The Real Reason to Join School Clubs

How one extracurricular shaped my personality


February 27 is an inconspicuous date if there ever was one. It meant nothing to me until it passed just a few days ago. On that day, I said good-bye to the extracurricular that made me into the person I am today and changed the course of my life for good.

The extracurricular that changed me was not actually a sport, as athletics are famous for doing. Rather, the club that has had such an impact on me was the Debate Team, of which, as a senior, I am President. Every year, I did intense research on a complex national policy topic–whether it be immigration, education, or national security–and wrote a speech explaining my own position and policy proposal. I also defended my arguments against ruthless competitors.

I reluctantly joined the Debate Team in sixth grade, because of my parents’ encouragement. It seemed difficult, and none of my friends were doing it with me. In the first year, even though I lost every debate I participated in, I developed a liking for it. I never could have predicted the adrenaline rush that came from arguing with strangers about federal infrastructure projects.

Though I continued debating after sixth grade, few others in my grade felt the inclination to join. Too many people held, and continue to hold, the misguided belief that Debate is for valedictorians or those who read Voltaire in their free time. However, this assessment is backward.

It is not that the Debate is exclusive to the most intelligent students, but rather Debate makes successful students. Participating in Debate has forcibly pushed me beyond my comfort zones. I found myself thinking about every perspective of a given issue or any possible outcome of a policy. I became a better argumentative writer because persuasion and coherence are the two most important components in a debate plan. I learned to speak more confidently and fluently because of my realization that the words written down on paper mean nothing if they are not spoken with authority and fluidity. I sincerely believe that when I wrote research papers, gave presentations, or completed reading comprehension passages, my experience in Debate was the foundation of my success.

Looking back on my high school career, I can confidently say the out of classroom experiences provided by our school truly shaped my performance inside the classroom. School clubs are not merely resume-padders. The Debate Team, DECA, STEM League, and the countless other clubs offered do not exist for the sole purpose of making students look more appealing to colleges. There are, in fact, tangible academic and personal benefits to being a part of school-sponsored activities outside the classroom. However, amidst the mania of college applications, too often students forget this.

It was in my best interest to join the clubs that benefited me in ways beyond “looking good” on college applications. I am thankful I only joined the clubs I had an interest in, rather than miserably forcing myself to do everything in order to have the longest transcript. Doing so helped me grow over the past four years in ways no AP course ever could.