Is Reading an Extracurricular Activity? Why and Why Not?

You love to read. Most of your free time is spent engrossed in the pages of books and magazines. And now, you are wondering if reading, which is the greatest passion of yours, can be regarded as an extracurricular activity (EA). If it can count as such, it will surely make for a beautiful addition to your college application form.

So, is reading an extracurricular activity? In general, merely reading books at home itself is not considered an extracurricular activity because it doesn’t involve others, nor does it develop a particular talent. Still, there are ways to make your hobby of reading into EA. Such can be done by expanding and sharing it, and by competing on a regional or national level.

For the entirety of your elementary & middle school life, you’ve haven’t taken school too seriously.

Sure, you have tried hard to get good grades and are maybe part of a club (I don’t know if other middle schools offer clubs, but mine had only a few, and they were all stupid), but suddenly, you have come into high school.

All these different opportunities are practically thrown at your face. I know when I saw the number of clubs my school had, my jaw dropped.

Which clubs should I join? Should I try out for the cross country? Or maybe football (some of you may call it soccer)? Are my hobbies even considered an extracurricular compared to all these clubs and sports?

I, much like many of you reading this article, am an avid reader. I’ve loved books for a long time, and it was something that I would do almost every day after my easy elementary and middle school years.

But you’re in high school now and need to take your school experience seriously. I would never suggest that you’d do something that you didn’t love, so that’s why you’re probably wondering if reading is considered an extracurricular activity.

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Why Reading is Good for You

Definitely, you should know how to read if you want to finish high school, get into college, and attain success after getting your college diploma.

Because it is expected for a student like you to be able to read in order to study, reading does not count as an extracurricular because, academically, it is a definite must.

Just because you cannot put reading on your college application form doesn’t mean that you should quit this hobby of yours, thinking that it’s just a complete waste of precious time and energy.

Even if reading is not regarded as an activity worth mentioning on the application form, you should keep on doing this due to these perks:

  • Stimulated mind. You can think of your brain as a muscle, which can be strengthened by using it more often. Reading is a great form of exercise for your mind. The more that you read, the more powerful that your brain becomes. Such leads to better concentration and sharper memory, both of which are necessary for getting high grades and exam scores.
  • Reduces stress levels. The life of a high school student can be very stressful. It’s because of all the lessons to study, exams to pass, and projects to complete. There are also various stressors outside the campus. Reading can help deal with too much stress, thus fending off stress-related mental and physical health issues.
  • Increased vocabulary. Aside from reading, writing is also an important skill that you need to have. This is true not only while you are in high school, but also during college as well as after it. Reading a lot allows you to expand your vocabulary as well as improve your grammar, thus turning you into an excellent writer.

There are many other benefits that you can get from reading. Most of them can be advantageous for you as a student. It’s because of this why you should keep on reading even if it is considered as a hobby.

However, it is possible to turn this hobby of yours into an extracurricular activity.

Making Reading an Extracurricular Activity

The definition of an extracurricular is an activity performed by students that falls outside the realm of the normal curriculum of the school, college, or university education.

Such activities are generally voluntary, social, philanthropic, and often involve others of the same age (source: Wikipedia). Yes, my source is Wikipedia, which some people think is not reliable (I personally think it is very reliable), but other sites I visited had the same definition.

So, according to the definition, simply reading at home is not technically an extracurricular activity. Even if you choose not to listen to me and put “reading” on your college application, I’m sure the admissions officers are going to stare blankly and wonder if you are joking.

Reading doesn’t show that you’re a leader. In fact, it doesn’t share much about your character. And overall, it’s not very impressive. Most people applying to college know how to read (at least I hope so), and a good chunk of them love to read; you simply won’t stand out.

Now, I’m not trying to say you are ordinary if you like reading, but it won’t do anything good for your application if you list it as an extracurricular activity. Before you despair because your passion for reading can’t count as an extracurricular, there is something you can do about this.

Expand your interest

Consider engaging in activities that have something to do with reading. For instance, you may volunteer as a librarian’s assistant at the library of your school or the community. You may also come up with a website where you can recommend books perfect for high school students to read.

Or, you may volunteer to teach children in your community with learning disabilities how to read and then keep count of how many kids you are helping. If you are able to list hundreds of hours spent on making the local community better, it will look very good on any resume.

reading as extracurricular activity

Share the passion

Instead of reading alone at home, why not read with others? As someone who loves to read, you will surely fit perfectly being a member of a book club.

