Pay-to-play: An inside look into the often-expensive world of extracurricular activities
FeaturesGeneral Features March 1, 2021 Admin
BY EMMA HUERTA
Academics, extracurriculars and letters of recommendation: the Holy Trinity of college admissions.
As the ticket to postsecondary institutions has become more tedious and even difficult to attain over the years, the influence of each component in the college admissions process has subsequently increased. As universities look past transcripts and test scores to evaluate candidates, students’ extracurriculars come into focus, including sports, clubs, community service and more.
The benefits of extracurricular consideration in the admissions process are overshadowed by their price tag. Oftentimes, activities take not only intense time investments, but also financial contributions. In fact, low-income students are around twice as likely to not participate in activities than their higher-income counterparts. Furthermore, students who are involved in multiple activities seem to drown in fees as the charges pile up.
Some of the most significant extracurricular expenses are frequently derived from athletics. As students participate in their chosen sport, whether with their school or independently, they not only have to cover training, but many other extraneous costs as well. Take into consideration transportation, gear and outside fees, and parents end up with thousands of dollars to pay up. At CCHS, this is particularly true for sports like lacrosse.
“Every season, every [lacrosse] player has to pay $275 just to play.Lacrosse captain and senior Alicia DeMicco
“Every season, every [lacrosse] player has to pay $275 just to play. Additionally, although you can borrow a stick, everyone usually ends up purchasing one and they cost around $150,” lacrosse captain and senior Alicia DeMicco said. “I can give [CCHS athletics] credit though because you can find a sponsor to pay the $275.”
While school athletics could rack up prices, there could be support from sponsors to cover some expenditures. On the other hand, though, independent sports teams can add to the costs, and even at larger rates.
“Travel lacrosse is pricier because you usually have to pay from $300 to $700 just to play in a few tournaments and if you are a new player, you have to pay $200 for a uniform,” DeMicco said. “That is just the experience I had with the travel team I considered, and I ultimately couldn’t play because it was too expensive. I always felt I missed out on an important experience to grow as a player.”
Besides sports, music activities are expensive at times, too. Instruments have high sticker prices, and tuition for music programs and classes do as well. One such example is CCHS’s marching band program, which organizes elaborate performances but picks up a lot of expenditures in order to do so.
I actually had to quit the indoor winds program in tenth grade because they made the price over $1300.”An anonymous band member
“I’ve only done [band] for two years, so over two years, I’ve paid [over] $1900,” an anonymous band member said. “It definitely is [a financial barrier] for others because I’ve heard of people quitting because of how expensive it is. I actually had to quit the indoor winds program in tenth grade because they made the price over $1300.”
Within the vicinity of music programs are dance activities, which are infamous among students for high costs as well. Although CCHS does not have a dance program, many students are involved in the art form independently. Like with many competitive extracurriculars, dancers often have to pay for other expenses that arise in addition to their actual training.
“[I’ve spent] probably around like $6600 with all of the monthly tuition [fees], costume fees, competition entrance fees, weekend group fees [and more],” dancer and sophomore Rebekah Zuckerman said. “There’s a lot of people who in their own personal case cannot afford all of the extras that come with dance.”
Despite community service regularly being through volunteering, clubs and other membership activities both within CCHS and elsewhere may also ask participants to contribute to the organization’s expenses. The fees end up going to good causes, yet too many could be overwhelming for students.
“Sometimes, the money really adds up because the hour requirements are due every quarter, so it feels like spending the money for NHS is mandatory.”NHS member and senior Drew Okun
“[National Honor Society] (NHS) has hour requirements, some of which are donation hours, so we are required to buy goods to go to amazing charities and fundraisers,” NHS member and senior Drew Okun said. “Sometimes, the money really adds up because the hour requirements are due every quarter, so it feels like spending the money for NHS is mandatory.”
Whether in the realm of sports, music, dance, clubs or other activities, there seems to be a general consensus among involved students that extracurriculars all-too-often have significant financial impacts.
“It’s crazy how quickly everything adds up… I’ve noticed once you reach a certain level of competitiveness with most extracurriculars, they become very expensive,” dancer and senior Donna Nesselroth said. “Usually they’re just a lot of minor expenses, but they add up and students that can’t afford them are definitely at a disadvantage.”
Ultimately, if students are not able to afford their activities, they can be affected in different ways. In the short run, they won’t be able to express their interests outside of school. In the long run, their college applications could be hindered.
“Colleges and universities look for those extracurriculars as a part of a well-rounded education.”Band director Jason Cochrac
“Colleges and universities look for those extracurriculars as a part of a well-rounded education,” band director Jason Cochrac said. “If a student does not have them on their transcript, that can limit their opportunities for scholarship and financial aid.”
In order to resolve this problem, many activity organizations actively evaluate the amounts of money they are asking members for. This is true for CCHS’s NHS chapter, which makes sure to notify students of any expenses with ample time.
“One thing that we’re careful to do in NHS is [to] give students plenty of warning before any significant amount of money would be due to the club,” NHS sponsor Lindsay Roberts said. “It gives the members the opportunity to save part of their paycheck or speak to their parents, with plenty of time, about the money they’ll need.”
Additionally, activity coordinators at school are generally willing to work financial situations out with students. In activities with donation opportunities, for example, other expense-free activity options are offered too.
“In NHS, members have the opportunity to donate items for some of their hours, but donations are never a requirement.”NHS sponsor Lindsay Roberts
“If any member came to us about financial concerns, we would absolutely work with them,” Roberts said. “In NHS, members have the opportunity to donate items for some of their hours, but donations are never a requirement. We try and focus on more interactive, physical hour opportunities.”
At CCHS specifically, there are also ways for clubs and organizations to receive outside funding in order to support their students. The school’s band program frequently hosts such events and other ways to collect money.
“…fundraisers are available to the students/parents to help them overcome the financial impact. Students can not and will not be denied participation because of their financial status,” Cochrac said. “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Although CCHS seems to particularly help its students get involved regardless of their family’s finances, there seem to still be more improvements to be made so that the pressure on students is reduced and conclusively eradicated.
“Unfortunately, CCHS does not always have the capability to assist because of the budget.”Band director Jason Cochrac
“Unfortunately, CCHS does not always have the capability to assist because of the budget. Most of the time, the students/parents are left to handle the financial situation. On occasion, the principal may allocate funding for something specific that would benefit the entire program, but not the individual,” Cochrac said. “I think a scholarship or something like that can be put in place to help students in need that want to participate. Also, allocating funding for the program every year would be helpful.”
As the stakes for college admissions grow, the pressure on students to be involved has increased steadily. Financial barriers could limit students in this respect, yet schools and activity organizations alike could work to assist their students’ participation.
Photo courtesy of The New York Times