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|The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (August 2011)|
Extracurricular activities are activities performed by students that fall outside the realm of the normal curriculum of school or university education. Extracurricular activities exist at all levels of education, from 4th-6th, junior high/high school, college and university education.
Such activities are generally voluntary as opposed to mandatory, non-paying, social, philanthropic as opposed to scholastic, and often involve others of the same age. Students often organize and direct these activities under faculty sponsorship, although student-led initiatives, such as independent newspapers, are common.
The extra curriculum made its first appearance in colleges in the nineteenth century. It complemented the curriculum as much as subverted it. The students found in it a kind of laboratory for practical and vocational interests. The first extracurricular activities were student literary societies (which had roots in the previous century at Harvard and Yale), debate clubs, and by mid-century, Greek letter fraternities and sororities. Students also initiated and organized the early athletic programs on American college campuses. Literary societies were on the decline by the turn of the twentieth century, and some educators felt that less desirable extracurricular activities were now distracting students from their curricular responsibilities. Intercollegiate athletics soon became the dominant element in the extracurriculum in most American colleges and high schools.
Such activities as school newspaper and interschool sports programs have been part of American high schools since the World War I era. Today’s public high schools offer a comprehensive array of extracurricular activities to complement the curriculum.
Activities that often involve some time commitment outside of the regular school day, such as band and choir, are also considered extracurricular activities.
Companies seeking job applicants may not look solely for those with a high GPA; employers might also look at extracurricular activities to determine if the applicant is the best suited for the job.