11 Extracurricular Activities That Best Prepare You for Life After High School
Extracurricular activities often get grouped as “nice-to-haves” when talking about your education. But these should not be so quickly glossed over. They’re an essential part of your education. In fact, some prepare you for life better than any classroom can. In the following article, we’ll be discussing the 11 extracurricular activities that best get the job done.
If you’re about to enter high school or are already in and haven’t found your way yet, we hope this can help.
1. Student Government
How It Prepares You: Getting involved in student government provides a window into how our republic works. It shows you the diplomatic way of getting things done. In essence, that’s the only way to get things done if you want to continue to be a part of society.
While your tenure in student government — as either an unelected candidate or a member/president of student council — may not lead to a long-term political career, it will certainly teach you the right and the wrong way to fight for causes that matter and make long-lasting impacts through diplomacy.
Also, organizing a campaign, voting on issues important to students, and working with others whom you may not always agree with, cultivate skills that prove useful in the workforce every day.
2. Quiz Bowl
How It Prepares You: Quiz Bowl is a great extracurricular activity for a number of reasons. Firstly, it teaches you to embrace competition with a spirit of respect and sportsmanship. Secondly, it allows you to learn and retain information other students do not, giving you a competitive edge socially and academically.
Finally, Quiz Bowl competition allows you to build camaraderie, yes; but it allows you to do so through an academic, insightful approach. This can lead to more substantive friendships and acquaintanceships. It’s also the most similar to the experience you’ll have when you’re working as part of a team within the workforce.
How It Prepares You: We’ve lost a sense of free speech in the US because we’ve gotten to a point where we’re afraid to argue our opinions for fear of offending others. That’s a dangerous place to be as a society, and we need to bring back the ability to disagree civilly without devolving into name-calling and violence.
Debate forces you to build substantive arguments around a particular point of view. The act of preparing for a debate and then standing across from an opponent can be intimidating. But it forces you to do two important things with your views: support them or change them.
If you can support your views with evidence and address the claims against those views, you will emerge stronger in your convictions. If you cannot, then you’re forced to ask the question: why can’t I? That may not be comfortable at the moment, but it will teach you to dig deeper to defend what’s there, or it will open you up to a new way of looking at the situation that you hadn’t thought of before.
4. Beta Club
How It Prepares You: The National Beta Club has more than 8,000 chapters across the US. It takes in primarily high school students, though you can join it as early as the fourth grade. The purpose of Beta is a noble one. It promotes “the ideals of academic achievement, character, leadership, and service among elementary and secondary school students,” according to the charter.
Always noble goals, but this extracurricular activity’s emphasis on merging those ideas provides one of the most accurate interpretations of what it takes to get ahead in life for any other pastime or organization.
5. Choir and Band
How It Prepares You: You don’t have to know how to sing or play a musical instrument in order to succeed in life, but you can learn valuable life skills from one of these two extracurricular activities. And we grouped them together because the voice is just another musical instrument.
When you get up and perform in these areas, you place your talents and skills under the spotlight where the stakes are high. Messing up can be painful and humiliating, but doing it well wins accolades and sends your spirits soaring because you’ve proven yourself capable of something only a small percentage of the public can actually do.
Choir and band are training grounds for the challenges you’ll face in life. If you can succeed there, you can succeed in even bigger capacities down the road.
How It Prepares You: Internships have come on strong in recent years with the rise of charter schools and early workforce training programs. See, industries know that in order to survive and compete on a global scale, they need a pipeline of talent.
As a result, major companies are more willing today than ever before to open up their facilities and place you side-by-side with working professionals. An internship gets you comfortable with the world of work, and it also helps you understand the expectations and the skills you’ll need to focus on if you want to work in a particular field.
Internships also help you make valuable connections early in life. You can then use those connections as you move further into your career.
How It Prepares You: Volunteering is like an internship but only with nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits are not focused on making money but rather correcting or bringing awareness to issues that every society will face.
As with workforce internships, you can choose from a broad scope of focuses when looking to get involved. Churches are great places to start as are organizations that work with the sick, the homeless, and the elderly.
Think of something that interests you. Then, run a search for that keyword plus “nonprofit.” See what comes up. You may be able to get involved with a local chapter, or, if it’s a niche interest, you could even start the chapter yourself.
