We run our kids to band practice, soccer practice, tennis lessons and dance class. We spend our weekends pacing along the sidelines of a game, or a match, or watching a dress rehearsal. Why do we do all this? What are colleges looking for when it comes to extra-curricular activities?
I went to a friend’s son’s volleyball game the other day. A 9th grader, he’s on his school’s varsity team. He and his teammates bumped, set and spiked their way to a three-game victory over a cross-town rival.
I watched as boys on both teams congratulated each other after a winning spike, a super serve, or a great fake-out leap. They gathered together and touched hands in the middle of the court when a point was lost, a quick consolation and then right back to the action. They worked as a team.
When was the last time a co-worker consoled you when you lost that big account, or didn’t get the raise you expected? Or popped into your office to congratulate you on a stellar presentation?
Students who participate in team sports, drama productions and group projects learn how to support each other. When they start college, these students will make great roommates, teammates, classmates and friends in their new home, on their new campus.
One of my former clients is most of the way through his freshman year at a small liberal arts college outside of Boston. An avid martial arts fan and practitioner before he left, he joined a loosely-knit group of students who get together in a basement and teach each other karate, jiu-jitsu, judo and krav maga. Then they started teaching students who had no background at all in martial arts. They have developed a supportive community of people with a shared interest, expanding everyone’s horizons.
THAT’S what colleges are looking for. Anyone can join a club, spend hours alone playing computer games or plucking at a guitar alone in their bedroom. Students who put in the time to get deeply involved and become leaders will be the kind of college students who enrich everyone else’s experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s sports, the arts or something else – it just matters that they care about it and put effort and time into it.