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WHAT EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES CAN YOU DO WHILE YOU ARE IN LOCKDOWN

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.

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES TO DO IN LOCKDOWN

  1.     Creative Writing: For those who are writers of fiction or even non-fiction, this is the time to use the solitude and quiet of the lockdown to start writing or typing away the story you have always wanted to tell. More importantly, you need to share these stories, so you can enter online writing contests or publish in local or national magazines or even online free publishing sites like Wattpad.
  2.   Blogging: There are a lot of high school students who write blogs, so it might not be the most interesting activity you can have on your profile. The reason is that most of these blogs do not have readers. Therefore, it lacks the “wow” factor in getting the attention of admission officers. Some ways to increase your readership are to pick niche topics about a phenomenon that affects your local community, school, or country and bring some awareness to it through your writing. Do some basic journalistic work: photos and interviews (Do it virtually if possible). In Africa, we have many deep-seated problems that you can focus on.
  3.     Vlogging: For those who love to use the camera to tell stories, you can help tell others’ stories or even your own. Again, pick a specific topic or area and focus your videos on it. I will recommend topics that may concern some activities you may have been engaged in for some time now. Consider tutorials on how to cook local dishes with few resources, managing spaces in a small house, sewing of clothes or mending clothes, teaching certain subjects online, etc. It could even be starting a campaign that helps children and women to deal with domestic violence during the lockdown
  4.     Composing Music:  Those who feel the musing of “Oshun” (Nigerian goddess of music and dance) should probably heed her call and start creating their own songs whether with an instrument or just your voice. By the way, this activity is one of the strongest you could have on your application. It shows a lot of creativity and innovativeness, qualities admission committees are looking for in their class.
  5.     Art: I have seen some amazing artwork from high schoolers ranging from drawings, paintings, sculpturing, and even graffiti. You can start getting your paintbrushes and pencils busy by creating inspired arts while at home. Another form of art could be digital art. Graphic design could be a good skill to use to help local SMEs who are going digital to market their services and goods in style.  You can even provide them with free services as your contribution to keeping their businesses open. Imagine the local kabanda or Waakye seller whose food is loved by all in the community can start making deliveries because of your graphic design work on Facebook or WhatsApp.

 

  1.     Scientific Experiments: If your interest is in STEM, then become resourceful by using every items around you to make that miniature model car you have been thinking of; a design that experiments on the purity of tap water in your community;  build that robot with your Robotics club members, or use free data online to conduct that research you have in mind. Get your lab coats on and start discovering, but do not burn the house down.

 

  1.     Remote Volunteering Work: Volunteering work might not be the most unique or glamorous activity on any college application, but during this lockdown you can make it special. You can start tutoring your siblings and even neighbours’ children remotely while their parents go about working from home. What about the NGO you use to volunteer at? Why don’t you start a crowdfunding campaign to help them raise funds? You can even manage the social media page of that local hospice by sharing daily pictures of the elderly residents to their families who are unable to see their elder family members every day.

 

  1.     Coding: Creating software or even Apps will be a unique achievement on your resume, especially one that could help people and solve a problem. With all the ‘free’ time you have, start coding. You can use the skills and knowledge you have acquired in your coding lessons for good. You can do data crunching using easily accessible data for a project or research. Create a simple App that assists students to get free access to textbooks or online resources for different subjects. You can even create a website that allows students to do peer-to-peer learning.

 

  1.     Online Learning: Nothing shows curiosity and intellectual vitality than a student who uses free time to learn new skills or improve his/her knowledge in a subject or skill. Learn how to cook online so you can support your mom in the kitchen, or bake and sell to support the home financially. You can also take advantage of some of the free or cheap online courses universities like Harvard and Stanford are offering.

 

  1. Sports: This activity sounds impossible to do in a stay at home situation. However, there are many ways to continue enjoying the game you love in-doors. You can start online-video-game competitions to raise funds for those who might need it in your community. Why don’t you begin an online physical training session for your school team to keep them in shape, or create an online physical exercise for kids to keep them active at home and possibly help reduce their screen time

 

  1. Domestic Work: Okay, this category of activity might seem a bit unusual, but it is quite unique in these times. It may include certain things you already do like babysitting your siblings while your parents, who may be essential workers during this pandemic, are out at work. How about getting your hands dirty by making a backyard garden to grow vegetables for the kitchen or even your neighbourhood by applying your agriculture lessons (for those who have this subject in high school). You can even use the time to learn how to cook to help you prepare for the independent life of the college and eventually adulthood.

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.

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