Extracurriculars: just ‘extra’ or worth the sacrifice?

April 5, 2018

With the limited free time students have, is it worth spending on extracurricular activities? Two staffers weigh the importance of extracurriculars at PN.

Extracurriculars: Pro

Link Crew, Yearbook, Student Senate, Ski Club, and National Honor Society are among the abundance of extracurricular activities the school has to offer. From first grade to twelfth grade, the school system encourages students to participate in extracurricular activities that benefit students’ academic careers and personal lives. Whether or not a student decides to participate in these activities, extracurriculars are crucial to the education system and serve as a deeper level of education for every type of student.

There is no doubt that extracurricular activities are more enjoyable than they are painstaking. Through these clubs and organizations, individuals have a greater chance of making true friends who are interested in similar hobbies and life-styles. “I think it’s helped me meet a lot of new people and people that I wouldn’t necessarily normally hang out with,” said Student Senate senior Jessie Beadle, “but it’s been a really positive thing in my life.” As we all know, the amount of students we have here makes it quite difficult to widen our friend circles. With extracurriculars such as Student Senate, students are introduced to a diverse group of students that they would probably never normally interact with.

Not only is participating in extracurricular activities an effective way of making friends, but it also benefits student achievement and looks impressive to college admissions boards. The education system encourages students to participate for this very reason, and teachers are not wrong in saying that it is a good idea. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, “participants were more likely than nonparticipants to aspire to higher education: two-thirds of participants expected to complete at least a bachelor’s degree while about half of nonparticipants expected to do so.” Simply put, participating in these activities increases motivation to go on to college as well as increasing the likelihood of getting into college and receiving a degree. Motivation is a tough subject for some students, and extracurriculars could help with encouraging individuals to take the steps to further their education. On top of increasing motivation, extracurriculars can teach students how to effectively manage their time in regards to balancing jobs, school work, and their social lives. “You can still do a lot, but you’ll just have to manage your time and have straight priorities,” said junior Sarah Headapohl. With so many activities that are available, time management is key when participating in extracurriculars, especially with commitments that are not school related.

The wide array of extracurricular activities that are available can easily be overwhelming, but it is important to realize that they are beneficial in every aspect of life. Taking the step to explore all high school has to offer and choose to participate in extracurricular activities enriches students’ lives not just now, but in the future as well.

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Extracurriculars: Con

At a school as large as Portage Northern, where we have an entire hour on the first day of school devoted to exploring the plethora of clubs we have here in addition to sports, extracurricular activities can seem overwhelming. While it might be easy to commit to outside-of-school activities at a younger age, as time ticks on, it becomes harder to find the time and energy to manage 7 classes at school plus the additional time commitment from extracurriculars.  

Some students stay over-involved in high school because they always have been in younger years, while others see high school as a new chance -or a last chance- to try something new before being ejected into adulthood. Both of these ideas fail to take into account why high school is actually NOT the ideal time to be a part of extracurriculars: during high school, students have a larger workload compared to middle school or elementary school, and in middle school and elementary school, there is no GPA or college to get into to worry about. Even if you fail a grade in elementary or middle school, you keep advancing. The same is not true in high school, when a slip up of even half a grade can be the difference between being admitted to your dream college or not.

When time begins to crunch as work begins to pile up, the sports and clubs high schoolers dedicate valuable hours to can compromise grades. These are the same grades that stress teens out and lead to the growing prevalence of anxiety and depression in students. Furthermore, sports increase a student-athlete’s academic responsibility, as academics and grades are given preference over a student’s performance in after-school sports. As soon as a student athlete’s grade in any class begins to drop below the acceptable level, letters of possible probation from playing the sport start to come, despite the fact that the student athlete has gotten home from practice at 6:00 three days a week and potentially at 10:00 or later on the other two days if there are games. Having less time to complete assignments and study for heavily weighted tests that could jeopardize a student’s college prospects aren’t worth simply being able to list a sport or club on their college applications.

The additional hours that students work in after-school theatre, music, sports, or other activities can lead to them feeling more burnt-out faster than their peers. One look at the musical crew during tech week is nearly enough to scare me off of extracurricular activities as I watch my classmates do their best to function, in a zombie-like state, through their day. If a student isn’t caught up in a prolonged school day, then there is sufficient time for rest, recharge, and do homework and study. When there’s not sufficient time for students to balance all of the elements in their lives, their physical health can suffer as well.

Extracurriculars offered by the school and after school jobs are both time consuming for sure, but unlike extracurriculars, jobs are more beneficial for the skills a student will need to use in adulthood and past schooling. Research by Concordia University in Portland shows that after-school jobs give exposure to what students may want to pursue beyond high school as a career, reducing the amount of students who prolong their college experience by being “undecided” for a year or two. After school jobs also allow students to save money for college, which can offset school debt later on. School-sponsored sports and clubs undeniably teach students important skills like teamwork, but they’re no substitute for jobs in helping students on with the next phase of their lives.

Students should focus on the real benefits of doing well in academics, and if they have extra time, working at a job they enjoy. The skills they gain doing so will be used beyond just filling out an application to get into a college and have a greater impact on the adults they will be later than many clubs and other extracurricular activities.

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