A Guide to 9th Grade Activities: How to Spend Your Time Wisely

Alyssa

A Guide to 9th Grade Activities: How to Spend Your Time Wisely

Freshman year is full of possibility – new classes to take, new friends to meet, new clubs to join – but all this newness can also be overwhelming! You might find yourself asking: What 9th grade activities should I participate in outside of class?

Extracurricular activities are very important, both for college applications and your personal growth. Participating in 9th grade activities can help you explore your interests, create a supportive community, and develop special talents and skills. However, you don’t have to have everything figured out from the very beginning of high school! In fact, 9th grade is an important year for trying different things out and discovering what you find meaningful. Here's a guide for getting started.

Join A Club (or Two…or Three)

While extracurriculars are not limited to clubs at school, joining groups is a great place to start when searching for 9th grade activities.

Clubs can complement your learning and extend it in new directions. Start by thinking about your academic interests and career goals. See if there are any organizations at your high school that align with them. Are you fascinated by the environment and want to join an ecology club? Do you love science and feel eager to learn more about Scientific Olympiad? Do you enjoy writing and want to join the school newspaper?

You can also join clubs that express your values or seem like they would be fun. If you want to get involved in social issues, you might be drawn to an advocacy group such as Amnesty International or Breast Cancer Awareness. If you like playing guitar, you might want to join a concert band. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit, Knitting Club might just be for you.

Freshman year is the perfect time to designate as “exploration time.” Give yourself permission to try new and unfamiliar extracurriculars without feeling the pressure that you need to be following your passion from the outset. Take the time to look beyond school for possible 9th grade activities, such as taking an online class or doing a reading project in a subject of interest.

If you don’t find a club that you are looking for, you can always start one. Starting a club, gathering funds, and expanding the membership takes some time, so 9th grade is a great time to begin working on your own club. There are many clubs that you can start, or many meaningful self-directed activities you can pursue on your own after school! The table below can help you find inspiration based on topics you are interested in:

Area of Interest Activity Ideas
Arts - Start an art psychology club in your community - Starting an online portfolio and sharing your work on social media could help you - find a group of artists with similar interests and philosophies - Start an art journal at your high - school - Organize an exhibition - Organize and lead a drama or musical performance - Start a comedy troupe - Interested in stagecraft? Start a lights and sounds club - Start a band - Start an a capella group - Design the soundtrack for the drama club or film students - Write/draw your own graphic novel
STEM - Start a Chemistry and Cooking club and out different recipes - Start a chemistry, physics, math, engineering or biology blog - Start a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) club - Join summer programs such as MIT Research Science Institute (http://math.mit.edu/research/highschool/rsi/index.php), or participate in competitions such as the Intel Science Talent Search (https://student.societyforscience.org/intel-isef). - Join the robotics team - Start a biotech club - Become the statistician for the school’s sports teams - Organize a Math Olympiad
Business & Finance - Start an entrepreneurship club - Start your own nonprofit - Start a business journal, magazine or newspaper - Seek a summer internship at a bank - Do your own research on an economic topic of interest and write a research paper - Compare and contrast different economics books such as Freakonomics and The Wealth of Nations
Education - Start your own education-based YouTube channel. It could be for peers or could be for elementary or middle school kids. - Start a tutoring club - Become a content reviewer for Khan Academy - Conduct your own education-based research project - it could be on racial distribution in schools in your area or how different communities value education etc
Journalism & Writing - Contribute to an online site such as Huffington Post - Intern at your local newspaper or magazine - Start your own podcast on a niche topic of interest - Make your own documentary - Collect stories from your family and write a biography or essay collection - Join the school newspaper, introduce new ideas, and slowly work your way up to editor-in-chief
Politics - Improve public services in your community - Canvas for a political candidate - Join the local youth council - Intern at an NGO

It is a good idea to join multiple 9th grade activities. While you don’t want to over-extend yourself, you also don’t want to put all of your extracurricular eggs in one basket. By joining a few different clubs, you can figure out which activities you do (and don’t) want to spend your time doing. If you don’t enjoy one of the clubs you joined or feel like it’s not the right fit, it’s okay to drop it. Along the way, you will hopefully discover activities that you want to keep being involved in throughout high school, and even continue in college.

Volunteering

Start by paying attention to local issues and opportunities to engage with your community. Try volunteering at a few different nonprofit organizations and see what you find meaningful. Here are a few possible volunteering and community service ideas for different areas of interest:

Areas of Interest Volunteering Ideas
Arts - Help out backstage with your local theater company - Film different community gatherings - Start a book drive for and donate to local hospitals, prisons, or libraries
Education - Teach a subject of your choice to kids at the children’s hospital - Volunteer at an elementary school - Run a study group for kids in your neighborhood - Help your siblings and their friends with homework
STEM - Teach computer or smartphone skills to senior citizens - Build a robot for your local hospital - Volunteer at an animal shelter - Volunteer at a hospital or shadow a doctor in your area of interest - Help out at a local pharmacy
Politics - Volunteer with immigrant initiatives - Run drives to support refugees with money, clothes and food - Organize bake sales to help out a cause

It is important that an activity truly matters to you, and you are gaining a meaningful experience out of it. Each time you try something new, ask yourself the following questions about your interests to help figure out the impact the activity has on you and your aspirations:

  • How do I feel about this experience?
  • Do I want to continue?
  • Do I want to tweak this activity or take it in a new direction?
  • Is this activity unique? Is it something everybody participates in?
  • Will this activity shape my personality?
  • Will I face any challenges in pursuing this activity? Would the challenge be related to my racial or religious background?
  • What specifically about the activity could spark my interest?
  • Will this be a memorable experience?
  • Is there something I could do with this activity that others have not been able to?

Asking these questions may help you realize what matters most to you or spark a new idea. Pursuing your interests often has a snowball effect that leads to more valuable opportunities, connections, and experiences, which in turn makes you a strong candidate when you apply to college.

It’s all about the journey…

Colleges like to see students who have sustained and committed interests outside of school. However, demonstrating commitment is more than just being involved in an activity for an extended period of time. The Common Application has a separate Activities section for you to elaborate more on your extracurricular experiences to colleges. Admissions officers like to see strong leaders with tangible achievements that stand out when they are reading this section. They’ll look at the amount of time you have spent pursuing the activity, and whether your activities follow a certain theme instead of being all over the place. So, 9th grade is the perfect place to start!

Commitment means being engaged and finding ways to make an impact. Exploring your interests through 9th grade activities will set the stage for you to demonstrate your commitment later in high school. For example, taking art lessons or joining Art Club during freshman year might evolve into founding an art therapy initiative by senior year.  

Ultimately, there isn’t a single path to participating in extracurricular activities. The best way to spend your time during freshman year is to actively explore a range of interests and 9th grade activities. Your passions aren’t always bright neon signs on the highway, but rather often evolve and emerge along the way. 9th grade activities are a fun and fulfilling journey, so get ready!

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