Julia Jones, Valley Voices staff writer
For many high school students, calling it a day right after school is a laughable concept. Parking lots at most schools remain filled two to three hours after the last bell as students take part in extracurricular activities.
Student organizations and clubs provide students opportunities and experiences to build on what they learn, but are they worth taking on if it means sacrificing perfect grades?
Allen Strong, a teacher of honors and advanced-placement chemistry classes at Ringgold High School, said he thinks they are.
“We’re too geared toward grades, Mr. Strong said. “There are more ways to learn.”
Laura Otero, a senior at Ringgold High, said she understands firsthand the difficulty of juggling schoolwork after five years of performing as a member of the Ringgold Marching Tiger Band.
Although after-school activities build on what she’s learned during school, academics should come first, Ms. Otero said.
“Extracurricular activities are great, but if a student can’t participate in them and maintain acceptable grades at the same time, those activities should be dropped so he or she can completely focus on schoolwork,” she said.
Some students see extracurricular activities as a way of building social skills.
“If all you do is school, you’re not well-rounded,” said Laura Higbee, a sophomore at Girls Preparatory School who takes ballet after school. “You may have social problems because you keep to yourself.
“And if you pick (an activity) you like, there’s too much fun to miss.”
McKenzie Delaney, the president of the junior class at Ringgold High, is involved in numerous extracurricular activities including drama and signing.
Even though her involvements can make it difficult to completely concentrate on her schoolwork, McKenzie said she wouldn’t give up one for the other.
“I do not regret for one minute being as involved as I possibly can,” she said. “It is so vital for students to impact their schools by being active in the community. Students must understand that a college would rather accept a 3-point-something GPA along with a laundry list of school and community activities than a 4.0 with no record of involvement.”
Patrick Winter, senior associate director of admissions at the University of Georgia, said the importance of extracurricular activities depends on the type of admission a student applies for.
Regular Decision admission is for students who want to highlight factors such as extracurricular activities and writing ability, Mr. Winter said.
“This entails a holistic review in which all factors are considered,” he said. “In the Regular Decision process, a student who has exceptional leadership experiences, has excelled in some form of outside the classroom activities or who can show commitment to service, community, work experience or other organizations may be admitted ahead of someone with a higher gradepoint average and no activities.”
UGA admits about half of its class through this process, he added.
Students who have focused on excelling academically without extracurricular involvement can apply for Early Action admission, Mr. Winter said.
“In the Early Action process, a student who has challenged themselves in the classroom... but has no outside involvement may be admitted ahead of someone with lower grades but tremendous activities.”
Julia Jones is a student at
Ringgold High School.