to wake up early for school, let alone waking up even earlier to participate in an extracurricular activity. The time of the activity, therefore, may help your child decide what they would like to be involved in.

Another issue that may affect your child’s participation in an extracurricular activity is cost. Many after school or before school programs have a fee involved. This can become very expensive if your child wants to participate in several activities. One way to help your child appreciate the expense is to have them earn some of the money needed for the activity. Children can become wonderful little fundraisers when they really want to do something.

As children progress into high school, their involvement in extracurricular activities becomes more important as college admissions boards and scholarship committees look for well-rounded individuals who are more than bookworms (see Finding Scholarships for your Child’s College Education). Colleges and universities are looking for individuals who will contribute to the academic community. While grades are generally weighted most heavily in higher education applications, extracurricular activities round out an individual’s application.

Colleges and universities are usually looking for depth over breadth when it comes to extracurricular activities. Being involved in one or two activities and progressing to leadership roles tends to be more impressive than minimal involvement in several activities.

So, as your child approaches their teenage years, be prepared to encourage them to participate in activities that may help them find their niche, develop a talent, or provide them pleasure. These activities will help your child figure out some of their skills, help them get into college and perhaps lead them to a career path.