WiseStart™: Exploring Extracurricular Activities in Middle School
When reviewing college applications, admissions officers also evaluate what students are doing outside of the classroom, which is why it’s so important to have strong extracurricular commitments throughout high school. Instead of stressing out about finding the right activities during freshmen and sophomore year, students can take advantage of their time in middle school to pursue fields they are passionate about and build a strong foundation for high school.
At IvyWise we work with students in middle school through our WiseStart™ program to help them get started with their college prep, pursue their interests, and build strong skills so that they’re prepared for the rigors of high school. A key part of a WiseStart™ program is helping students identify and focus their interests so that once they get into 9th grade they can start to really thoughtfully explore the activities that interest them the most. Keep reading to learn how parents can help their middle schoolers identify what brings them joy and set them up for future success.
Start the Conversation Early
While middle school students certainly don’t need to rush to identify their best-fit activities, it’s important to start the discovery process early. Encourage your student to begin to explore their interests by starting a conversation with them as early as sixth grade. Instead of making recommendations, prioritize asking thoughtful questions that will help your middle schooler identify what interests them most. Start by discussing their favorite classes, what they enjoy doing most in their free time, and their favorite subjects to read about. Simply having these conversations can help students start thinking about different extracurricular opportunities that might align with their interests.
Encourage Your Student to Explore Their Options
Once you’ve identified a few subjects that your student is particularly interested in, it’s time to start looking for activities that align with their passions. Find time to sit down with your student and research various classes and programs that are relevant to the interests they have discussed. In addition to researching opportunities online, consider reaching out to a teacher or independent counselor to learn about more activities to keep on your radar. Encourage your student to play an active role in this research project, which will help prepare them for the college search process during high school.
Let Student Interests Lead the Way
Parents should aim to put their children in the driver’s seat throughout their educational journey, particularly as they look towards high school and college. Middle school is an important time to build good habits, including researching different activities and pinpointing opportunities that align with personal interests and goals. Consequently, it’s best to let your student’s ambitions lead the way and avoid projecting your own opinions about various extracurricular activities. The best choice options are the ones that your student will be genuinely interested in and make a commitment to, so make sure they are leading the process from middle school onward.
Identify Opportunities to Deepen Expertise
As your student progresses through middle school and approaches the start of high school, it’s important that they continue to feel challenged. Once they find extracurricular activities that they enjoy, continue to work with them to find new ways to deepen their knowledge and expand their skillset. For example, a middle schooler who loves soccer may wish to play in a summer league while an aspiring artist might want to sign up for a sculpture class to explore new mediums. Regardless of what your student is interested in, strive to support them and guide them towards new opportunities that will help them take their skills to the next level.
Participating in extracurricular activities can help students discover their passions and give applicants an edge during the college admissions process. If you’re looking for additional guidance to support your middle school student as they identify hobbies to pursue outside of the classroom, our team at IvyWise can help them discover best-fit pursuits.