By Mandy Eng
What’s the whole deal with extracurriculars and college? Sports, music, clubs, volunteering, internships and a whole other plethora of extracurriculars exist within the campus of a high school. High schoolers strive to make an effort to have at least one activity or more on their resume, some are able to fill the entire college application page with their devotion and participation in such activities; still managing the workload and balance of high school. What are the benefits of extracurriculars and what do they affect? What are the costs? Let’s take a deeper dive into this from some high school students themselves.
What do high school students think about extracurriculars?
“I think extracurriculars are important to get into college because it shows you are open to trying new things, being social, and can even show a bit of who the individual is and their passions, strengths, and personality, and abilities”. – Khaliah 18, a Senior at Early College PCC.
Personal connections and interests in this study
As a high school Junior myself, the burden, pressure, and blind faith of taking up extracurriculars for college is always haunting me in the back of my mind. Ideas like “the more you do the higher the chance of acceptance”, “in order to look good for college…” etc. I have to admit that the idea of looking good on my transcript outweighs passionate pursuits, thus the reason I have participated in extracurriculars. I can surely assume that many other students are motivated by the same intentions as well.
In order to conduct a general idea of what high schoolers think about extracurriculars and the importance it has on getting into college, I created a survey using Google forms. The survey consisted of 31 questions including demographics, such as personal information. For the remaining questions, I was able to curate them from personal inquiry about my opinions on extracurriculars, as well as from asking fellow classmates. I was able to distribute the surveys to students with a good range of different grades in my high school as well as schools around the Portland metro area; asking aid from people I already knew. By having them send it out to other people they had connections to, I was able to reach 48 different respondents from 8 different schools/organizations. I also created flyers with a barcode to the survey and had them posted around my school.
These are some of the topics the questions that this survey/study were structured from: GPA, how many activities they are part of, the type of extracurricular, the satisfaction with the activity, how often they feel stressed, whether extracurriculars were based on passion or need, if they would do the extracurricular if it wasn’t for college, how important they think extracurriculars are for college, if extracurriculars will help with college admissions, quantity vs. quality of extracurriculars, and lastly if grades/test scores outweigh extracurriculars or vice versa.
Common themes found within this survey were that 75% of the respondents were female, those who identified as Asian and Caucasian comprised most of the respondents, 89.6% of them received mostly A’s, and 56.3% have a 4.0+ GPA. What surprised me was how a majority of the respondents chose not to take any advanced classes this school year, as well as that a majority of these students claim to be satisfied with their extracurricular activity from a scale of 1-10, with most scores between 7-10. However, stress-wise, most students admit to feeling a stress level of 8 out of 10. Consistent with the satisfaction rate, 61.7% of the respondents said they were passionate about their extracurriculars, but they also want to build credits for college. When students were asked if their extracurriculars could help them have a better chance at being admitted to the college of their liking, 35.4% said moderately likely, 27.1% said that it wouldn’t hurt, and 22.9% chose yes. A majority of the student respondents believe that the quality of their activities benefit their resumes more than the quantity, with the percentages weighing 55.3% quality to 38.3% quantity. For the last question, when asked about whether extracurriculars matter over grades and test scores, 52.1% chose both and 39.6% chose grades/test scores.
With the data from the 48 high school respondents who took the survey I was able to have a better and broader understanding of what my peers think of extracurriculars in relation to college admission. However, as a disclaimer, the data collected is not a representative sample, which does limit the responses/findings. If I were to conduct this study again, I would indeed try to have responses from students with a broader spectrum of backgrounds, locations, and circumstances. I would also like to ask different questions and formulate the objective of the study in a different way. Maybe instead of asking high schoolers about what they are doing to prepare for college through extracurriculars, I could ask college freshmen what they did to get into a specific college etc. Furthermore, from this study, I gained the insight that, yes, extracurriculars and this push of doing many different things, or even a couple, is a bit pressuring to students who want to look good on college transcripts. However, extracurriculars aren’t the only thing that benefits college acceptance. Other studies show how it prepares students to learn outside classrooms; how it teaches them to function in other aspects of life. It cultivates a stronger community, a sense of citizenship, and the development of one’s character as well as responsibility. That’s why in college applications, extracurriculars represent a vital part of who the student is and showcase what type of person they might become, not only to the admission officers, but to the school itself.
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