A Ticket to Ride

Enhancing the Academic Resume Through Extracurricular Activities

Active participation in the community, selflessness, and a willingness to assist others are character qualities that are sure to catch the eye of an admissions office. Specifically, a student who is willing to give of their time and resources reveals a desire to be involved with the community for no expected remuneration. This community can take the shape of a sports team, the choir or band, or a theatre group within or outside of the high school setting. The need for peer tutors at this level is another option for students who would like to be a support in their high school. The broader community can also be accessed, for example, through volunteering to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter or walking dogs at an animal rescue organization. There is no dearth of opportunities for a student willing to give of their time and talents.

One of the primary benefits for students actively evolved in the myriad of opportunities available can be found on their academic resumes. An academic resume is a document created for a specific purpose such as applying to a college or university, for scholarships, or even for a job at their university. A willingness to step up, participate, and help, no matter which demographic the student is from is always an eye catcher in any selection process.

Similar to a career resume, the academic resume focuses primarily on the personality behind the resume, and presents their academic and work history clearly and accurately. Personal information such as name, e-mail address, street address, phone number should be current and up-to-date. Educational information should be detailed and include the name and location of the school, GPA, and academic standing. Any awards and honours should be included. Here is where past or present extracurricular activities will make a student stand out and shine. Personal references should always be included in an academic resume as it is often used to apply for scholarships. Readers need to be confident that they can access someone to vouch for the student’s character.

Ahniko Handford, an experienced employment specialist, had this to say about academic resumes and extracurricular involvement. “You tapped into an important point that we continually stress in our workshops…. I know there are endless ideas of ‘important things to remember’ out there regarding resumes, but if I could pick only one, this subject would be it. Extra-curricular activities mean you never have to say you ‘took directions well to achieve goals’ without a meaningful story: for example, how you played piano from the age of six, and now are competing in provincial events at a grade 12 level.” Handford emphasized the importance of describing how the specific skill set is important to a selection committee. They need what is referred to as “prove statements.” The extra-curricular activities when described also make the academic resume seem a cut above the others who simply stop at ‘took directions well and worked to achieve goals,’ which is boring, clichéd, and tells nothing about the student.

Extracurricular sports are also a stand out activity on a resume, especially if they are team sports. The reasons for this are many: They speak to team work, collaboration, punctuality, work ethic, commitment, and even leadership skills if the student is a team captain or a team lead. Positions of leadership can develop the student’s ability to guide, provide moral support, and teach for the purpose of improving the skill set of the other players. Within this context these leaders are simultaneously developing their own organizational skills, self-discipline, and integrity, all desired qualities for any resume. All life experience counts on an academic resume.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to gain this life experience. Volunteer experience can be placed under the section “Employment History,” if it pertains to the particular goal of the student such as becoming a teacher. Activities such as peer tutoring in an area of one’s own strength, let’s say in Mathematics, will develop patience, teaching skills, adaptability, and will often consist of working with students from diverse cultures and with different learning styles. These are skills that are sought after by any given employer, program, or university. All positive and community enhancing extracurricular activities can be used to prove skills on a resume.

What many don’t realize is that some activities within certain organizations can also count towards high school credits. One prime example is the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, one of the largest and most respected music education institutions in the world. Their Senior Academy of the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists currently accepts students 14 to18 in the disciplines of piano, strings, and voice and as such are able to receive credit for passing exams in the various levels of instrumental skill and music theory. Their students typically graduate from the program at the end of high school. There is an additional opportunity for students to take an extra year of musical training between their secondary and post-secondary education at the Taylor Academy. The school provides exceptional musical training, quality facilities, and a variety of performance opportunities.

Dance is another wonderful way to channel the boundless energy of high school students. It promotes physical strength and overall health. Regular dance practice will increase a student’s flexibility, range of motion, and balance. Dance is also a highly social environment where cooperation can be enhanced and friendships made. Students can overcome shyness as they become accustomed to performing before an audience. Youth who regularly perform in dance gain increased confidence as they acquire a sense of their own physical abilities.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is one of the world’s premier dance companies. Located in historic downtown Winnipeg, it is the oldest and the longest continuously operating ballet company in North America. The School’s modern facility is home to the more than 1,500 students. Their dance school includes both a professional and a recreational division. The Professional Institute trains professional dancers and dance teachers. The Recreational Division of the RWB School provides quality dance instruction in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, lyrical, and hip hop and is open to Manitoba dancers of all ages, levels, and interests.

High school students can earn credits when they are registered in the senior levels of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Professional Program. The RWB School’s integrated dance program allows their students to pursue professional ballet training fulltime, while meeting all academic requirements for university entrance. The RWB partners with the University of Winnipeg Collegiate insuring that their high school students receive a quality education.

For educators and school counsellors there are many reasons to encourage their students to become participants in extracurricular activities. Educational administrations across the country believe that extracurricular activities are essential, whether or not the students receive credit for them. High quality after school programming is a crucial component to developing well-rounded, healthy, and socially skilled students. Extra-curricular opportunities can provide ways to explore diverse interests and perhaps discover a passion.

For high school students the opportunity to become involved in unsafe behaviours coincides with the hours between the end of the school day and when their parents arrive home from work. After school extracurricular activities create a buffer against this danger and provide the opportunity for positive relationships between school staff and the student. As a result students form an attachment to their school that can translate into a better academic performance and a successful graduation. That these activities also provide material for a top shelf academic resume is a valuable bonus.

By: Alison Zenisek