High school can be an overwhelming time for students. Between classes, homework and the pressure of planning for their future, it’s easy for your child to become consumed by their responsibilities. The best way to balance academic and personal growth? Extracurricular activities. From enhancing social skills to improving time management, afterschool pursuits offer a multitude of benefits that can set your teenager up for success in their studies and beyond.
What are extracurricular activities?
In a nutshell: any activity that lies outside of the regular educational curriculum. These activities are typically voluntary, with high school students choosing them based on their interests. Think sports, art, drama, music, debating and volunteer work. Taking place after school, on weekends or during school breaks, these activities provide a platform for students to pursue their passions and develop new skills.
Extracurricular activities examples
From competitive sports to hobbies to educational programs, there are a wide variety of afterschool activities that will enrich your child’s education. The key is exploring a range of activities that align with their passions and goals. Here are some examples and their benefits:
- Sports: Soccer, basketball, football – group sports teach important life skills such as teamwork and leadership
- Performing arts: Bands, choirs, orchestras, drama clubs, theatre productions and dance schools foster creativity and self-expression
- Debate and public speaking: Researching and arguing various topics builds communication and critical-thinking skills, as well as the confidence to express ideas and opinions
- Language classes: Learning a foreign language improves cognitive abilities such as problem-solving and memory
- Visual arts: Exploring different art forms, such as drawing, painting, graphic design, photography and ceramics promotes self-expression and builds creative confidence
- Volunteer work: Engaging in community service provides a sense of purpose and builds empathy
- Leadership programs: Preparing students for future success, these programs build responsibility and decision-making skills
- Outdoor adventure programs: Aside from physical fitness and mental wellbeing, these programs promote personal growth through problem-solving and teamwork
- STEM competitions: Competing in science, technology, engineering and maths challenges provides academic growth and confidence in the classroom
- Gaming clubs: Board games, video games and card games promote strategic thinking and provide safe social outlets
Advantages of extracurricular activities
Whether physical, creative or intellectual, extracurricular activities can bring a whole range of academic and personal benefits to your child. Here, we explore some rewards they’ll reap.
Improved academic performance
Students who take part in afterschool activities develop a range of skills that are transferable to academic settings. For example, team sports promote discipline, which can help students balance their workload and meet deadlines. While music groups can improve memory and concentration, which boosts study and exam performance.
Expect to see an improvement in motivation and engagement too, which can lead to better participation and achievement in school. In fact, studies have shown that students who take up extracurricular activities often have higher grades and better attendance. They’re also more likely to go to university, thanks to essential skills such as time management and goal setting.
Enhanced learning opportunities
Extracurricular activities provide limitless opportunities to learn skills that may not be taught in the classroom. These activities provide hands-on learning experiences that allow students to explore their interests and talents while developing a wide range of practical skills that can be applied to various personal and professional settings.
For instance, debate teams can improve critical thinking and public-speaking skills; sports can build teamwork and leadership; the performing arts promote self-expression and collaboration; community service teaches empathy and social responsibility; and language classes increase cultural awareness.
Exploring their passions and broadening their horizons, students are exposed to diverse cultures, ideas and perspectives they may not otherwise encounter. By trying new things, your child is encouraged to step outside their comfort zone, which can lead to the discovery of new interests – and a lifelong love of learning.
In developing vital soft skills – such as leadership, teamwork, interpersonal, problem-solving, time management and creativity – your child will have essential capabilities by the time they enter the workforce, putting them one step ahead.
Extracurricular activities provide students with a supportive environment to try new things, develop new skills, showcase their abilities, establish new friendships and receive positive feedback and recognition. This can have a positive impact on your child’s confidence as well as their mental health and wellbeing.
Enhanced social skills
While your teen may shut down your efforts for an afterschool debrief, extracurricular activities will get them talking. Interacting with others who share similar interests or have different perspectives can lead to the exchange of ideas, the development of important communication and interpersonal skills, and the building of meaningful relationships.
A healthy outlet to channel energy, emotions and creativity into positive and productive pursuits will help your child recharge and refocus. Enjoyable, stimulating activities can also release endorphins and dopamine while reducing cortisol, aka the stress hormone. Of course, a break from academic pressure to explore new interests and make friends will do wonders for their overall wellbeing.
Improved mental health
Being part of a supportive and inclusive community can foster social connections and relationships, which are critical for keeping your teen’s mental health in check – and keeping boredom and anxiety at bay. Extracurricular activities can promote a sense of belonging, accomplishment and self-worth, which can help your child build resilience, confidence and positive self-image.
Personal growth and development
Life beyond the school gates reveals lessons in self-awareness, self-confidence and self-esteem. By offering a safe setting for students to take risks, make mistakes and learn from failure, extracurricular activities can build resilience and adaptability. Those that involve teamwork, leadership and communication can help students develop empathy, respect and inclusivity – the building blocks of positive relationships. These activities also promote a sense of responsibility and accountability, which can encourage your child to be an active and caring citizen in their community and the world.
So, whether it’s sports, music or a side hustle, encouraging your child to explore something extra will have a positive impact on their personal and academic development. All those important life skills and experiences will benefit them for years to come.