While your academic performance determines a large part of how much financial aid you can earn for college, extracurricular activities can also help you stand out and earn scholarships or other merit aid.
Participation pays offHow does an extracurricular activity equal money for college? Plenty of ways!
First, some scholarships require extracurricular activities. The application may have an essay that asks you to list your leadership experiences or talk about how you’ve helped your community. Extracurricular activities like an afterschool club or volunteer service can fulfill those requirements. But remember—just because you do an activity, scholarships won’t automatically drop in your lap. You still have to search for scholarships, but Learn More Indiana can help.
Extracurricular activities also help you get to know people you may otherwise never meet. Many scholarship opportunities are local (for example, from a Kiwanis or Lion’s Club, or your local community foundation). Getting to know organizations that offer scholarships is a great benefit of becoming involved in your community.
Finally, extracurricular activities also boost your chances of getting accepted to many colleges. The more college choices you have, the more you’ll be able to compare college costs and determine where you’ll fit—and which institutions you can afford.
Learn life skillsEven if an extracurricular activity doesn’t lead directly to a scholarship or increased financial aid, it will pay off in other ways. The clubs, sports and volunteering you participate in can teach you life skills such as teamwork, empathy and leadership.
Succeeding in college takes more than book smarts. You also need to know how to balance your schedule, get along with others and, eventually, find a job or internship. Studies have shown that college students who are involved on campus are more likely to get good grades and graduate on time—both factors that will decrease your college costs.
Types of activitiesExtracurricular activities can include lots of things. Remember: it’s better to be involved in one or two things for several years. Don’t choose a new activity each year just to boost your résumé, or try to stack up all your involvement in just your senior year. Make a commitment to something you care about.
- Academic clubs: Choose a club that you’re passionate about. Don’t get involved just to make yourself more likely to get scholarships—people reviewing scholarship and college applications can tell when you’re just adding to your résumé. Stick with your true interests: you’re more likely to earn a scholarship for math majors if you’re also involved in a math club, for example.
- Employment: Don’t overlook a job as an opportunity to enhance your qualifications on scholarship applications. You may be able to learn leadership skills at work, or show your dedication by staying at the same company for several years. Perhaps your boss will write you a glowing recommendation letter. Plus, you can save your earnings for college.
- Sports: While relatively few students get full-ride sports scholarships, you may receive some financial aid if you are chosen for a college athletic team. You can read about NCAA scholarships and grants, although the college you attend may have other financial aid available as well.
- Student government: Your high school’s student government offers a great opportunity to hone your leadership skills and learn to get along with your fellow classmates. The leadership possibilities are endless, whether or not you’re class president.
- Volunteering: Getting involved in your community is important. Many scholarships are awarded to young leaders who are already making a difference in their communities. Try to find a regular volunteering slot (such as helping at a soup kitchen once a month, or organizing an annual neighborhood recycling program) rather than jumping from activity to activity.