Elementary and high school-aged students across North America are constantly reminded of the importance of extracurricular activities in their lives. It's true that engaging kids in organized activities after school, on weekends and during school holidays can be beneficial in a variety of ways, but extracurricular activities can also have downsides.

Advantage: College Applications

Colleges and universities are looking for well-rounded students. While high grades serve as a testament to a college applicant's studiousness and intelligence, they do not indicate the type of person the applicant is. College applications inquire about extracurricular activities to gauge potential students' interests, ability to follow through on commitments and, most importantly, ability to balance activities with schoolwork. Participating in a variety of extracurricular activities, especially in a leadership capacity, while maintaining good grades will look better on a college application than will a straight 4.0 GPA with no activities.

Disadvantage: Stress

Balancing schoolwork with extracurricular activities can be stressful for some students, especially when an abundance of activities takes up valuable time they need to study or complete homework. A student's involvement in extracurricular activities can put stress on the whole family when parents have to rush to shepherd kids to various tightly scheduled activities. Busy kids also have less time to spend at home with their families, which can put a strain on familial relationships as the kids get older.

Advantage: Keeps Kids Busy

For working parents who cannot be home when their children get out of school, extracurricular activities are a great way to make sure kids stay busy and are supervised, rather than coming home to an empty house or spending weekends and summers sitting idle around the house. Organized sports give kids a chance to exercise and help teach teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership skills, all of which are important as students grow up and enter the adult world.

Disadvantage: Cost

Some families may find that extracurricular activities are prohibitively expensive. Organized sports in particular not only carry registration fees, but also often require parents to purchase expensive equipment and uniforms. Music lessons carry expenses too, often requiring the purchase or rental of a musical instrument. Sports and music programs offered through schools may offer parents a reprieve by supplying equipment for students to use, but as arts and sports budgets are cut, these programs, and their associated equipment, are disappearing, leaving parents to shoulder the costs once again.