Extracurricular activities are an important part of any college application. They serve as evidence of your ability to multitask, they speak to your dedication, and they contribute to your overall academic profile.

Extracurriculars are important to your development as well. By participating in activities beyond traditional academics, you learn to prioritize and manage time well, and you gain insights into possible career aspirations. There’s no doubt that extracurriculars contribute to an overall well-rounded student experience.

But what do you do if your interests or passions aren’t represented by your school’s extracurricular choices? Or what if you aren’t able to participate in the existing offerings? Are you out of luck completely?

Not necessarily. Starting your own club is an option that you should consider if the opportunities available to you don’t engage with your interests. This is a great solution that fills a void in your school’s offerings, allows you to customize a club to your interests, and exemplifies your leadership and creativity.

In this post, we’ll outline the step-by-step process for planning, forming, and maintaining your own extracurricular club in high school.

Choose What Kind of Club to Start

You probably have an idea of what kind of club you’d like to start before you begin any formal process of forming a club. In fact, your desire to start a club is most likely born from a lack of availability for the club you’re interested in. If this is the case, you will probably already have a fairly good idea of what kind of club you’re going to form.

Generally, clubs in high school fall into a few different categories. You might start a service club to give back to your community, an arts club for artists or art appreciation, an academic club to support difficult coursework or pursue subjects in more depth, or a club formed around common interests ranging from activities to sports.

For more information about what kinds of clubs you can start in high school, read our CollegeVine post Clubs You Can Start in High School.

Gauge Interest For Your Club

You can’t start a club all by yourself. You’re going to need classmates to join your club and form your executive board, so it’s a good idea to gauge their interest before your ideas get too refined.

This shouldn’t be a formal process of finding members for the club, but rather an informal stage in your brainstorming. Talk with friends and classmates to ensure that there is interest in your proposed club. Gather feedback about specifically what other students are looking for in a club such as the one you’re proposing.

Use the feedback from your peers to help fine-tune the focus of your proposed club based on group interests and priorities. Be flexible enough to accommodate the ideas of others. Remember, this won’t just be your club; it’ll be theirs, too.

Find A Faculty Adviser

While you might not be formally required to find a faculty adviser until after your club has received initial approval, it’s a good idea to get this done much earlier in the process. A faculty adviser can guide you through the process of getting your club approved and lend valuable insight and expertise.

When selecting a member of the faculty to advise you and your club, choose a teacher with whom you’ve enjoyed working in the past and who knows you well. This person should ideally have some kind of expertise in the content area, or at the very least should be interested in it.

When you first speak with a prospective faculty adviser, be sure to clearly and honestly articulate your goals and expectations for his or her involvement. If you’re going to need a teacher who is present at weekly meetings, be sure to mention this. Alternatively, if you just need a classroom to use and periodic oversight, let him or her know this upfront.

Being a faculty adviser for a new club can be a hefty role that some teachers may not be able to accommodate. Don’t be offended if your first choice teacher has to say no. This is likely the result of existing obligations. Ask if he or she has ideas of other faculty members you might ask next and for any advice he or she may have. Keep trying.

Figure Out the Application Process for Starting a Club at Your School

Most schools have a formalized application or proposal process for starting a school-sanctioned club. You will be able to find out more about the particular regulations at your school by talking to your faculty adviser or a school official.

Get a copy of the application or proposal process and review it closely. It’s not uncommon to require that clubs submit a list of a certain number of members, an outline of when they will meet, and a general idea of how the club will benefit the school. You might even be asked to submit a budget. It’s best to have an idea of what’s expected on the application before you sit down to discuss it with your potential club members.

Brainstorm Together

Once you have found a faculty adviser, meet with your adviser and a group of interested students to do some more brainstorming. A great place to start is to create a club mission statement together. This should be a brief, one to two sentence summary of your club goals, outlining its commitments and the ways in which it will benefit the school.

Once you’ve created a mission statement, you’ll have a clearer idea of the direction for your club. This also ensures that everyone in the club has the same agreed-upon goals.

Next, review the necessities for your club proposal. At this point, you might even break up into groups and delegate portions of the application to different groups. You can then reconvene to present your work and offer critiques.

It may take several rounds of meeting together before you are able to complete the application or proposal in its entirety. Don’t be discouraged. It’s important to make sure that this process is completed fully and carefully. Many times, you will only get one chance to submit the proposal, so you want to make sure that it’s done right.

