Why Do Colleges Care About Extra-Curricular Activities?

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?  Why do colleges care so much about students’ extra-curricular activities?

I went to a friend’s son’s volleyball game recently.  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.  It’s more than just another extra-curricular activity for them.

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?

Tom R
Venice High alumnus Tom is a student at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. As a freshman, he’s helped expand the martial arts club there.

Students who participate in team sports, drama productions and group projects – as well as other extra-curricular activities – learn how to support each other.  When they start college, these students will have to operate in a new universe, in their new home, on their new campus.

One of my clients is chose to attend a small liberal arts college outside of Boston.  An avid martial arts fan and practitioner before he went to college, 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.  Colleges are looking for students who will make good roommates, good teammates, good classmates (I actually heard that verbatim from a Princeton admissions officer!).  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.

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