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Building Your Extracurricular Profile with Limited Financial Resources
The Relationship Between Extracurriculars and Your Budget
It’s important to find meaningful extracurricular activities for both your college applications and your own personal development. As we discuss in How Much Do Extracurricular Activities Matter in College Admissions?, many students applying to competitive colleges have stellar grades and standardized test scores, so you need something that sets you apart from the rest of the pack.
However, some extracurriculars can be very costly, with participation fees, materials or equipment, travel, and other potential expenses. Especially prestigious opportunities, such as high-level tournaments or competitive programs, can be particularly pricey. These costs can be difficult to manage if you’re trying to make yourself a competitive college candidate on a tight budget; even relatively small costs can really add up.
So how do you put together a standout application if your financial resources are limited?
Assessing and Anticipating the Costs of Your Extracurriculars
Before you participate in an activity, try to make sure you’re aware of all the fees associated with it. For instance, there might be participation fees for experiences such as lessons, camp, membership in large organizations, and registration for tournaments and competitions.
Some activities might require special materials or equipment like musical instruments, sports gear, uniforms, or electronics for audiovisual and media activities. You might also need to travel for tournaments, conferences, competitions, and programs. Some high schools cover these costs, but make sure you know your school’s policy ahead of time.
Create an anticipated budget with the costs you know about, and ask the coordinators if there’s anything you’re missing. Have your parents (or you) be ready to meet these costs. If you can’t, see what other options are available to you. Can’t buy an instrument? See if you can rent one. Can’t afford to travel on your own? Ask others to carpool with them.
Making Costly Extracurriculars More Affordable
When you’re choosing your extracurriculars, take the cost versus benefit into account even before you sign up. That doesn’t mean you’re forever barred from participating in more expensive activities, but it is wise to know what to expect.
If you’re interested in joining an activity associated with your high school, you can try advocating for funding from your school. In How to Start a Club, we explain how many high schools allocate budgets for clubs and activities, and they might cover expenses involved. You still might need to be proactive about receiving more funding by meeting with school officials, attending board meetings, or taking other measures. These activities help you advocate for yourself and look great on a college application.
Fundraising can also be an effective way to support you and your activity financially. Don’t assume you can only fundraise as part of a group or club; you can also hold a fundraiser to raise money for personal endeavors. Check out How to Plan and Execute an Effective Fundraiser For High School Extracurriculars for some tips and strategies.
You can also look into grants and other outside financial assistance, both individually and as a group or club. Some opportunities, such as summer programs, may provide scholarships based on merit or financial need.
Some activities cover all or some expenses for students. For instance, there are many prestigious, low-cost programs available for high-achieving students, as we describe in Affordable Academic Summer Programs for High School Students.
You can also turn your extracurricular activity into a financial opportunity through contests. Check out The CollegeVine Ultimate Guide to High School Writing Contests, Prestigious Visual Arts Competitions for High School Students, and Prestigious STEM Competitions for High School Students for some ideas.
See if there are lower-cost options of the supplies you need. If you can’t get a Microsoft Office license for an activity that requires you to write and edit, for example, work on your own and others’ writing in Google Docs, which is free.
If you can’t think of ways to cover the expenses of your extracurricular activities, try talking to an advisor, coach, teacher, or other mentor about your financial situation. He or she might have suggestions about where to find funding or economize. There may be other options you haven’t considered, such as collaborating with other students to cut costs or something else entirely.
For more advice on participating in extracurricular activities at a low cost, check out some of CollegeVine’s other posts:
Everything You Need to Know About Extracurricular Activities in High School
Why Colleges Want to See More Than Class President on Your Applications
How to Turn Your Interest or Hobby Into an Extracurricular Activity
How to Spin Your High School Job into an Impressive Extracurricular
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