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How to Balance Academics with Extracurriculars in High School

Hi, I'm Grace, a blog post writer at IdeateX. I wrote this article for high school students having trouble juggling all the academic and exctracurricular commitments they're dealing with as an ambitious high school student. Hopefully you find these tips and personal experiences helpful as you navigate through high school and prepare yourself for your college applications!

“Enjoy your high school life and find your interests and passions,” a student at UCLA once told me. “Throughout the process, you will find extracurriculars that colleges will enjoy looking at, but it is only because you enjoy doing it.”

The single most common stress factor for almost all seniors in high school is applying to college. Colleges look at what you commit yourself to throughout high school. Did you maintain a good GPA throughout your academic high school courses? Did you participate in activities outside of school? When reviewing an application, colleges not only look at your high school grades but also scrutinize your extracurriculars. Because of the holistic admission approach that most universities utilize, the time you put into your extracurriculars matters as much as the time you put in to make your grades shine.

When you enter high school in 9th grade, you might be confused on what extracurriculars you should pursue for the rest of your high school career, and which ones will be helpful in college admissions. As a general rule, any extracurricular that you commit to for several years will demonstrate that you decided to allot your time and effort into your passion - both outstanding qualities to colleges - in any extracurricular you choose. Also, some of your extracurricular choices should align with what your future might be: the major you might choose. For example, being in a robotics team or doing STEM research in a lab would fit for an engineering major.

For example, in 10th grade, I had already set my mind on a computer science major after taking an Intro to Computer Science class in 9th grade. I wanted an extracurricular that could reinforce my passion for it but also expand my view of computer science. Therefore, I chose to join the AI club. In that club, we delved into how neural networks worked and the calculus behind it, but we also worked on practical projects using libraries in a programming language called Python. I was fascinated by how the machine could work on its own with the help of the programmer, and I wanted to be the programmer that guided the computer machine.

Sometimes, with club projects, coursework, and studying for tests all stacked on top of each other, time can feel limited. After trial and error, I have learned a few strategies that may help any future high schoolers struggling through the same troubles. The first one is to set a reward for yourself after completing a homework assignment; allow yourself to listen to your favorite song or eat yogurt after finishing your math homework. Setting a reward will be a motivation for you to stay on task and focus when there's no other motivation. Another strategy would be making most of every spare minute during lunch or after school. When you are absolutely busy, all the few minutes can add up. For example, when you are staring at your phone during the passing period after getting to class early, you can start on your homework or read a chapter ahead to prepare for the class. I have also learned that keeping a checklist for your tasks to do, whether it is homework or extracurricular activities, will help you remember your tasks but also remind you what else you have each day left.

The summer is absolutely heaven for completing projects and participating in activities. The abundance of time is absurd, and it would make sense to make the best of it by continuing to volunteer and join clubs, but also participating in summer camp, research activities, or internships. I joined a summer camp as a rising senior, and I can still say how much the experience benefitted me. In the summer camp, we completed a few projects, learned about different STEM careers, and was able to network with some of the professionals. I know many people who conducted research with a professor at a chemistry lab wanting to major in chemistry and was accepted into a top 20 university. If you are looking for a summer internship, I would recommend you to visit as a way to guarantee yourself a personalized high school internship. High school is a wonderful time to explore your interests and passions, and extracurriculars will make your high school career fun. Grab all the opportunities you get, and always keep learning!

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