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Clubs You Can Start in High School
Extracurriculars are an important part of your development in high school. They often lend insight into future career aspirations and teach time management and prioritization in a way that straightforward academic pursuits cannot. Succeeding outside of the classroom also speaks to your commitment and your ability to multitask.
So what’s a student to do when your interests aren’t represented by any high school clubs or activities? What if you know exactly what you want to pursue, but there’s no avenue for doing so at your school? Is it time to settle for another activity?
Not so fast. There’s another option that you should consider: starting your own club.
Starting your own club in high school allows you to fill an existing need while exemplifying leadership and creativity. It also allows you to customize the activity to your own interests. To learn more about the importance of extracurriculars, check out CollegeVine’s posts How Much Do Extracurricular Activities Matter On College Applications? and Your Comprehensive Guide to Extracurriculars.
What Types of Clubs Should I Consider Starting in High School?
Service clubs are a great way to give back to your community and get involved with causes that really matter to you. The specific type of service that you choose to engage in is up to you, but you should choose mindfully and with respect to existing clubs at your school.
First, be sure that you don’t step on anyone’s toes. It’s likely that your school already has clubs that participate in service projects, and you will want to avoid overlapping with existing activities. Common school clubs that engage in service projects often include the Key Club, National Honor Society, and certain Girl or Boy Scout activities.
When you select the focus of your service club, consider the causes that mean the most to you personally. Harvard’s recent Making Caring Common initiative outlined the importance of engaging in deep, meaningful service projects as opposed to the brief or sometimes superficial ones that have become more commonplace. By sticking to one consistent or prolonged service area you will immerse yourself more fully in the experience, and you have the potential to effect greater change. For example, you might meet regularly to help at the same soup kitchen, or tutor younger students over the course of the entire school year.
Finally, if you know of other students interested in joining your club, check with them in advance. They may have valuable ideas, input, or connections to help guide your choices. By working together as a group you’ll be able you to take on larger or more important projects than you could handle alone. Use power in numbers to your advantage.
There are usually two primary motivators behind academic clubs. Some academic clubs are formed to explore an area of academic focus more deeply, while others are formed to support a particularly rigorous academic course.
If you want to form an academic club to explore a particular subject area more deeply, you can do so by gathering peers and classmates who are also enthusiastic about this particular subject matter. Once you find members to form the club, think about what specifically you’ll do at your meetings.
You might brainstorm a list of related discussion or debate topics. You might invite guest speakers or create academic challenges related to the subject matter. You may even devote some time to advocating for more extensive or better course offerings within the subject area at your school. Whatever the case may be, make sure that you have a specific plan for each meeting scheduled.
If, on the other hand, you form your academic club to support a particularly rigorous academic course (like a more formalized study group), your meetings will likely consist of largely academic work and studying.
As you go about this work, be mindful of the course’s guidelines for group work and study. You may even want to meet with the teacher to get some clarification around the extent of collaboration allowed to ensure that you don’t cross any ethical lines into cheating.
For more information about leading a study-oriented club, check out CollegeVine’s How to Organize a Study Session.
Activity clubs generally are formed around common interests and provide you the opportunity to participate in a mutually enjoyable activity with like-minded peers. For example, you could start a board games club, a gardening club, or a knitting club.
As an added bonus, try to think of a way that your club could give back to the community. A board games club could hold a tournament with an entry fee to benefit a local Boys and Girls Club. A gardening club could donate fresh vegetables to the school cafeteria or a soup kitchen. The knitting club could knit hats for newborns or premature babies and donate them to the hospital.
Almost any activity can have a service element to it if you think hard enough about how to accomplish this. By incorporating a service element, you can give your club more purpose and direction. It also makes it easier to quantify the accomplishments of your club when it comes time to describe your involvement on your college applications.
Also be sure to think about what your club will do at each meeting. Even if you intend to spend most of your meeting time actually participating in the group activity, you can invite different members to volunteer in advance to share new knowledge, new games, or a new skill with the group. Doing so will help you form a sense of community among club members and benefit from each others’ knowledge and experiences.
