How should you spend your time outside of class? That's entirely up to you. You might prefer debate, while your friend loves orchestra, and either is great! Volunteering may appeal strongly to some, while science clubs or academic teams might play to the strengths or interest of others. Some students are involved in organized extracurricular activities, while others pursue hobbies on their own. There are no “right” or “wrong” activities to select for yourself.
You may have heard that colleges and universities evaluate your extracurricular involvement. In truth, they are simply looking to see if you’re doing something that’s interesting and worthwhile to you. Additionally, while developing leadership skills in high school can be great, colleges understand that you can be committed to an activity and make important contributions without ever holding any sort of official position.
When you apply to college in a few years, you will be asked to provide a list of the extracurricular experiences that are the most meaningful to you and how much time you devote to them. It can be pretty hard to keep track of Spanish club, oboe, theater, volunteering, feeding the cat, and getting good grades all at the same time—so get in the habit of keeping a running list of the activities you’ve been involved with, your main role and contributions, and approximately how many hours per week and weeks per year you participate.
Note: Practice for music, sports, or other activities counts toward the “number of hours” valuation; if you only spend one hour a week in a formal orchestra but practice three hours independently, please feel comfortable including practice time, too! Remember again that this isn’t a race to make the longest list, but rather a useful way for you to make sure you accurately and easily remember all the great things you’ve been involved with in and outside of school. Keeping a list or working activities resume will make things easier for you when you apply to college during your senior year.
You might also find it worthwhile to write a paragraph or two about your achievements in each activity every year (or season or whatever time period make sense). You can use your Locker for this running tab and chronicle of your activities. In years to come, you could find yourself polishing up this list for submission to colleges as part of your activities resume or more easily translated to the extracurricular activities section of an online application.
Finally, don’t forget to include paid work or family responsibilities in your extracurricular activities list. It’s an important part of your life and something that shows us you have the skills to work as a member of a team, have responsibility for yourself and others, and are learning to manage your own time. So, if you have an after-school job or spend a large amount of time caring for a sibling, cousin, parent, or grandparent, that can be just as compelling as participating in any number of school-affiliated activities.