A key requirement of getting admitted to university or college is your academic records. These include your high school transcripts and your standardized test scores, like the SAT or ACT. The academic numbers help the admission committees in these schools to assess your academic strengths and facilitate their selection of candidates for their classes. In some cases, they also guide merit scholarship awards. However, universities particularly in the USA require more from their applicants: they want to admit students who have shown leadership, innovativeness, creativity, passion, diversity, and community impact. These they cannot get from your academic scores.
These qualities are acquired either in school or outside of school through your co-curricular activities. You acquire them in social, family, community, and identity groups. These activities are those that you spend your extra hours doing after school or during summer breaks or long vacations. You might even spend your evenings and weekends working at them to attain personal goals that are not academic. These are what we call EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES.
Now, in some African school systems, the importance of extra-curricular activities is de-emphasized, and students are often discouraged from spending any time away from their academic study. However, research, including a report published by Stanford University in March 2014, shows that students in high achieving schools [communities] who spent most of their time doing academic work [homework] saw an adverse impact on their interpersonal or social skills. The study proposed that a more balanced study and ‘play’ life helps the student graduate from college as a well-rounded student than just a good student in grades. I will go further to suggest that extracurricular activities directly impact the students’ academic performance because it allows him/her to apply what is learned in class to solve everyday problems and build life-long skills. I was in my high school’s debate club and it really helped me hone my writing and research skills that, in turn, helped me greatly while in college– academically and socially.
The Covid-19 lockdowns across the world, including the African continent, has greatly impacted studies, especially for final year students. This situation has forced most universities in the US and Canada to write-off the spring term scores for seniors since the rigor of academic work done at that time is harder to determine and standardize. This situation, therefore, makes the other requirements even more important in the considerations of admission officers this application year. One of these key requirements is extracurricular activities.
For final year students who already have many extracurricular activities, you must find ways to continue these activities while at home. If you have not done much in your extracurricular activities, I have some suggestions for activities you can take up in lockdown especially in Africa.
In a nutshell, although this list is far from being exhaustive it should give you some ideas on how you can keep doing the activities you love. So, make or create something, inspire others, assist others, and learn while you have the chance wherever you are in the safety of your homes. Be resourceful, creative and lead.