Elementary and high school-aged students across North America are constantly reminded of the importance of extra-curricular activities in their lives. It's true that engaging kids in organised activities after school, on weekends and during school holidays can be beneficial in a variety of ways, but extra-curricular activities can also have downsides.
Advantage: College Applications
Colleges and universities are looking for well-rounded students. While high marks serve as a testament to a college applicant's studiousness and intelligence, they do not indicate the type of person the applicant is. College applications inquire about extra-curricular activities to gauge potential students' interests, ability to follow through on commitments and, most importantly, ability to balance activities with school work. Participating in a variety of extra-curricular activities, especially in a leadership capacity, while maintaining good marks will look better on a college application than a straight 4.0 GPA with no activities.
Balancing school work with extra-curricular activities can be stressful for some students, especially when an abundance of activities takes up valuable time they need to study or complete homework. A child's involvement in extra-curricular activities can put stress on the whole family when parents have to rush to shepherd kids to various, tightly scheduled activities. Busy kids also have less time to spend at home with their families, which can put a strain on familial relationships as the kids get older.
Advantage: Keeps Kids Busy
For working parents who cannot be home when their children get out of school, extra-curricular activities are a great way to make sure kids stay busy and are supervised, rather than coming home to an empty house or spending weekends and summers lazing around the house. Organised sports give kids a chance to exercise and help teach teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership skills, all of which are important as kids grow up and enter the adult world.
Some families may find that extra-curricular activities are prohibitively expensive. Organised sports in particular carry not only registration fees but quite often require parents to purchase expensive equipment and uniforms. Music lessons carry expenses too, often requiring the purchase or rental of a musical instrument. Sports and music programs offered through schools may offer parents a reprieve by supplying equipment for students to use, but as arts and sports budgets are cut, these programs, and equipment, are disappearing, leaving parents to shoulder the costs once again.