Extracurricular activities are important for a wide range of reasons; from building friendships and gaining confidence, to developing a wide range of skills. They can demonstrate who you are outside of academics to your future school, university or desired workplace. The chosen activities will provide you with an opportunity to showcase your community spirit, teamwork and communication skills (your ‘soft skills’).
However, although soft skills are important and what takes place in the classroom can not be the sole focus of child’s education, academic performance must nonetheless remain the primary focus. Whilst schools and universities are placing increased importance of soft skills and how these can be measured, academic work and results still play a fundamental part in a child’s education. If entrance to a top university is desired, then top academic results are required.
If pupils do not have a good balance between school and extracurricular activities, then it can be incredibly stressful and will likely have a detrimental impact on both elements. It is therefore of utmost importance that children strike the right balance between their academic work and activities outside of the classroom.
Choose your extra curricular activities carefully:
Whether at prep school, senior school or university you will not have time to do everything on offer, so consider carefully what you choose. It is far more enjoyable and rewarding to really get involved in a few carefully selected activities than take on too many and only scratch the surface of what they can entail.
You might want to think about what you enjoy but perhaps also think tactically about what may help you later down the line with university or even job applications (e.g. team sports, charity work or student council). The overriding factor should be your enjoyment of the activity though and how it enriches your life, education and formative years.
The time you have for extra curricular activities:
Before you join the debating team, commit to DofE, sign up to play another musical instrument or try out for the rugby team this year, look at the time you have available. After school, during school in lunch breaks or weekends are the common times for extracurricular activities. Weekends can be most beneficial if you are a boarder with no family commitments and the facilities are available to you. Also don’t forget the school holidays.
Planning out your extra curricular activities:
You could treat the planning of your extra curricular activities like your school treats your academic lessons by making a timetable. You will need to think whether there are clashes, if it leaves you with any time off and also rather importantly – will you be relying on someone else to facilitate these various activities. If it is the holidays or evenings and you need to get to your fencing class, will there always be someone free to take you?
Consider the periods when you will need to readdress the balance:
There will be times you need to readdress the balance; in the lead up to your exams or entry assessments for futures schools. To use the holidays as an example; you may not be able to practice the drums every day over Christmas when the family is over or you may not have the facilities at home to work on your woodwork.
This should be considered when choosing your extra curricular activities – will it be possible to take time off from the chosen activity during the important academic periods.
Discuss your plan with others:
You may know what extra curricular activities excite you and what you are passionate about, but remember you can also talk to your teachers/housemaster/tutor/parents and ask their advice. In particular, your tutor will be able to highlight where you may be stretching yourself too thin or what areas you could push yourself in a little more. They could also give advice on the academic areas you may need to focus on instead.
School Placement Manager, Bonas MacFarlane Education