With the new school year just around the corner, now is a good time for you and your child to re-evaluate their involvement in each of their activities.
Families are often surprised to find that after years of involvement in a sport, music lessons, or any other ongoing activity, kids may no longer have the interest or desire to continue in what had been a major part of their youth. But you’ve spent hundreds, and even thousands of dollars over the years, not to mention the time commitment, so what’s a parent to do?
Take a step back and assess why you are really doing this. If your answer is “because it looks good on college applications” think again. Colleges are looking for a student’s interest and passion. Participating in an activity that you intend to stop as soon as you enter college will not impress them. With regard to activities, colleges are impressed by those activities you enjoy and show an interest in getting further involved in, such as leadership positions or competitions.
Middle school marks a big transition period for your child. Aside from the issues that the onset of puberty brings, middle school itself presents a great deal of new opportunities to explore. This is, perhaps, the first time your child has had the opportunity to choose activities, and even classes, that they enjoy. So how do you choose?
Take the time to discuss with your child all the different opportunities that are available to them. Make an effort to explore sports, the arts, academic clubs, and community activities. Allow your child to try on several different hats.
Keep in mind the time commitment of both the student and your family and make sure it fits with everyone’s schedule. Also look into the total cost of an activity. Initial payments are one thing, but look to see if there are fees for equipment, uniforms, books, competitions and other costs.
Once your child has decided on their activities for the year, make sure you place parameters on their decisions. Don’t allow a child to quit after one or two weeks. Require your child to finish whatever they start. Thoroughly discussing their decision before they sign up for an activity will help avoid the possibility of committing to an activity that is just not doable.
For high school students, ninth grade is a great time to explore new things. Now is the time to try that sport, art, and community service organization. Look for activities that will engage your child and allow them to explore their talents or, better yet, explore something they never thought about. Often students lean toward the biggest organization or most popular, however, kids shouldn’t be afraid to join an academic club or start their own!
As students move through high school, they should be engaging further into activities that interest them, while dropping those that hold little or no interest. Remember, colleges are not looking for a jack of all trades. They want to see that students are committed and involved, so by 10th and 11th grade, students should have at least one or two, if not more, activities that they continue with through the 12th grade.
Although student activities tend to focus around the school, don’t eliminate outside organizations. Community recreation leagues, youth theater, youth groups and music lessons are but a few activities that are often engaged in away from the school.
Again, colleges don’t care where you participated in an activity. They are looking to see what engages and excites you, not to mention how you spend your time away from school.
The bottom line is that kids need to be involved in things they enjoy, as well as in activities that will help them grow. A balanced list of academics, sports, arts, and community service will serve them well not only on their college applications, but in life as well.
Christine M. Hall, Ed.D., is owner of CMH College Consulting in Cary. Hall, who has children of her own, offers advice on the college application and decision process here on Go Ask Mom from time to time. See some of her earlier posts in the box above.