Either way, volunteering your time is a great way to learn the very real lesson that there are causes bigger than ourselves that are totally worth fighting for.
8. Community Service
How It Prepares You: Local governments try to do a lot of good with the tax dollars they collect, but they are notoriously under-funded and under-staffed. That’s why so many try to work closely with city businesses and nonprofits. They realize more can get done through these public-private partnerships.
What is a struggle that your community has that is not getting addressed? It could be poor landscaping on a central portion of town. It could be excessive litter. It could be starting a dog park. Find ways to make your community a better place, and it will make you feel good about yourself while also beefing up your resume for prospective colleges. It may even be your “in” with a future employer.
9. Student Newspaper or Yearbook
How It Prepares You: Both sides of the political aisle have waged a war on truth, and the media are culprits in the battle. These days, you can’t really just go to a news source and get the facts without it being laced with someone’s opinion. That is not how journalism was ever intended to work, and it really cannot be defined as such unless you plan to radically alter the definition of what journalism is.
Working on a student newspaper or yearbook allows you to take a step back from the insanity and learn what is news-worthy as well as what the difference is between reporting and editorializing. When you can recognize these things for yourself, then you’ll be a more well-rounded person capable of reaching his or her own conclusions.
This, in turn, will make you a more productive and respected citizen.
How It Prepares You: As with choir and band, playing a sport allows you time under the spotlight to succeed or fail on your own merits at something that not everyone can do. The highs are high and the lows can be low. But at the end of the day, a sport will help you to channel your competitive spirit and ability to work with a team in ways few other extracurricular activities can. This will be hugely beneficial during your times in college and the workforce.
11. An Actual Job
How It Prepares You: Our hearts go out to those of you who have to work to help support your family as early as high school. We know there’s more of that today than there was 20 or 30 years ago, and it’s not a great sign for where we are as a society.
That said, if you are working — out of necessity or out of the desire to have extra spending money — you are going to be in a better position 10 years from now. Being introduced and ensconced in the workforce early will teach you what the stakes are, how to build useful professional relationships, how to treat customers, and how to approach your day-to-day position.
The “soft skills” you can get from a part-time job may only earn you minimum wage now, but they’ll be what earns you tens or hundreds of thousands in annual salary later in life.
If Not Sure Where to Begin
Look, we’ve just shared more extracurricular activities than you’ll ever have time for. We get it. But we wanted to give you a wide base of options to choose from.
It’s also possible to try all of these to see what you like and what you don’t. You’ll confirm some of your suspicions with some and totally surprise yourself with others. Something you thought you’d love may be something you turn out to hate, while at the same time, something that sounded boring or morose could turn you onto a career you end up loving.
It’s a gamble, but it’s one that, at this point in your life, you can afford to make. If you’re not sure where to begin, consider the following options.
- Tap into culture: who are the people you’re following on Twitter or Instagram? What podcasts do you listen to? Television shows or sports do you watch? What is the culture of your life, and what are the activities or causes that draw most of your interest? Pinpoint those, and then translate it into the extracurricular options available.
- Passion: already have something you love to do with your time? Maybe you like to write, paint, draw, shoot YouTube videos? Perhaps you like to work with rescue animals or help elderly people who don’t have any loved ones living near them? Any cause that stokes your passions will have some “low-hanging fruit” that you can grab in order to get involved. Reach for it!
- Your talents: this requires little elaboration. Find something you’re good at. Find other individuals or organizations who are involved in it. Sign up.
- Your network and friends: your friends, as well as the acquaintances you’ve made on social media who are in your personal sphere, can help turn you onto interesting causes or ideas. Watch what they’re doing, or ask them for suggestions.
- Your family: does your Mom, Dad, or Guardian do anything interesting in their professional careers? Even if you don’t plan on following in their footsteps, they can be great connections to valuable part-time jobs, internships, or volunteer efforts. Ask them what they did when they were your age, or see what you can get involved in with them now?
The bottom line: break out all the stops that you can to find a worthwhile way of expanding your horizons.
Extracurricular Activities Are Not Extracurricular
Or at least they shouldn’t be. Your extracurricular activities can serve as an extension of what interests you in the classroom or they can be manifestations of your passion. Either way, they can have a tremendous impact on the course you chart for college as well as your career path. What is your favorite extracurricular activity, and how do you think it’s preparing you for the future? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Dover Air Force Base]