PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
High School: Get Extra-Curricular!

If you thought there were a lot of after-school activities in middle school, just wait until you get to high school!

Because classes and grades are more intense in high school, you may feel like you just don't have time or energy for activities. In fact, some schools limit activities for 9th graders to help make sure they don't get overscheduled. But if you can do extra-curriculars, it's important to find time for at least one! They're a great way to have fun, make new friends, learn about yourself, and open the door to possible future careers.

Clubs, groups, and publications
Let's say you play a musical instrument, or are interested in playing one. Your middle school may have only offered orchestra and band. But whoa! In high school, you can join groups like: jazz ensemble, rock ensemble, classical quartet, jazz quartet, stage band, and marching band. That's a lot of choices! Check out these other examples:

  • School newspaper: Write articles and editorials about what's going on in your school, take photos, or draw cartoons.

  • Literary magazine: Put together a publication that showcases student poems and stories.

  • Yearbook staff: Wander the halls snapping photos for the yearbook, or help with the writing, design, and layout.

  • Science clubs: Create science projects by yourself or with groups, and enter them into competitions.

  • Debate club: Take a stand on an important issue and argue the point with students from your school or other schools.

  • Drama club: Take a role in a play or musical, help direct, or work backstage to make sure everything works on opening night.

In high school, you'll have much more variety in which sports teams you can join. If your middle school only offered a few teams, like basketball, baseball, and soccer, your high school might let you choose from athletics such as gymnastics, cheerleading, football, golf, bowling, swim team, field hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse, track and field, and softball.

Often, slots on a team are reserved for older and more experienced athletes. This main team is usually called the varsity team. But most schools offer a second team, called junior varsity or JV, for younger students. There may even be a third team just for freshmen! Keep in mind that at some schools, freshmen aren't allowed to participate in certain sports, so find out what you can and can't do.

Things to remember
Sometimes TOO many choices is a bad thing, and it can be hard to make decisions about extra-curriculars. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Part of the fun of clubs, activities, and sports is the thing itself. If you love to write, then working on the school newspaper or magazine will give you a chance to express yourself and develop your skills. If you love to play softball, you'll probably like the thrill of competing on the team! It shouldn't matter if "only the geeks" join the computer club or the tennis team has always finished in last place. Do something because you simply enjoy it.

  • You might get pressure from a parent to join a certain extra-curricular. Maybe your mom was a cheerleader back in the day and has always dreamt of her little girl on the squad, or your dad wants you to be part of the newspaper staff because he's a reporter himself. If this is happening to you and you're just not sure you really want to do it, try striking a compromise. For instance, you can agree that you'll try an activity for a year, and if you don't want to continue with it at that point, you don't have to.

  • High school is a more serious environment when it comes to grades, and that carries over to extra-curriculars, too. You might find that the basketball team is much more competitive than you thought it would be, or that you just don't get along with the other kids in drama club. If you find that you're not having fun in your school's version of an activity, see if you can do the same thing on a community level. Maybe your local YMCA has a basketball league that's more laid-back, or a nearby acting studio is full of kids you feel more comfortable with.

  • Just as important are the friends you'll make by participating in these activities. It can be hard to make friends in your regular classes or the lunchroom, but taking part in a club or team is a great way to meet kids who have the same interests. By spending time together and working for a common goal, you'll have the chance to form lasting friendships.

  • On the flip side, try to avoid joining an activity simply because your friends are, too. This might get you stuck in something you're not that into, or keep you from exploring new hobbies and sports. Extra-curricular time is YOUR time -- special "this is me" time. There are other areas outside of school where you can carve out quality time with your best buds.

  • Don't forget the future! Extra-curriculars are important when it comes to summer jobs and college applications. It can be tempting to join something just because you think it will "look good" on your transcript. Try new things for sure, but in the end, give the most time to activities you enjoy.

  • Be a founder if necessary! Are you dying to be part of a chess club or golf team but there isn't one at your high school? Then it's up to you to start one! Speak to a teacher or counselor about how to get a new activity up and running.

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