Take the STRESS out of choosing the right extra-curriculars

It’s that time again!  It’s Back To School – that crazy, busy time of adjusting to new schedules, getting situated with new classes and the stress and pressure of figuring out which extracurricular activities are the best ones to choose for this year so that your child’s resume will stand out and represents what the colleges are looking for. 

There is no magic formula for figuring out what a college is looking for in terms of their overall class profile, and that changes every single year, so let’s remove some of the stress and pressure by looking at this another way!

I’m often asked how to create a balance between making sure that your child looks like they have a well-rounded, diverse portfolio and also getting them excited about coming up with ideas and executing them.  

AND…the key, is helping them to figure out what it is that THEY want to do so that they are motivated and inspired to create a plan that they feel excited to carry out.

Too often, I believe, high school students end up choosing activities that people tell them they “should” do or that “look good on a resume” or fit a specific criteria they think that the colleges want to see (and we’ve taken that aspect out of the equation in paragraph two above!).  

Instead, I love to see my students really using these formative years to explore who they are, learn what they love, and join activities and clubs that reflect THAT.

This is one of the reasons I love working with students early in the process, even as early as their freshman or sophomore year. 

When we sit down and really discuss the their interests, passions, curiosities and ideas, they can really approach their high school years as a time of learning, growth, and self-discovery. This is a very different experience than the “resume building”, pressure cooker that high school can become in the junior and senior year.

You may be asking yourself how to get your child to try new things, when they mostly want to do what their friends are doing, or what’s “cool”, or what they think will “look good” on their resume. 

One fabulous approach to this process comes from the world of improvisational acting.

One of the basic skills taught to improv actors is the concept of “Yes, AND….”.

Here’s the principle:

As an improv comedian, you learn to never deny your fellow actor. Instead, you learn that you must be willing and able to accept the ideas the character conveys. Then, you add to the scene by saying the words “Yes, AND….” or simply affirming what the actor is saying and allowing them to build on it.

Here’s an example from a possible improv scene:

“What a hot and miserable day it is to work in the field”

“Yes, and we have to be out there for 12 more hours”

On the contrary, look at what happens when you deny your fellow actor:

“What a hot and miserable day it is to work in the field”

“No it’s not, we’ve had hotter days”.

In the second example, the other person is shut down, with nowhere to go – you’ve limited their opportunity to move forward with the scene.

Here’s how “Yes, AND….” works with your child in encouraging their ideas AND suggesting new ones that they may have expressed:

Your child:  “I’m going to volunteer at the Red Cross because Megan and Lily are going to.”

You:  “That sounds great!  I also remember you telling me that you were interested in working with animals. What if you volunteered with the girls AND looked into working at the Humane Society too”.

This approach adds to the “scene” your child created AND provides an additional opportunity to look at something new based on what THEY expressed interest in!  

Here are the benefits you just accomplished based on this “Yes, AND……”  approach:

a. You acknowledged and validated your child’s idea

b. You introduced the concept of “and” and got them thinking that it doesn’t have to be “either/or”

c. You provided motivation and encouragement to explore something they LIKE and may WANT to do, which….

d. Increases their motivation AND increases the chances that they will stick with it

Instead of “denying the actor”, you’ve left room to see where the scene continues!!!


This is just one example of how you can make your child’s high school extracurricular activities truly reflect who they really are.

When I work with my students one on one, this is one of my favorite areas to explore with them, as I get to see them really come alive as they realize the possibilities of choosing their path, instead of having their path imposed upon them via peer pressure or the “shoulds”

If you’d like to have a conversation about how your family and I might be able to work together, I invite you to apply for a complimentary discovery session by clicking here.

We will take a look at where you are now with the college planning process and what your best next steps are to get you where you want to be so that you and your child can truly ENJOY this journey!

To your success!!