If there are books or genres that you love, you may also establish a book club that is exclusive to them.

Being the founder of a book club definitely makes for a fantastic extracurricular that college admission officers won’t be able to resist!

Related Post: How To Start a Book Club in High School: Step by Step

Consider competitions

I tried searching for any competitions for reading, but there are not many reputable ones.

What I do know is that there are probably close to 1,000 writing competitions for short stories and poetry all over the US. Before you click out of this article because reading and writing are not the same, hear me out.

Yes, I do not think reading and writing are not the same, but you have so many more opportunities to shine with writing. I am a reader myself, but I have had many ideas for short stories and some poems, and I enjoy it whenever my English teachers tell us we need to write a short story or poem.

Recently, I was studying Japanese literature in class, and we had to write a haiku as a little assignment.

If you don’t know what a haiku is, it is a Japanese style poem with 17 syllables and is centered around a theme of something in the natural world.

By the time I had finished formulating possible ideas, I had come up with at least ten different ideas. I loved most of them, but only one of them met the criteria, and it was my worst one.

Anyways, what I’m trying to get out of this is that if you like reading, you may like writing too. Even if you’re not sure, try it out, and you may find that you enjoy it.

And if you do end up liking it, you can compete in many competitions throughout high school, possibly earning scholarships along the way. I have researched a bit on possible competitions that you might try out for, and here are the ones that came up often: 

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

The writing portion of these awards consists of 11 categories (journalism, short story & poetry, to name a few).

I believe that Scholastic, whether you like reading or not, is one of the most famous companies for publishing books among students and teachers.

I personally think that if you won in any of the categories, it would be a huge accomplishment because so many people participate and would look great on your application.

YoungArts Competition

YoungArts Writing has six categories to choose from, and winners will be able to join some of the best programs to help develop their careers as young artists.

I didn’t know of them before I started researching (probably because I fail dismally in any form of art and never bothered to compete), but now that I know more, I think they are as reputable as Scholastic. 

The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest

Despite the name of this contest, you do not have to have a family member who is in foreign service to participate.

For this essay, you need to write about the role of the Foreign Service in maintaining peace with other countries.

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest

I really didn’t know how to write this description without downright plagiarizing from the website, so here is the official page description of the competition:

Describe and analyze an act of political courage by a US elected official who served during or after 1917, the year John F. Kennedy was born. Include an analysis of the obstacles, risks, and consequences associated with the act.

The essay may concern an issue at the local, state, national, or international level.

Bennington Young Writers Awards

Now would you look at this, Bennington college has won Pulitzer prizes, produced many NewYorkTimes Best Sellers, and has been on Time Magazine’s most influential people; That’s quite the list.

They offer three winners for each section of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Considering such a record of winnings, I would apply to this competition repeatedly until I won for my college application.

The Learning Network (NY Times)

I don’t really have to say anything about how famous the New York Times is.

Much like YoungArts, they have competitions for various forms of art, but the writing ones include: Personal Narrative Writing Contest, Review Contest, Connect What You’re Studying in School With the World Today, STEM Writing Contest, and LIVE (an editorial contest about an issue).

If any of those topics seem to interest you, just apply. 

The list I have created are only a mere few of the contests, and there are many more for you to try. On the Johns Hopkins website, I have found more contests (including the ones I’ve mentioned) here.

Mind you, these contests are extremely competitive, so if this is your first writing outside of school, you may want to start with smaller and more local contests and then build yourself up to the national level. Just don’t be disappointed if you don’t win a Scholastic Award your first time. 

I believe competitions like these are great to boost your application. If you can win multiple awards by the time college apps roll around, your interests in terms of extracurriculars will look phenomenal. 

Is Writing an Extracurricular Activity?

Writing absolutely can be considered an extracurricular activity. Writing can be an extracurricular activity if it is something that you do for fun, work or enjoyment, and it is not required for your schoolwork.

For example, you could write for a school newspaper or literary magazine, or you could start your own blog. You could also volunteer to write for a local nonprofit organization.

In general, extracurricular activities are activities that students do outside of school hours, such as sports, clubs, or volunteer work.

For example, I run a College Reality Check podcast, and it was considered my main activity in the Common App.

Conclusion: Reading is a Good Extracurricular if Done Right

In order to make reading worthy of being considered as an EA, all you have to do is make it appear more official and beneficial to others.

You can do so by following the tips mentioned above. If you can think about other ways to make that happen, feel free to share some of them.

Happy reading!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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