What should I do in my spare time?

Should I go on an international service trip? Do I have to attend a summer program?

Extracurricular activities are important to high school students not only because they’re essential in the application process, but because these activities can help high school students gain various skills and understand the world better.

Attending an academic summer program, joining or starting a school club, serving the homeless, developing a hobby, or participating in research are all good examples of extracurricular activities.

But remember: there is no single “best” activity for everyone.

Think about the following questions as you become involved in extracurricular activities:

  1. Why do you want to participate in this activity? Is it because everyone else is doing it or is it because you want to do it?
     
  2. How much time do you have to devote to these activities? Do you have time to participate in five activities at the same time?
     
  3. Can you really commit to these activities? It’s not a good idea to start one thing and give it up after a month or two – then start a new one and give it up again. It’s okay to try different activities, but it’s not good to use them just to build up your resume.                                                                                                                 
  4. Do you have a support system around you? For example, if you want to do a research project, do you have a mentor to support you?
     
  5. Do you have options? If you want to attend a highly selective summer program, but it doesn’t work out, what is your next choice?

About the Author

Michelle Shen, M.S.Ed

Michelle Shen holds a Master of Science in Education in Psychological Services: Secondary School Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor's Degree in Management in Education Administration....