Extracurricular Corner: Choosing a sport, musical instrument, or other activity
No matter how far through your school life you are, almost everyone will agree that school isn’t just about doing well in your exams or tests – it’s also about finding other activities outside the classroom that interest and challenge you.
From volleyball to trombone lessons to debating to helping out at the school library, taking part in extracurricular activities will make your time at school more enjoyable, and it will also make you a more well-rounded student.
What do we mean by well-rounded? A well-rounded student is someone who has strengths in a few different areas. For example, they might do well in exams, represent their school in their chosen sport, and also play a musical instrument, paint, or speak on the debating team. Being well-rounded isn’t necessarily the goal for everyone: for example, if you’re a budding Olympian, you could be forgiven for dropping everything else to concentrate on your sport. However, most people will think positive things about someone if you describe them as being well-rounded.
Of course, that’s not to say that you should overload your schedule with all the extracurriculars you can think of and leave yourself no time to study. It’s usually important to be selective with the time you spend on anything that’s not schoolwork. That’s why we’ve put together a guide on how to choose a few activities that … …
First, consider where you’re at in your school life.
The reality of school is that the older you get, the more time you’ll have to spend focusing on your schoolwork. If you’re in primary school, of course you’ll still have homework to do, but by and large you’ll have a more open calendar to take on extracurriculars. Once you’re in your final couple of years of high school, though, you’ll probably want to pick only a small handful that you enjoy.
If you’re a younger student, you can use this to your advantage! Now’s your time to try everything and figure out whether you like it or not. Perhaps you might want to play a couple of sports one year, and – if you find you don’t like one as much as you thought – you can always switch it out for another the next year!
If you experiment a bit in this way when you’re younger, you’ll know which activities you want to keep up once high school gets busier and demands more of your time.
Try to be ‘T-shaped’.
Let’s return to thinking about being ‘well-rounded’ for a second. What does this actually mean? How well-rounded should you aim to be? Isn’t it better to focus on one thing you’re really good at?
To answer these questions, we like to think about aiming to be ‘T-shaped’. What do we mean? Well, being ‘T-shaped’ means that you firstly take part in a broad range of activities. This is represented by the broad top of the ‘T’. However, at the same time it also means that you find a particular activity you’re good at and go into more depth in this activity. This is represented by the vertical trunk of the ‘T’.
Practically speaking, if for example you’re a keen debater, this might mean that you focus on building your abilities in debating over the course of a few years, but that you also take part in a few other sports or cultural activities so you don’t become too narrow-minded.
It’s a funny analogy, but aiming to become ‘T-shaped’ can help you strike the right balance between doing a range of things you enjoy and sharpening your skills in a specific area.
Be realistic about how much time you’ll need to study, and plan around this.
For all the great things we’ll tell you about extracurricular activities, it’s best not to forget that schools are academic institutions, and you’re there for one main reason: to learn! This means that you should avoid taking on too many other things to the point where your grades start to suffer.
Everyone is different, and everyone will need different amounts of time to be confident that they’re performing their best in school. If you’re confident that you can stay on top of things with just an hour a night of revision and maybe one after-school tutoring session every week, then that’s great! Or, you might know that you need to spend Tuesday and Thursday afternoons as well as Sunday evenings having longer sessions of focus time. Once you know how you work best, you should schedule the corresponding study sessions into your calendar before any extracurriculars go in.
When in doubt, ask yourself if you’re enjoying yourself.
Sometimes, students can feel as if their schools are pushing them to do everything they can possibly squeeze into their weeks. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that: the opportunities you get at school can be the best you’ll get in your life to try as many new things as you can, so you shouldn’t waste them! Of course, the danger is that you overcommit yourself to the point where you’re spinning your wheels, burning yourself out, and not really enjoying yourself.
If you get to this point (or preferably before!), take a moment to reflect as you go about your day-to-day life. Are there any activities where you feel you’re just there to pass the time? Are you doing something because someone else has told you that you should, but you’ve lost the spark you once had for it? What’s your least favourite day of the week, and why don’t you like it? These questions can help you to be more selective with your time and weed out any activities you’re not getting value from.
Once you’ve pondered over what you don’t enjoy any more, remember that your time belongs to you and that you can always find other things that will inspire you! If you’re quitting an activity, you might want to thank the teachers who were involved, and to explain that you’re wanting to spend your time elsewhere. Then, the fun starts all over again as you look for other activities to fill your newfound free time!
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