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8 Middle School Extracurriculars that You Can Check Out

While colleges don't directly consider middle school activities in admissions, getting involved in extracurriculars during these years can provide valuable preparation for high school. Engaging in activities that have high school equivalents and build relevant skills puts you in a great position to achieve at the next level.


Middle school extracurriculars can also help with admissions to elite academic high schools that do consider this involvement. And they allow you to explore interests and develop talents that will make you a well-rounded applicant down the road.


So what kinds of activities are worthwhile in middle school? Here are 8 excellent options to consider as you prepare for high school success.


1. Middle School Vex Robotics

If you're interested in applied engineering, computer science, or building cool robots, then Vex Robotics is a solid extracurricular option. As part of a Vex team, you'll work collaboratively to design, build, program and compete with a robot capable of completing challenges.


Vex Robotics provides really valuable hands-on experience in fields like mechanical engineering, coding, problem-solving and teamwork. It's also directly applicable as you transition to high school, where Vex has a major national competition circuit with prestigious awards and recognition opportunities.


Being on a middle school Vex team requires a significant time commitment for meetings, building sessions, and tournaments. You'll need access to a well-resourced school program or community club, tools and workspace for constructing the robot, programming software, and funds for materials and competition entry fees.


While demanding, Vex gives you an incredible platform to gain real technical skills and achievements that will make your academic profile shine brighter than ever in high school.


If you’re leaning towards pursuing research in computer science, AI, and related fields, you may also want to consider Veritas AI’s Trailblazers program!


2. Debate 

The debate circuit provides another amazing competitive extracurricular option beginning in middle school. You'll learn to research policy topics, construct persuasive arguments, deliver polished speeches, and engage in formal rebuttals at tournaments.


Debate develops critical thinking abilities, public speaking talent, and a depth of knowledge across a range of contemporary issues. It's also directly applicable to high school debate programs, allowing you to get a real head start in this rigorous academic activity before most competitors.


At the middle school level, debate requires a notable commitment in terms of preparation time, some travel to local or regional tournaments, and potential fees for coaching, entry, and materials. The skills built are incredibly valuable however, and achievements like tournament wins can really bolster your academic profile.


3. MathCounts

For students looking to pursue their passion for mathematics, MathCounts provides the perfect extracurricular avenue beginning in middle school. This is a national program sponsoring team-based and individual math competitions at various levels of difficulty.


To prepare for MathCounts competitions, students form clubs or practice groups, often coached by teachers. You'll sharpen your skills in areas like algebra, probability, statistics, and geometry through collaborative problem-solving and studying advanced competition materials.


Competing in MathCounts allows you to demonstrate exceptional mathematical abilities from an early age. Achievements like qualifying for state or national levels will make you an extremely appealing candidate for prestigious high school math programs and competitions down the line.


If you’d like to supplement this competitive experience with research in Math, you may want to consider Lumiere’s Junior Explorer Program. 


4. Quiz Bowl

If you enjoy watching Jeopardy!, Quiz Bowl may be the perfect activity for you! In Quiz Bowl, teams face off in an intense question-answering competition spanning every conceivable academic topic. You'll study an immense breadth of material from history, literature and science, to fine arts, current events, sports trivia and more.


As a Quiz Bowl participant, you gain critical thinking skills, learn to calmly recall in-depth knowledge under pressure, and have the chance to explore new intellectual areas. The fast-paced team format builds communication, strategy and relationship abilities as well.


Quiz Bowl teams often require students to prepare collaboratively through regular practices, attend local tournaments, and potentially travel for regional or national competitions. Costs for entry fees, study resources and transportation vary. Landing achievements like a top individual scorer award or leading your team to victory can provide major résumé boosting highlights.


5. Community Service

Getting involved in community service projects provides valuable experience that also allows you to make a positive impact locally or globally. As a middle schooler, you can seek out existing non-profit organizations that align with your values and assist in their efforts.


