High school students have a lot of options for what they can do once the school day ends: they can study, do homework, participate in a sport, watch TV, work at a job, play video games, attend a club meeting and more. Some of these activities are more useful and productive than others, and spending your time after school wisely can help you become better prepared for college and the rest of your future.
Whether you're a student or a parent, read on to learn about the benefits afterschool activities can have and which are the best ones for high schools students to participate in.
Benefits of Afterschool Activities
Afterschool activities refer to any organized program that students participate in once the school day has finished. While after school activities vary widely, they can have many similar benefits. Below are some of the most common.
Become a Better Student
Students who participate in after school activities often perform better in class compared to those who don’t participate in them. A study conducted in 2011 showed that high school students who attend after school programs are less likely to drop out, have better attendance records, and have a more positive attitude towards school. They also often had an increase in their GPA and standardized test scores, so participating in an afterschool program can raise your grades!
Improvements in grades were seen regardless of what type of afterschool program the student participated in, so you don't necessarily have to be in an academic afterschool activity to get this benefit, sports and clubs work just as well.
Afterschool activities can also increase your chances of being accepted to college because you can include your participation in these activities on your college applications. Colleges love to see students who were involved in high school, and participating in an afterschool activity is a great way to show your interests and academic motivation.
Learn New Skills
Afterschool activities can also teach you new skills and hobbies or allow you to continue current activities you enjoy. These can be hobbies you do for your own personal interest, or you can also choose to participate in afterschool activities that give you skills that will be useful for college and future careers.
For example, if you are interested in being a doctor, you can be a part of your school’s Science Olympiad team or volunteer at a hospital. Because there are so many afterschool activities available, there’s a good chance you can find one that matches your interests.
Meet New People
One of the most popular reasons to participate in after school activities is that they give you an opportunity to spend time with your friends as well as make new ones. Participating in the same activity as someone else often means you have a shared interest, such as volunteering or playing a sport, and that can make it easier to become friends because you already know you have something in common.
Afterschool activities can also increase student safety by giving you a supervised environment to be in after school. If your parents are worried about you being on your own before they come home from work, an afterschool activity can put their mind at ease while allowing you to participate in something you enjoy.
Much like this crossing guard, afterschool activities can help keep students safe.
Read on to learn about different types of afterschool activities you can participate in.
Types of Afterschool Activities
Below are five of the most common and productive ways for high school students to spend their time after school. I've included a short description for each one, along with any particular benefits it offers and some common examples.
Traditional Afterschool Programs
Afterschool programs were originally designed as a way for younger students to be supervised while their parents were at work, but with the benefits of these programs becoming more apparent, they have expanded to cover high school students and include a variety of activities. Today, roughly 2 million high school students participate in afterschool programs in the US.
Some of these programs are less structured and simply offer a place for you to study or receive homework help, while others offer activities and sports you can participate in, similar to a school club or sports team. There are also many special interest afterschool programs available now, focusing on topics as varied as preparing for college, doing volunteer work, or learning a new language.
Because these programs are so varied, they can have numerous benefits. Many provide tutoring and homework help that you can use if you are struggling in school or just need some help in a certain subject. These programs are often designed to encourage teamwork and group activities, so they can also be a great place to make friends. They also often have mentors who can teach you new things and give you advice when your parents are not around.
Examples: Your high school may offer its own afterschool programs, or it may be affiliated with one or more national programs, such as those listed below:
- Boys and Girls Clubs of America
- Scouting (such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts)
- After-School All-Stars
- Future Business Leaders of America
Sports are a common afterschool activity for high school students to participate in. Many students enjoy being part of a team, feeling a sense of competition, and being active. These can be sports teams through your school, such as the school football or soccer team, or they can be club sports or community teams.
Examples: Common high school sports include football, basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, hockey, swimming, cross country, and tennis. Less common sports include karate, fencing, skiing, and horseback riding.
Joining a club is a great way to gain a new interest or continue to pursue an interest or activity you already enjoy. There is a huge variety of clubs available, and your high school likely offers a large number of clubs to choose from. Besides giving you the opportunity to spend more time on a particular interest or hobby, joining a club can also give you leadership experience if you choose to organize a new event or become a club officer.