There are generally three distinct varieties of art clubs: Visual Arts Clubs, Performing Arts Clubs, and Art Appreciation Clubs.
In a visual arts club, you will need to decide based on your membership which art forms to focus on specifically. You might all have a shared interest in painting or still art, and if this is the case then your club will likely have the same focus. If, however, you find that the members interested in your club have broader artistic interests themselves, it’s also ok to form a club that embraces multiple mediums or art forms.
During some group meetings you might choose to simply share progress, offer constructive criticism, and then work independently on your own projects. During other meetings you might invite a more experienced artist to give a master class or choose to all work on the same subject or with the same medium. You might even choose to create a communal piece of art with each member contributing.
In a performing arts club, you might form a music group that is more specialized than those offered through your school, you might plan and produce a dramatic production, or you might participate in slam poetry. Whatever the case may be, plan to practice your art together and then perform it formally for a bigger audience.
Coordinate with school officials if you want to perform at your school. Alternatively, you can plan a performance at a local community space, an open mic night, or a public poetry reading. Regardless of where your performance takes place, publicize it in advance for your school community and family and friends to be sure that you have a good audience in attendance.
Finally, in an art appreciation club, you will study specific artists, artistic styles, or artistic mediums. You will organize field trips to visit museums, plan trips to concerts or performances, or watch films. Choose a specific enough focus that your group has purpose without becoming so specialized that you run out of material.
Topical / Shared Interest Groups
Like activity clubs, these clubs generally share a common interest and are formed in order to explore that interest with others. These groups might be dedicated to a shared appreciation for something (e.g. a French culture club), focused on a specific local issue (e.g. Students Against Drunk Driving), or dedicated to a specific social or political issue (e.g. Conservation Club).
If your club is going to be political in nature, be sure to get your school’s approval first. While most schools won’t mind students who are engaged respectfully in political issues, the school will want to be clear that your beliefs as a group do not necessarily reflect the school’s beliefs as an institution.
These types of shared interest clubs generally include field trips, discussions or debates (formal or informal), and shared group activities such as reading and presenting relevant material or watching and discussing a pertinent movie together.
If you are passionate about a sport that is not offered as a team sport at your school, or if you are not able to participate on the school team, forming a sports club can be a great way to participate.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to be an athletic hot shot to form your own sports club. You just need to be interested in the sport and dedicated to sharing it with others.
If you are interested in forming a club for a team sport, you will need to see how many students are interested in participating. If you have enough for more than one team, you might play against yourselves in varying team formats each week. If you don’t have enough, you might have to play an alternate version of the sport (e.g. 3-on-3 basketball) or find other schools with a similar club to play against.
Alternatively, if you are forming a club for an individual sport, you’ll need to decide if you are going to seek competitions against other schools’ clubs, or if you are going to simplify the competition by only competing against one another.
Finally, sports clubs don’t necessarily need to be competitive at all. Sometimes, they might be more like activity clubs that are physically active. You might start a hiking club, an outdoor adventure club, or a rock-climbing club.
If you choose to pursue one of these, be sure to seek advice from school officials or a member of the faculty about safety and liability concerns. It’s not impossible to organize these activities, but it sometimes takes more planning and consideration to make them a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
If you are interested in participating in an extracurricular activity that is not offered by your school, starting your own club is an ideal solution. You can pursue your own interests while exemplifying your leadership skills and your dedication to outside interests.
Extracurriculars are an integral part of any college application, and college admissions committees are bound to notice if you’ve gone the extra mile to create your own.
If you can find like-minded peers and a faculty adviser, starting your own club can be a great experience that enhances your resume and strengthens your background in your specific area of interest.
If you need help focusing on your specific areas of interest, CollegeVine’s Mentorship Program is a great way to help you figure out your passions and decide what kind of club you might want to start.
To learn more about extracurriculars, check out these great CollegeVine posts: