With freshman year in the rearview mirror–even for those of you sophomores still waiting to get that coveted driver’s licenses–you feel like you finally have a grip on high school. You’re taking challenging classes, you’ve built up strong study skills, and you’re wondering, what’s next? Sure, you played on an athletic team last year, and you’ll play again this year; but what else should you do with your time? Oh, right, extracurricular activities.

You’ve heard about clubs at announcements, and maybe you and your friends joined a few last year. You once read that colleges want to see “well-rounded” applicants that are involved in many different activities. Maybe you’ve even heard about peaky or angular applicants. But, I want to challenge you to approach extracurriculars as opportunities to discover new passions rather than just more check-boxes on your list of “to-dos” in high school (even the Yale Admissions Director agrees).

Start with your strengths.

Extracurricular activities, from theatrical performances and policy debate to Amnesty International and Model United Nations, are not just for your college resume. Instead, think of them as opportunities to extend your strengths and passions. If you enjoy arguing with your friends about the best burrito in town; consider joining the debate team where you’ll learn how to structure your arguments, research compelling evidence, and respond to counterpoints. D you sing in the shower and even have ventured on the karaoke stage once? Audition for the musical! You love your Mandarin class and wish you had it twice as often? The Chinese Culture Club might be for you. There is likely a club at your school where others share your passion. If there isn’t, start one!

Address your weaknesses.

Sophomore year is also a great time to try out new activities and discover hidden passions. You may avoid the limelight like the plague, but perhaps your stage fright is the perfect reason to audition for a role in a school play. You’ve struggled in your English and history classes for as long as you can remember; maybe writing for the school newspaper is just the nudge you need to clean up your writing. Extracurriculars can be a safe way to improve some of those nagging weaknesses that you’ve wanted to address, and, unlike classes, you don’t have to worry about receiving a grade.

Serve.

Year in and year out, students typically cite community service or volunteer activities as the most meaningful extracurricular experiences of their high school tenure. It’s these opportunities that get students to think beyond themselves and consider how their choices and actions impact others. It’s humbling, authentic, and potentially life-changing.

As sophomores, you have plenty of your high school experience well-ahead of you. It’s important to note that you may drop some clubs and add others. That’s okay! The point is that you discover a cause, a movement, or a group of people that are immensely meaningful to you. It’s not about a checklist. It’s about finding who you are and learning who you want to become.

Need some coaching on getting involved in extracurriculars? Let the Signet team be your coach!