Examples: There are clubs that cover nearly every interest, from writing club, to math team, to a painting group. Your school’s website or student handbook will likely have a list of all the available clubs; if not, ask your academic adviser about club offerings. If your school doesn't offer a club you're interested in, you can also start your own. Check out our guide to starting your own high school club!
If you are looking for a way to earn money or gain experience to include on your resume and college applications, getting a job or an internship can be a great way to spend your time after school. Getting a part-time job as a high school student can help you gain new skills and become more responsible, as well as earn some spending money.
Internships can be a great way to get experience more directly related to a future career you’d like to have, but be aware that it can be difficult for high school students to get an internship, and many of them are unpaid.
Examples: Common jobs for high school students include babysitting, working at a grocery store, being a waiter/waitress, tutoring, and working as a sales associate. Many places now offer internships, from a large business to your local museum. To learn more, check out our guides on the 8 best jobs for high school students and how to get an internship as a high school student.
If there is an issue that you care about or a group of people you’d like to help, then volunteering can be an excellent after school activity. Volunteering is a great way to spend time helping others or working on a cause you’re passionate about. Many organizations accept volunteers, so you are likely to find a volunteer opportunity that interests you.
You can also use your volunteer work as experience on your resume and college applications, and it can be a good (albeit non-payed) alternative if you can’t find a job or internship that you find interesting.
Examples: There are a wide variety of places where you can perform volunteer work or community service. Check out our guide on the 9 best places to do community service as well as 129 great community service project ideas.
How to Get Involved
Now that you know some of the best ways to spend your time after school, you can begin thinking about what activities you’d like to get involved in. Follow the steps below to help choose the best activities for you.
1. Think About Your Interests
Afterschool activities are much more enjoyable when they’re focused on something you care about, so start by making a list of your interests. This can include your favorite classes, hobbies you enjoy, sports you’ve wanted to try, or what you plan on studying in college.
If you need more ideas, check out our guide to the complete list of extracurricular activities, which includes hundreds of examples for you to look through.
What do I like to do?
2. See What Your School Offers
The next step is to see if your school offers any afterschool activities that align with your interests. Check your student handbook or the school’s website to see if they list the clubs, sports, and other activities they offer. If you need more help, ask your guidance counselor. You can also ask your friends if they are a part of any afterschool programs that they enjoy and would recommend.
3. Look for Other Activities in Your Community
While participating in afterschool activities through your school is often easier because you don’t have to travel to get there and you likely know some people already, your community may also have great opportunities for you to spend your time after school, such as part-time jobs or volunteer work.
Your adviser or your school’s career services may be able to help you find opportunities, but you can also ask around your community. Check job boards or your town hall, or you can also contact places where you’d like to work or volunteer directly.
4. Consider Logistics
Before you join any afterschool activities, you should think about how much time you’ll be able to devote to them. Afterschool activities can be a great way to have fun and strengthen your college application, but they shouldn’t come at the expense of your academics.
Think about how much time your afterschool activities will require and how much time you’ll have to devote to them. If you’re unsure about the time commitment for a certain activity, ask the coach or supervisor for an estimate. Don’t sign up for more activities than you have time for because doing so will only cause you to feel stressed out and could cause your grades to suffer as well.
If you have trouble motivating yourself to study or complete your schoolwork, you may want to consider participating in an afterschool program that offers tutoring and academic guidance. Popular programs include the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and After-School All-Stars, or your school may offer its own program. These programs are great for anyone looking to improve their academics, and they can be particularly helpful for freshman who are just getting used to high school workloads.
As a high school student, there are many ways you can spend your time after school, but some activities are more productive and beneficial than others. Look for activities that you will enjoy and that will give you useful skills and experience in order to best prepare yourself for college and the future.
Interested in learning more about community service? Check out our guide on what community service is and how it can benefit you.
Trying to decide if you should get a job? Read our guide to the pros and cons of getting a job as a teen.
Want to find the perfect extracurricular for you? Check out our list of hundreds of extracurricular activities for high school students.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.