Why extracurriculars won’t make or break your life
Sports, music, leadership, drama, the list goes on. “Extracurricular activity” is an umbrella term for any kind of involvement you have outside of the curriculum.
We all have that one friend that seems to be a Jack-of-all-trades, and that other friend who’s probably going to the Olympics. You may even be one of these people.
On the other end of the scale are the people who don’t like to get amongst all the extra school stuff because 8:30-3pm Monday to Friday is enough of a commitment as it is.
Either way is totally fine.
There are heaps of reasons why you may (or may not) choose to take up any extra activities during high school. There are pros and cons to both sides, but the main takeaway here is it won’t make or break your life if you decide to be a hermit or mad involved in high school.
Times are changing
The school experience has changed rapidly since when our parents and grandparents were at school. The system has changed from certificates and bursary to NCEA, and we have internals where many of our parents had only final exams.
These changes, compounded with socioeconomic pressures and the changing job environment has put pressure on students to feel like academics just aren’t enough. These pressures can be what drives us into doing extracurricular activities and can often lead to unrealistic expectations of the number of things we’re capable of at a given time.
Extracurricular activities can sometimes feel like more of an obligation than the ‘extra’ part suggests. However, we shouldn’t feel pressured into doing something for a specific endpoint like how it will look on a CV.
While we can’t change a whole system with an article, it can be useful to bear the “I have to perfect” culture in mind and consciously counteract it by doing the things that will make ourselves happy.
For many of us, extracurriculars are a social event where we have the chance to see our friends, meet people with similar interests, and to get a ridiculous amount of time off when the school production comes around.
By this, extracurricular activities can be as much a social space as having a genuine interest in the activity itself.
There are a lot of different kinds of people in the world, and some of us just aren’t interested in extracurriculars. No amount of peer pressure or FOMO should push you into doing something that doesn’t excite you.
If you can’t see yourself enjoying doing something, and dread even signing up, it’s probably not worth the stress.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push your comfort zone from time to time. However, you don’t want to be wasting your time playing a season of volleyball where you dread going to every training and game and probably hurt more people on your team than helped (been there, done that).
Long story short, if the area doesn’t interest you, or the social element doesn’t outweigh the discomfort, it’s okay to give it a pass.
In the same way that your regular school curriculum does not assess everything about you, extracurriculars are not extensive to every hobby someone could have.
Not being involved in school doesn’t mean you do nothing when you get home (no shame to anyone that does though). Further, you may find that you prefer to pursue your interests outside of a school setting, even if you could do it there.
In general, extracurriculars are supposed to be developing skills and abilities within you which you may not be able to do in a classroom. If you can achieve this by yourself, or with a different organisation, you’re doing the exact same thing just without the horrible school choir uniforms.
There are plenty of really cool things you can do in your spare time which add to your happiness and skill set which are not offered in high school.
Particularly, practical skills that you would like to perfect or develop such as sewing, woodwork, a language, or even making dream catchers if you so desire.
In short, it’s okay if you like things that your school doesn’t have a club for and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pursue it in your own time, rather than signing up for something that doesn’t grab you.
There is some research about how extracurricular activities affect a student’s life, and there are both positives and negatives to the argument.
Being involved at school can be a great time, where you feel a sense of belonging and ownership with a group of people. It’s even associated with greater academic performance!
There is a flipside to this though, where getting too amongst can be distracting and draining.
Basically, it’s a case of being overloaded which can cause more stress and mean you spend less time in-class doing the things you need to do.
This doesn’t mean that everyone is like this though. Your capacity to balance your commitments is entirely personal. It is important that you’re honest with yourself though and recognise when you may be feeling this way so you can take steps to reduce your workload.
Extracurricular activities can be a great time to meet people, hone skills and get amongst a fun group environment. It can also be something you force yourself through for a multitude of reasons.
The main takeaway is that they won’t make or break your life, both at high school or beyond. Just like anything else, if it doesn’t bring you happiness or serve you in any way, there’s no reason why you should feel obligated to do it.
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