Students are often encouraged to participate in high school clubs that are related to their desired field of study. However, this direction is not possible for many students, as the activities available at one’s school or community may be limited.
In high school, I had this issue– the organizations I wanted to participate in weren’t there. My response was to simply establish several clubs, including a film club, science honors society, and a college admissions counseling program for my younger peers.
Establishing high school clubs obviously requires a greater time commitment than just joining them. But this additional work made it easier once I began my college applications. I was able to characterize myself as a leader and a self-starter, with many examples. Furthermore, starting high school clubs designates you as somebody who has a desire to provide more opportunities for those around you.
Obviously, you don’t have to go all in and start multiple clubs, my school was a special case of lacking extracurriculars that fit me. You should instead view the prospect of starting high school clubs as a way to add significant leadership and field-specific experience to your resume. Now that we’ve established why you should start high school clubs, let’s discuss how it’s done.
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Before you can decide to start high school clubs, you should answer the following questions.
If you have decided to make a club, you likely have some semblance of what you want to do, but it is important to decide on some specifics. Decide on a topic, a tentative name, and some goals that you wish to accomplish, ideally with a concrete creation.For example, the goal of my film club was to gather students to watch and discuss films in an after school setting, with an ultimate deliverable of short group “film critiques” that were distributed to classmates.
Maybe you make a game design high school club. The goal here should be something along the lines of collaborating on a game together or maybe even organizing game design education for younger students. If you make a poetry club, you should attempt to aggregate your member’s poetry into collections that you can distribute. Decide whether you need to raise funds to deliver what you want to, either through membership dues and/or fundraising. Essentially, to make a strong high school club for your application, you want to make sure that there is some tangible product that you are working towards.
To have a high school club, you need to have some people who’d be willing to join. Hopefully, you have some friends or connections that will be on board to participate. Otherwise, it’s time to ask around and gauge interest. As long as you have at least one other person who is dedicated to the success of the club, this is enough, though not the ideal situation. Once the club is created, you can worry about advertising to grow your membership numbers.
Feel uneasy about working with others? An alternative way to improve your application is a passion project. Check out our blog on making your passion project!
This is the most subjective of the questions, but it is important to answer before continuing. Will the addition of your leadership in this club be worth you putting in the hours to create and maintain this club?
As long as the topic of your high school club is in line with your current or desired profile, meaning the narrative you are trying to present to schools, the answer is usually yes. Hours dedicated are very flexible.
It is usually pretty clear whether or not the club fits your profile. For example, a robotics club is a no-brainer for someone passionate about mechanical engineering. However, you can be a bit more creative. As a computer science applicant with just a little programming experience, I used my high school clubs to characterize myself as a student who has a very strong passion for solving educational inequity through software engineering. Because I found a uniting factor between each of these clubs – the desire to improve the academic opportunities of my fellow students – they were able to support my application without being related to computers.
Now that you’re sure that this high school club is a good idea for you, let’s decide on the boring details. Where will you be free to meet? Make sure the location has what you need. Do you need a lot of computers? A projector? Lots of free space?
Another decision heavily related to this is what teacher or official will be able to sponsor your high school club? If you don’t have anybody in mind to ask, write down the ideas that you have collected so far and find time to pitch them to teachers.
The specific day and time you will meet is likely something you want to actually postpone to when you have your first meeting, so that you can see your members’ availability. Now, it is much more important to decide on the frequency of meetings.
Depending on the scale of your high school clubs, the answer here will vary. It’s vital to remember that the impact of high school clubs on your application goes up the more time you put in. Thus, I recommend shooting for a meeting every two weeks, if not every week. This frequency will ensure that you deliver your tangibles.
Depending on the scale of high school clubs, you may want to establish an executive board with the classic president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer structure. Doing this denotes a sense of officiality to your club, and it is a good way to help out other students by allowing them a fancy title on their resume.
Curious about how you actually will convey these achievements to colleges? Check out our blog on filling out the CommonApp activities section!
Officializing your club is a process that is very different from school to school. Public schools like mine without strong academic infrastructure have a more informal process of establishing a club. For me, the process involved drafting up a set of by-laws and a constitution using an online example similar to my club’s corresponding documents. Once I made this, I ran it by my sponsor before shooting my principal an email with all the information of what I wanted to do with all my documents, offering to meet to discuss more if needed.
Many schools have a much more formal process, and maybe even a student organization, which coordinates the formation of new clubs. To figure out the specific process for you and your school, consult the sponsor you should have already found.
After you have jumped through all the necessary hoops, you will have to have your first meeting. Here, you need to be open to change. High school clubs don't exist without your members, so it’s important to facilitate an environment where everybody feels fulfilled. Therefore, adjust to accommodate the desires and feedback of those who are working on this club with you.
Set deadlines for the tangible goals we discussed before. Have a timeline, with specific milestones that coincide with your meetings. Work with your club members to make sure goals are met. Above all, make sure you have fun! The best part of running a club is having freedom to make learning a fun experience with just your peers.
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