The terms “elective” and “extracurricular” are often confused, so let me define what I mean when using these words.
An elective is a course that is considered part of the academic course load that makes up your teen’s high school program. It is not a required course, but one that your teen opts to take out of interest, to acquire a skill, or to comply with state homeschool statutes that require a certain number of electives. HSLDA’s high school website has a list of possible electives.
Extracurricular, on the other hand, is a term to denote activities outside the academic program. These will not appear on the high school transcript and are not awarded credit or grades. Extracurricular activities give employers or school officials another view of your teen, so encourage him to choose a few in which to be involved. They will supplement and enrich your teen’s high school years and may also supply an outlet for physical activity and camaraderie, service to others, income, peaking an interest, and even development of skills. In addition, they may become sources for letters of recommendation.
A frequent question we receive is when to use an activity as an elective versus an extracurricular. There are considerations that come into play when making this decision.
First, what is the desired purpose for the involvement in the activity? For instance, if your son is on a community or travel soccer team and planning to pursue college on an athletic scholarship, you will likely want to use the sport as extracurricular where he will receive recognition for the level of acquired skill, team spirit, leadership opportunities, and awards or honors received. However, if he’s playing soccer just for the love of the game without future aspirations, you may choose to use it for PE credit.
Another consideration is whether or not your teen needs more elective credit on her transcript. Or, is she lacking extracurricular activity involvement? Colleges often expect to see 5-6 electives over the four years of high school. If your daughter has lots of electives, they can overshadow those important core courses on the transcript. Because job and college applications will ask what your teen enjoys doing outside of the academic program, a lack of activities to list may help you make a decision.
Whichever way you decide to use your teens’ activities, be sure to record them as they occur. It’s easy to think that you’ll remember them (how could you not?) for a later time, but too many things happen during the high school years. Don’t rely on your memory. Maybe you and your teen can use the summer months to create a resume to begin cataloging these opportunities. Then you can add to it as the years go by. There are a number of sites that give formats and ideas for student resumes for you to use.
One of our past high school newsletters will give you additional details on this subject of electives v. extracurricular activities. We always value your comments and suggestions to pass along to other homeschooling families.