The unseen reality of extracurricular involvement
By CAROL LI
From a young age, many of us are told not to judge a book by its cover. For high school students, extracurricular activities are no exception to this judgement.
As students finish their last year of middle school, countless high school programs ranging from Science Olympiad to basketball relentlessly advertise the benefits of participating, such as meeting new friends, cultivating useful skills and setting apart your college applications.
However, there is always more to the case than what meets the eye. Certain organizations may not have the same support as other programs on campus, because public schools may be tight on funding. Or perhaps, the extracurricular activity had just been established on campus, and has not gained adequate experience to maintain clear communication with members. Whatever the reason, there may be a negative side that comes with all the positives initially presented to incoming students.
While a number of programs are well established and financially supported, students still need to be aware of the realistic nature and commitment required of the program before joining.
Despite this, it is understandable that the detriments of these programs are not initially presented when students first join or sign up. To keep a program running, members seek to put forth their best face to entice students to participate.
Nevertheless, as a sophomore, I have noticed an appalling development among my peers. In almost every conversation my peers and I discussed how the immense time commitment for our extracurricular activities has pressed us to place academics as a second priority. And as this topic repeatedly surfaces in conversations, a thought comes to my mind: “What is the real value of joining these programs, if it can affect students negatively?”
Although students’ desire to participate in organizations on campus that catch their interest, oftentimes a pile of stress and work will catch them off guard. As classes become more difficult, students may realize that there is not enough time in a day to finish their school-work and fully dedicate themselves to their extracurricular activities. Consequently, individuals may feel stressed and worried, especially if the club or organization heavily relies on their work.
Essentially, this unexpected workload is detrimental for the well-being of high schoolers. It is already difficult to maintain good grades and plan for the future, but with the demanding requirements of extracurriculars, students are hit with even more unhealthy stress that can greatly impact their mental health.
In addition, extracurricular activities have increasingly diverted students’ attention away from passion or interest in a subject. In this age, outside organizations are displayed as a necessary component on college applications, which may introduce setbacks for the program. For instance, schools may adjust the organization accordingly so that its main focus is enhancing college applications instead of teaching actual skills. Leadership roles may be easier to gain and opportunities for learning may be ignored once the main focus is fulfilled. Because of this, students who are genuinely interested in participating for the experience and not for college admissions may find a lack of enthusiasm. Although passionate students have worked hard and contributed extra hours, missing reciprocation of comradery or liveliness may result in a draining of motivation that can rob them of their experience.
While this is true, it is important to realize that the only way to improve one’s high school experience with extracurricular activities is to set a positive attitude. Students cannot immediately gain a large sum of money to help the organization nor demand change from the administration if they are not willing to do so.
The only factor that we can control is the way we approach these situations. When joining outside programs, be aware that the experience may not be all sunshine and butterflies. Nevertheless, if there is a mindset to put in good effort and hard work, students can be able to provide themselves with a wholesome and worthwhile experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.