Plan a Budget

This may or may not be a required portion of your application or proposal process, but even if it isn’t, you will still need to consider it carefully and plan your budget well in advance.

Much of your budget will depend on the activities that your club intends to participate in, and how much of this cost will fall to the club.

To create a budget, outline your estimated costs in detail. Think carefully about not just activities or field trips, but also supplies and incentives. Will your club provide snacks or drinks during its meetings? Do you need art supplies or sports equipment? These are all costs to outline in your budget.

Next, consider income. How will your club get the money it needs? Do your members pay dues? If this is the case, you will need to have articulated this clearly beforehand. Once your club is formed and has a member base, it’s too late to start asking for dues.

If you don’t collect dues, you might request donations of supplies from local companies and hold fundraisers to gather money for additional activities. For example, you could have a bake sale, or sell homemade gifts to raise money for a field trip. For more ideas, read CollegeVine’s How to Plan and Execute an Effective Fundraiser for High School Extracurriculars.

Also, remember that it may be okay to ask members to contribute towards field trips, as long as you make sure that the cost won’t exclude anyone from participating. Ask your faculty adviser for more advice about what is acceptable at your specific school.     

Submit Your Proposal to Your School 

After you’ve worked together to fine-tune the proposal, you’ll need to submit it formally. Different schools have different procedures for this, so you will need to make sure that you know the guidelines at your high school.

At some schools, there are specific deadlines each year for submitting applications and they are only reviewed once or twice per year. At other schools, you will need to present your proposal formally to the student council or a panel of school officials.

Whatever the case may be, be certain that you are putting your best foot forward. Written portions should be carefully edited and reflect your commitment to the club. Oral presentations should be practiced ahead of time.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the reviewers. Anticipate any questions or concerns they might have and address them straightforwardly in your application. Especially in cases of sports or outdoor activities, be sure to address how you will assess and minimize risk.

Publicize Your Club

Once your proposal or application has been approved, you can begin to attract a broader membership. Publicize your club in every way allowed at your school. This might include flyers posted on bulletin boards or in the locker area. You might make announcements on the school’s PA system or at student assemblies. You may even be able to take an advertisement out in the student paper or send an announcement in the school newsletter.

A broader membership base will ensure the strength of your club, but you should also be careful not to let it grow too big too quickly. If you attract too many members, you might have trouble maintaining the original mission statement and staying true to your goals. Set a membership cap in advance and stick with it. You can always start a wait list if necessary.

Hold an Informational Meeting

It will be up to you and the other founding members to make sure that the club gets off on the right foot. To ensure this happens, be very clear during the first meeting about the commitment and responsibilities expected of group members.

If certain activities are non-negotiable, like participating in five hours of volunteer work each month, clearly articulate this to everyone in attendance and be sure that they understand that this is not optional.

It’s a good idea to have a copy of the mission statement and a list of member responsibilities available for distribution. You might even consider having new members sign a contract so that the importance of club requirements is agreed upon in written form.

Start Regular Club Meetings

At your first official club meeting, be sure to welcome and thank your new membership. You may have had the initial idea behind the club, but if it weren’t for your members, it wouldn’t exist.

Offer an introduction to the club, presenting the mission statement, reiterating member responsibilities, and outlining the exciting and fun plans that you have in store for everyone. Be sure to communicate that being in the club comes with both responsibility and advantages.

Delegate Duties and Responsibilities   

This might occur during your first club meeting or during one of the next few, but in any case it should occur fairly early on. You and several founding members should meet in advance to identify leadership roles and responsibilities. Then, at a club meeting, you can ask for volunteers or nominations, depending on how you intend to structure the leadership of the club.

If you are holding an election for leadership roles, outline the responsibilities of each and allow nominees to plan a statement to deliver at the next meeting before a vote is taken. This doesn’t need to be a huge ordeal, but it should be fair and well-organized.

Prepare to Pass the Torch

As the end of the school year nears or as you get closer to graduation, you should make sure that your club can continue without your involvement. Starting a club in high school is a great opportunity not only for yourself, but also for the other students and future students who will benefit from it.

Think of your club as a unique legacy that you can leave behind at your high school. By preparing younger students to take over its leadership and slowly passing your responsibilities on to others, you will ensure that your club remains strong and functional even after you’ve left the school.

If you’re interested in starting a club but need help deciding 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 in general, check out these great CollegeVine posts:

Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist