Is It Too Late to Join a Club Junior or Senior Year?
There are many reasons why you might want join a club in your junior or senior year of high school—perhaps a new club just started at your school, you have honed your interest in a particular area and want to get more involved in it now, or you have a new interest you want to explore. Or perhaps you want to join for another reason entirely. Whatever your motivation, even though colleges want to see dedication over time—meaning the earlier you get involved with extracurricular activities, the better—it is generally okay to join a club during your junior or senior year of high school. Read on for CollegeVine’s advice on getting involved later on in your high school career and how to make the most of the experience.
A Club Recently Started
If there is a new club at your school, or your school now hosts a chapter of an existing state or national club, you will not be penalized for joining it later in high school, because colleges will understand that you didn’t have the opportunity to do so earlier. Since the club is in its early stages, there may even be opportunities to take on a leadership or officer position and help shape the direction and focus of the group. As we discuss in “What You Should Be Thinking About as a Junior—Part II: Extracurriculars and Summer Activities,” demonstrating leadership in your activities is very important to colleges. That goes beyond simply having the title of president—even if you are crucial to the planning and implantation stages of a club without holding an official position, you are still demonstrating leadership and initiative, and should explain that on your applications.
Starting Your Own Club
On a similar note, your junior or senior year is also a great time to start your own club. By this point, you are mature enough and have gained the experience necessary to have the leadership skills you need to lead a club effectively. Starting a club shows initiative, since you are actively filling a gap in your school’s extracurricular scene rather than simply not being involved because the opportunity did not exist.
Of course, you will need to follow certain protocol in order to do so successfully. There may be procedures already in place at your school; if not, speak to your guidance counselor or a teacher to discuss your plans. Take a look at the process outlined in “Your Comprehensive Guide to Extracurriculars” for more tips.
This doesn’t just apply to clubs. Starting another project, inside or outside school, can also make a positive contribution to your college application. For instance, if you initiate a park or reservoir cleanup in your community, it may be a one-time occurrence or take place a few times per year, but you are still demonstrating leadership skills and focusing on an area that needs improvement.
Keep in mind that if a club that focuses on a specific interest of yours already exists, it’s not a good idea to start a competitor club just to demonstrate leadership and initiative—this will more than anything just be a waste of your time and energy. Instead, try to find a niche that isn’t covered. For instance, if a writing club already exists at your high school, but there is no school newspaper, try implementing a newspaper that delivers school-wide and community news.
If you have already shown specialization to some extent in your extracurricular activities, taking on an additional club in your area of specialization can indicate that you are hoping to further hone your interests and strengths. (For more advice on why it’s a good idea to specialize, check out our post, “Well-Rounded or Specialized?”) For example, if you have identified public speaking as one of your strengths, and you are already involved in mock trial, joining the debate team can give you an additional way to develop that skill. Or if you are interested in teaching and are volunteering at a daycare center, consider joining the tutoring club as well.
Getting involved with more clubs that correlate to your talents and interests also allows you to strengthen relationships with peers and faculty members who are involved in those subject areas in your school. Having this community of likeminded individuals might offer you other opportunities in your area of specialization, as well as help you get strong recommendations from teachers who have observed you build the skill not only in the classroom, but in your extracurricular activities as well.
If you add an additional activity along these lines in your junior or senior year, colleges probably won’t penalize you or view it as a meaningless resume booster, because it directly relates to your area of specialization, and therefore helps you improve a skill or gain more experience in a topic that interests you.
Developing Interests Later in High School
If you didn’t have a strong idea of what your interests were or what kinds of topics you wanted to explore earlier in high school, it can be a good idea to get more seriously involved in certain activities during your junior or senior year.
However, you should at least strive to build some sort of foundation during your freshman or sophomore year. For instance, you might join general groups such as community service clubs or honor societies, even if you don’t have any subject- or career-specific clubs in your earlier half of high school. Then, once you have been exposed more general topics, you can further hone your niches based on what you found most interesting. For instance, if you found that you were particularly good at working with children in a community service club, you can find related activities, such as volunteering at an afterschool program, to join in your junior or senior year.
What to Avoid
It is important to remember, as we explore in “Your Resume Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting Your Extracurricular Profile,” quality is much more important that quantity when it comes to extracurricular activities. That’s why there are some instances in which you shouldn’t join additional clubs during your junior or senior year of high school.
Meaningless Resume Builders
If you join a club that is in no way related to anything else you have done in high school, colleges will see it as something you’re just trying to add to your resume, rather than an activity that genuinely interests you. As we explain in “The Dos and Don’ts of Joining New Extracurriculars Your Senior Year,” this won’t have much of a positive impact on how admissions committees view your application—and may even reflect negatively on you, Colleges want to see specialization in your application, and that means taking on activities that are in line with your talents, interest, and ambitions.
Of course, as we discussed earlier, it’s okay to take the time to explore while you are still figuring out what your interests are. But don’t join field hockey your senior year just to throw something on your application if you’ve never played the sport. Instead, join a club that demonstrates a natural progression from your earlier high school career. For example, if you have done well in math classes, consider joining an engineering club.
Following the Crowd
It’s important to join a club because the subject interests you, not because your friends are involved or you think you should. If you do, you will be taking away time from activities and classes that are actually important to you. Remember, you should always emphasize quality over quantity in your extracurricular activities. So rather than joining a club because your friends are doing it, try joining a different activity that correlates to one of your interests, or devoting more time to an activity in which you already participate.
Ultimately, joining an activity junior or senior year can be a positive contribution to your application as long as you are doing it for the right reasons, and colleges can usually glean what your motivations are from the rest of your application. So when consider joining a new club later in high school, think about why you are really doing it and how it will ultimately benefit you.
Looking for more tips on honing your extracurricular profile? Check out some of CollegeVine’s blog posts below.