How to Make Your Extracurricular Clubs Great

Founding, leading and participating in his own clubs are one of the best extracurricular activities a student can engage in. It demonstrates leadership, initiative, social skills and a passion for a certain area. The last part is particularly important and it the reason clubs are a great way to develop a unique and compelling Theme. In this guide, we talk about how to run your own club and make it a meaningful activity you’ll be proud of discussing in your college apps later on down the road. After that we will discuss briefly some extracurricular activities that are so common you should try to avoid them.

How to make your club great

Every high school has them: one or two clubs that everyone wants to be a part of. They have the most fun meetings, go on the most fun trips, seem to be a tight-knit group, and everyone wishes they could join. Creating one takes a lot of work but is well-worth the effort. The process is great fun and end goal will help you get into your dream college.

What is it about these clubs that make them so great?

1. Great clubs are active.

Some clubs simply don’t do anything. They have meetings maybe once a month or once every other month, but apart from calling each other “members,” there isn’t anything that ties the club together. They don’t make plans, they don’t do activities together, they don’t participate in fundraisers–no one really knows what they do or understands the point of the club even being together.

Great clubs meet often and participate in a wide variety of activities. It doesn’t matter what club it is–if it’s active in the school and in the community, it will be successful. It’s best to divide the activity into three areas: inter-club activity (like meetings), school-wide activity (like fundraising events), and community-wide activity (like service projects). A truly great club will offer its members chances to participate in all three types of activities.

2. Great clubs promote themselves.

High school clubs do not win points or popularity by being exclusive. To make your club shine, you will have to let as many people know about it as possible. Advertise your club around the school, with your friends, and in your classes. Take advantage of social media platforms to publicize your club. Let people know about all the fun activities you do or about that amazing trip you are holding a fundraiser in preparation for. Clubs areuseless without a strong membership base, and you can’t attract members without making yourselves widely known.

3. Great clubs raise money.

Even the smallest clubs in school can benefit from having a treasury. At the very least, you can raise money to buy pizza for one meeting per month, and “free” food can be an incredible motivator for people!

Not only does a healthy treasury enable your club to do fun activities, participate in contests, and go on trips, the fundraising events themselves can strengthen the bond of your group and get others involved in your club.

Here are some examples of fundraisers that really put your club on the map:

  • Benefit concerts (local musicians or even student musicians)
  • Battle of the Bands
  • Anything involving food (like a school-wide spaghetti dinner where the club members do the cooking and ticket proceeds go to your club)
    • Theme parties
  • Dance-a-thons
  • Benefit races (like a 5K where runners collect pledges)
  • Intramural sports tournaments
  • Selling coupons donated by local businesses
  • Community car washes

There are so many possibilities. The more creative, and the more you can cater the event to your club, the better. For example, the Chess Club could sponsor a school-wide chess tournament with a small entry fee. The winner takes home a prize (maybe a gift card donated by a local restaurant), and the club gets the entry money. By opening the tournament to the whole school, you get others involved who may meet members of the club and then decide they want to join. If the tournament has a lot of other funelements (good music, good food), it makes the club that much more attractive.

Also remember–the more people who can get involved in your fundraising event, the more money you will raise!

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4. Great clubs give back.

Your club does not have to be a “service club” to participate in service. Doing service work either at your school or in your community will give your club a sense of unity and a sense of purpose. The type of service does not matter. It can be related to your club (e.g. the science club taking a small group to an elementary school and doing cool science demonstrations for a 3rd grade science class), it can be responding to a need in the community (coordinating a food drive for a local food bank), it can be related to the school itself (planting a functioning vegetable garden on school grounds), or it can be a response to an event (coordinating a fundraiser to help the victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines). Any type of service will help your club members feel connected to each other and to the world around them.

5. Great clubs have membership benefits.

This simply means that the members get something out of participating in the club. It could be as simple as “getting a sense of pride from helping the school build tolerance between different ethnic groups,” or it could be that members actually get a physical token for being part of the group (e.g.

National Honor Society pins and graduation adornments). Either way, the members have to have something to show for taking part, otherwise there is no incentive. For some clubs, the incentive is being able to go to competitions or go on trips. For others, it’s being able to participate in certain service projects.

A club that doesn’t offer its members anything will likely not have many members.

6. Great clubs take themselves seriously.

This is especially important if your club is one that enters competitions like Academic Decathlon or Science Olympiad. Winning is certainly more fun than losing, and people always love being a part of a winning team. To make sure your team wins more often than not, you need to train and practice, just like sports teams do. For some clubs, this may mean meeting multiple times per week.

