Extracurricular activities can be some of the most fun and memorable parts of high school, but they’re also an important way to prepare for your future in college and beyond. Participating in extracurriculars can teach you practical skills, expose you to new ideas, and allow you to develop as a leader in ways that will be extremely valuable later on.

Grade 9 is for experimenting and figuring out your interests, as we describe in our CollegeVine blog post “A Guide to Extracurricular Activities: Grade 9.” Once you reach grade 10, you’ve generally had some time to get used to high school, explore different options, and try out a few extracurricular activities. You know your way around a little better, and you’re ready to take on bigger challenges.

10th grade is the time to take your extracurricular activities in a more focused direction and make decisions about your extracurricular plans and goals for the rest of high school. In this post, we’ll go over what you need to know to plan for and make the most of extracurriculars in grade 10.

What can I expect from extracurriculars in 10th grade?

By 10th grade, you’ll have a better idea what you enjoy and what fields you’d like to pursue in the future— you might even know what you want to major in when you go to college (though it’s totally fine if you don’t!). Based on these preferences, you can begin to grow your extracurricular involvement in a directed way instead of simply exploring different possibilities.

As a 10th-grade participant in an extracurricular, you’ll have formed relationships with the advisors and other students involved. The continued impact of coaches, judges, and other students will have helped you to recognize what skills you need to succeed in that field. Overall, you’ll be better able to make choices about what activities and what kinds of involvement suit you and your goals the best.

If this is your second year in an extracurricular activity, you’ll likely find yourself in the middle of the pack in terms of your level of performance and your leadership status. On one hand, you’re still lacking experience compared to older students; on the other hand, you have some experience to build upon, so you’ll be subject to higher standards than in 9th grade.

You should adjust your expectations of yourself accordingly. Maintaining high standards can be a powerful motivator, but don’t make them so high as to be impossible to meet. You’ll likely still have a lot to work on if you want to be a high achiever in your extracurricular, especially in activities where you work with or compete against students in 11th and 12th grade, and this is a natural part of growing in your activity.

Of course, you still have some room to change your mind, and it’s not at all unusual for a student to start an extracurricular in 10th grade or even later. Remember, if you begin a new activity, you’ll often need to start from the bottom and work your way up. Don’t expect to win high-level awards or become a leader immediately; everyone need time to develop their skills.

Another potentially important factor is that in 10th grade, many high-school students turn 16 years old.  In the United States, turning 16 can substantially expand your extracurricular options. Depending on where you live and your other circumstances, hitting this milestone may mean that you’re able to drive, qualify for a broader range of jobs and internships, and volunteer in more places.

Once you’re 16, you may be able to access resources and opportunities intended for adults, like taking art classes at your local museum or going to activities that require staying out later at night. Being able to drive might mean that you have a broader range of transportation options for getting to an event or activity. (Of course, not everyone will be able to drive or will have access to a car at this point.)

Some students may be eager to take on this chance for greater independence. Others may not be quite ready to take on more adult responsibilities in 10th grade. Variation is normal, but remember that the college application process and attending college will require you to do a great deal on your own. Your early years of high school are a good time to start small and begin taking on more meaningful responsibilities.

What should I be aiming for in my 10th grade extracurriculars?

As you make your extracurricular plans for 10th grade, you’ll need to put an increased level of thought into how your extracurriculars will look on your resume when you apply to colleges. You still have time to make changes and try new things in high school, but it’s not too early to consider your future.

In today’s admissions environment, colleges like to see applicants who demonstrate specialization in their applications. Specialization means that you’ve achieved depth as well as breadth in your extracurricular involvement by putting substantial time and effort into one activity or group of related activities. As we’ve discussed before on the CollegeVine blog, it’s better to be an expert on one subject than a casual participant in many different activities.

In 10th grade, you have a better understanding of what it takes to succeed in your extracurricular activity. With this understanding, you’ll need to work on determining your long-term plans and goals for your involvement in this activity. Is your goal to make the state finals? Will you aim to be elected class president? Whatever your ambitions, clear identification is key to staying on track.

You may start having opportunities to take on leadership roles or positions that involve greater responsibility. If you feel prepared for these roles and are willing to invest the time, go for it! Learning leadership skills and handling responsibility now will reflect well upon you as you seek out higher-level positions in the future.

In 10th grade, you’re also in a good position to think about spearheading an extracurricular of your own, inside or outside of school. You have some experience as a high-school student, but you still have multiple years of high school ahead in which to develop your group or extracurricular, build your involvement, and possibly even secure the future of the activity.

Starting your own extracurricular activity is a great way to show initiative, creativity, and leadership. It has the major benefit of allowing you to create an activity that’s perfectly suited to your needs and goals and thus contributes to your personal development. It also demonstrates to colleges that you’re willing to go above and beyond to take advantage of the opportunities about you, even if those opportunities are hard to find.

You might consider working to develop your school’s chapter of a larger existing organization, or you might start from scratch with a more original idea. Either way, if you’re interested in this path, get started early with finding an advisor, recruiting other interested students, and other necessary planning tasks.

Becoming a member of extracurricular activities is a good thing, but remember, it involves much more than being in a group picture for the yearbook. The quality of your involvement matters. When you list your activities on a resume for a future college or employment application, the people reading that resume will want to know what you actually accomplished. Be sure you have a good answer ready for them.

As you get more involved in your extracurricular activities as a 10th grader, you’ll need to work more actively on your time management skills. You’ll likely be adding more challenging classes to your schedule this year, as well as beginning the first stages of the college search and application process, such as preparing for standardized tests. Add in eating, sleeping, and time with family and friends, and you may have a packed calendar.

Your guidance counselor should be able to help you find resources to keep you organized during this increasingly busy period of your life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or worried about your schedule, speak to your teacher, guidance counselor, or parent sooner rather than later. They can help you to manage your workload better, extracurriculars included, before it has a major negative effect on your progress.

Clearly, there’s a lot you need to know to be successful in your high-school extracurriculars. Here at CollegeVine, we’re experts at helping high-school students put together their extracurricular activity resumes for college applications. Check out the other posts on our blog for advice on a range of topics related to extracurricular activities, including:

Are you looking for additional help in making the most of high school, studying for your standardized tests, and eventually finding a college that’s an ideal fit for you? CollegeVine has you covered. Our advisors and mentors can help you write a great essay, put together a compelling resume, or simply get a better idea of what steps to take to further your educational and career goals- and we’re more affordable than most of our competitors.

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Monikah Schuschu

Monikah Schuschu

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.
Monikah Schuschu