Extracurricular activities basically mean “activities supplementary to a course of study,” but I believe that they are essential to every student’s learning experience. Clubs allow students to explore their physical, creative, social, political, and career interests, with like-minded people. The three main types of clubs are sports teams, subject-based and social clubs organized around the same interest.
Being involved with extracurriculars will add new skill sets and you will gain more experiences to learn from. Extracurricular activities demand a lot of effort and time. To balance other things going on in life like school work, a job and family, it can be very difficult. Being able to tackle all factors in life gains skills that are essential for the future. By joining extracurriculars you learn skills that cannot be taught in class. A few skills that students develop while being in extracurriculars are time management skills, interpersonal skills, people skills, and organizational skills. While students usually have the opportunity to pursue a wide range of study areas through core subjects and electives, extracurricular activities allow students to explore an interest in more depth than what is covered in class or even find a whole new interest that they wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise.
Marisa Garach, a grade 12 Waterloo C.I. student, is currently tackling basketball, being an executive HOSA member, volunteering at a hospital, being an orchestra member, and maintaining her honour-roll standing. She is finding it quite difficult to balance everything but she is excelling in all extracurriculars while keeping a high average. “My week consists of basketball practice after school every day, organizing HOSA meetings weekly, volunteering at Grand River once a week, orchestra once a week while practicing on my own time, and of course plenty of homework and studying every day,” Marisa explains. She says that doing all these activities can cause her a lot of stress, so why go through all this? “For plenty of reasons,” she answers. “Being involved with all these extracurriculars allows me to stay connected with my community, and it will look great on my university and job applications. I have learned so many skills and life lessons that I would have never learned from my classes. Extracurriculars have really helped me become the person I am today. I’ve met so many people, and it has really molded me into a more confident person. I have also dealt with many obstacles which has improved my problem-solving skills. I now know how to prioritize and manage my time more efficiently.” Marisa is a well rounded student and being involved with all these clubs has benefited her in so many ways.
Another benefit is how great they look on applications. Universities and colleges don’t only look at grades but they look at what students were involved in while they were in high school. For example, when completing your Admission Information Form, which some universities require, they are looking for a well-rounded student. The University of Waterloo states, “We want to know if you can juggle other priorities while earning good grades. Basically, we’re looking for students who are engaged and involved with the world around them.” A student can have a high mark but what other factors in their life affect that? If you have time on your hands, with little to no priorities other than studies, then a high mark may be easier to obtain. But with plenty of other activities going on in your life, and being able to balance everything, now that’s impressive.
There are a variety of clubs, each that strengthen different abilities. Some extracurriculars strive for educational purposes and some for physical. Especially clubs like HOSA and DECA that really extend student learning and thinking. HOSA (science-based) and DECA (business-based) are oral and written competitions. In these clubs, students compete with various other schools to test their knowledge on different topics. Extracurriculars like these go above and beyond school curriculum and boost critical thinking. Nike Abiodun, a grade 12 Waterloo C.I. student who is currently in DECA and on a track team outside of school, says DECA has caused a huge impact on her in such a positive way and has expanded her knowledge of business. “I have probably learned more in DECA than in any of my business courses. DECA forces me to put business terminology into real-world situations, it teaches me how to properly dress, even how to have business mannerisms such as firm handshakes, eye contact, tone of voice, etc,” she says.
Athletics are also very beneficial to students. Sports teams are especially great to be a part of because they allow students to stay active and healthy. In either singles, doubles or teams, you can accomplish a lot. Activity is also a way many students cope with stress and is essentially a “break” from their studies. Exercise, especially for teens, is considered vital for maintaining mental fitness and is shown to reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration. Being involved in athletics does not only have physical benefits but it affects the brain as well. If your body feels better, so will your mind. Emily Steiner, a grade 12 Waterloo C.I. student, has an outstanding average and she is involved in volleyball inside and outside of school, cross country, and does part-time tutoring. Emily believes a healthy body contributes to a healthy mind. She says, “I think general health is just as important, so doing that physically has really contributed to my ability to do well in my school.” Emily also thinks that athletics gives her an opportunity to fail but learn from it and for it to be okay, which doesn’t happen to her in school. “I’m not naturally that strong of an athlete so by taking up volleyball and running it was a really humbling experience to not be that great but continuously work hard to produce results.” Emily can now look back and see how much she’s improved because of hard work and it has taught her a lot about herself.
Extracurriculars don’t necessarily have to be school-based clubs but can also include activities like volunteering, school shows/performances. You may also classify part-time jobs because it is a big factor that affects your studies and learning. Parmpreet Mangat, a grade 12 Waterloo C.I. student, is an executive HOSA member and does the multicultural shows at school. She does many activities outside of school like volunteering at Grand River Hospital, and has a part time job at Zehrs in the pharmacy department. Parmpreet participates in many activities that help her gain more knowledge on her interests. “I like to give back to the community by volunteering and it’s so nice meeting new people. It’s made me into a more outgoing person. Especially in the hospital setting I get to hear different stories that really interest me.” She says that the experience is one of the biggest benefits that comes out of her volunteering and part time job. “Working in the pharmacy has given me a lot of experience. I’ve experienced dealing with many difficult situations and I’ve learned a lot about medicine which will help me a lot in the future, since I’m planning to go into the medical field. Volunteering and working has really guided me towards my future career and opened up my interests.” Parmpreet is also very enthusiastic about her cultural dancing. She has been involved in multiple shows for school and also does many performances outside of school. “Dancing is like my getaway from school. Sometimes when I need a break from my studying, I will literally just start dancing. It’s my stress reliever and I feel like everyone should have one.” From these activities outside of school Parmpreet has been benefited in many ways, especially the experience.
I believe every student should have the opportunity to be involved and join an extracurricular, both inside and outside of school. As a student, clubs, athletics, volunteering and even a job are an essential part of growing and learning. Students will benefit from these various activities that will be a great advantage for the future. So if you are a student who has not yet been involved, get to it! You won’t regret it.