Maybe you're passionate about environmental protection, equal access to education, fighting hunger or poverty, promoting literacy or public health. Do some research to identify the most meaningful initiatives in your area, reach out, and inquire about volunteer opportunities or ways you can help.


Alternatively, if you see an unmet need in your own neighborhood, you can take initiative to address it. For example, starting a community garden, tutoring program, clothing drive, or park cleanup crew. Use creativity to identify how you can be of service.


Community service doesn't require any resources beyond your time and dedication. It's the perfect way to develop leadership, communication and project management skills from an early age - all while demonstrating integrity and selflessness that will impress admissions officers later on.


6. Science Olympiad

For students who are interested in STEM subjects, Science Olympiad provides an ideal competitive extracurricular pursuit. Each year, this program features a rotating set of challenging events spanning genetics, earth science, chemistry, anatomy, physics, engineering and technology.  


As a Science Olympiad participant, you'll join an interscholastic team representing your school. Together you'll prepare for events through intensive studying, hands-on practice, and designing solutions for complex problems across scientific disciplines. It's an unparalleled way to apply classroom knowledge in creative ways.


The emphasis on active, collaborative learning makes Science Olympiad enriching and effective for solidifying STEM concepts. Succeeding in challenging competition events allows you to demonstrate remarkable achievement from an early age that colleges will certainly value. Resources required include fees, study materials, potentially travel, and ideally access to lab equipment or makerspaces.


7. Writing opportunities

For aspiring writers, poets, journalists or authors, there are plenty of outlets to pursue your craft as an extracurricular in middle school. You could join your school's literary magazine or newspaper and publish pieces you've authored. Or seek out external writing contests and competitions to enter your creative works. 


Polishing real writing samples for publication allows you to develop editing, narrative and communication skills far beyond classroom essays or assignments. The process of selecting strong ideas, mapping out a storyline or article structure, incorporating vivid detail and crisp language, and persevering through multiple drafts - these are hugely valuable abilities for any writer to gain experience with early on.


Most school publications provide a free outlet, but writing contests sometimes have entry fees. Achievements like being published, winning awards or securing a staff editor position provide excellent distinctions to highlight your writing prowess.


8. Music performance

Exploring musical abilities provides ample opportunity for rewarding extracurricular involvement in middle school as well. You could take private lessons to study voice, an instrument like piano, violin, trumpet or drums, or musical theory. Many middle schools also have band programs you can join.


For students with theatrical interests, pursuing roles in your school's musical productions provides incredible creative expression and experience. Or if you prefer creative writing to performance, you could try your hand at songwriting or composing instrumental pieces.


Dedicated music practice, personal instruction, group rehearsals, and public performances together develop solid skills. These include creativity, collaboration, discipline, reading/transcription abilities and confidence - not to mention providing an artistic passion to pursue.


Achievements like mastering difficult music theory or performance benchmarks, compositions, landing lead roles or top chairs in ensembles make for impressive distinctions by high school. For instruments, audio recordings make ideal portfolio samples as well.


With so many enriching middle school extracurricular options available, you're sure to find an activity or two that aligns with your talents and interests. Getting an early start provides valuable skills, experiences and achievements that will have you standing out in high school. More importantly, extracurriculars enable you to explore passions, find purpose through service, and develop into a well-rounded individual prepared for success.



One more option - The Lumiere Junior Explorer Program

The Lumiere Junior Explorer Program is a program for middle school students to work one-on-one with a mentor to explore their academic interests and build a project they are passionate about.  Our mentors are scholars from top research universities such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, Duke and LSE.


The program was founded by a Harvard & Oxford PhD who met as undergraduates at Harvard. The program is rigorous and fully virtual. We offer need based financial aid for students who qualify. You can find the application in the brochure


To learn more, you can reach out to our Head of Growth, Khushi Malde, at khushi.malde@lumiere.education or go to our website.


Multiple rolling deadlines for JEP cohorts across the year, you can apply using this application link! If you'd like to take a look at the cohorts + deadlines for 2024, you can refer to this page!


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.


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