You certainly want to be respectful of people’s time, and everyone in high school is busy with a million things (not to mention, keeping their grades up), but don’t be afraid to ask for commitment from your club members– after all, there is no point in starting a club if people are not going to be dedicated to the cause.

7. Great clubs have fun!

While it’s important to be serious and committed, it is maybe even more important to have a good time. No one wants to join a club that isn’t fun. Fun can be incorporated into every activity, and it will happen sort of naturally if the club members like each other and work well together. It is important, however, to make sure there is a little bit of “scheduled fun” in every meeting and every project. You may have to get creative and find out from your club members what kinds of things will motivate people to keep coming back–you might even want to dedicate a specific person as the “fun manager.” Their entire role in the club could be to keep planning enjoyable activities and making sure that members are having a good time while also taking the club seriously.

8. Great clubs are organized.

It’s important to designate someone in your club to be in charge of records. You should know how many members your club has, who they are, and how to contact them. You should know when your club has met in the past, and when it plans to meet in the future. There should be a calendar of upcoming club events. All money coming in and out of the club should be recorded somewhere. If a club does not keep track of these types of organizational things, it can be very difficult to keep the club functioning.

Depending on the size of the club, you may need more than one person to be dedicated to organizing all of the information. Be sure that the designated individuals keep all records up to date as schedules change and contact information changes. Making your club a well-oiled machine is definitely a key to keeping people coming back.

9. Great clubs learn from each other.

Don’t be afraid to talk to leaders in other clubs and find out what they’re doing that’s working. Sharing ideas is the best way to learn and improve. It may even be fun (and productive) to join with other clubs in big fundraising events or outreach projects, especially if the clubs are similar to begin with. Combining efforts can not only help you get more accomplished or raise more funds, but it can be a wonderful way to meet new people and get more publicity for your club.

10. Great clubs have good relationships with their faculty advisers.

In most cases, your faculty adviser is going to be really excited about being involved with your club. In the event that they’re not, win them over by giving them responsibilities and by making sure they are included in the day-to-day workings of the club. An adviser may initially be thinking, “I’m not interested in this club” or, “I already have too much on my plate; I can’t take on one more club,” but they can be converted once they get to know the club’s mission and members a little better.

By having a good relationship with your adviser, you open yourself up to more resources. Your adviser will have more pull with the school’s administration and will be able to coordinate certain events more easily. Advisers also have a lot of experience (both with the school and just with life in general) and can really be a wealth of information and advice. Sometimes, it can be difficult to solve problems in a club because you are dealing with your friends and a cause you really care about. The faculty adviser isn’t as close to the situation and can offer a more objective perspective.

Make sure your faculty adviser is invested in the organization, and if you feel like you are unable to get them involved, petition to get a new adviser. It’s true that teachers are crazy-busy, and sometimes they simply don’t have the time that is needed to properly run a club. If this is happening in your club, they will probably be relieved to be replaced.

11. Great clubs have great student leadership

Every club needs leaders. The faculty adviser is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle, but clubs need good student leaders as well. The club members need to be able to have at least a person, but more preferably, a team of people to look to who are making decisions for the club. As we’ve already mentioned, great clubs are organized, and having a solid leadership team/structure is a huge part of being organized.

Different clubs will do this differently, so figure out what works best for your particular organization. At the very beginning stages, people may not know each other very well, so it might not be possible for members to participate in the process of electing leaders. It may be necessary to just ask for volunteers and see who steps up. After a few months, it may be more realistic to hold elections.

Once the club is established, it is essential to make sure the leaders are nominated and elected by the members. Your club members need to be involved in the process so that they can be sure the people running the club are the best people for the job. Typically, clubs hold elections once per year, and depending on the size of the club, votes can be cast via secret ballot or in a live process where people close their eyes and raise their hands. Do what makes the most sense for your specific club.

Here are some of the leadership positions usually found in high school clubs:

  • President: Acts as the “head leader” of the club and of the leadership committee itself. May run the meetings. Usually has the most contact with the faculty adviser and/or the school’s administration.
  • Vice President: Helps the president out with anything he/she needs. Runs meetings when the president is absent. Some clubs assign other specific duties to the vice president.
  • Secretary: Takes notes at meetings (minutes) and is responsible for the club calendar. Must be very organized.
  • Treasurer: Keeps track of all of the money that comes in and out of the club. Must be good with numbers. Keeps detailed records/spreadsheets so that the club can clearly see what money is being used for.
  • Historian: Organizes the “historical records” of the club–usually in the form of photos. Keeps track of all of the events that the club has participated in in the past.

Other clubs might need other officers, but these are the most common ones.

Download our free Success Stories pdf for 6 success stories (with full student profiles) of students who gained admissions to Columbia, MIT, Caltech, Dartmouth and more!