How Do Extracurricular Activities Influence Peer Perception?

May 23, 2019

It seems as though almost every teen movie, from the iconic “Breakfast Club” to “Grease”, seems to portray two key characters: the jock and the nerd.

The jock — though not the sharpest tool in the shed — is popular, attractive and loved by their peers. The nerd, while not as popular and oftentimes bullied, is typically portrayed with near-superhuman intelligence and a promising future ahead of them.

And although these stereotypes may seems to be outdated tropes to those of us in the 21st century, stereotyping has always been a mainstay of the high school experience.

Depending on what extracurricular activities a student participates in, it can have a huge impact on how their peers perceive them.

Most of our assumptions about people come from the media. TV shows and movies have a huge influence on our perception of others.

Movies like, “The Breakfast Club” have not only been extremely popular among viewers but can also be extremely influential in the audience’s opinion of others.

The film features five students in detention, each from a different group in their high school. Each one of them perfectly embodies a high school stereotype.

There is a basic popular girl, a nerd, a rebel, an outcast and a typical jock.

When people watch movies like this, specifically younger people whose opinions are still impressionable, they may subconsciously learn to make assumptions about different types of people.

Athletes are often considered to be at the top of the high school food chain. In movies, they’re shown as the popular ones who go to parties and have a lot of friends.

At Cambridge, a similar stereotype exists.

Junior Tess Abraham said, “The basic athlete is usually very fit, attractive, and has a lot of friends, but are not very smart.”

On the other hand, there are students who like to focus on more academically associated activities like academically-oriented clubs. These students are usually thought to be weird or nerdy, and not have many friends.

Junior Gidado Basharu said, “They are probably really smart with good grades.”

Students who participate in both academic clubs and sports appear to be more well rounded as individuals and don’t receive such harsh judgments.

Junior Ariel Birnbaum said, “They are either hard workers who care about college, or their parents force them to do both.”

They are also perceived as being more adept at managing their time.

“To be able to do both a club and a sport you have to be good at time management to stay focused and get everything done,” said Abraham.

Lastly, there are teenagers who neither sports nor clubs.

These students are pigeonholed to be slackers, many of whom don’t care about their future.

“If you don’t do any school activities, you are probably bad at everything or you don’t try enough to be good,” said Basharu.

“They might actually do something outside of school — like a job — that keeps them busy, but they are seen as the stereotypical slacker.”

These students are not necessarily saying they believe these stereotypes but they are saying that they exist and are noticeable at the school.

In reality, people might be the exact opposite of the assumptions based on their choice of extracurriculars.

“I play softball, and I am the President of DECA, and some of the people I play softball with are super smart and some of the people I am in DECA with don’t play a sport, but they’re still really fun people with a lot of friends,” said Birnbaum.

Another thing to consider is the variation of sports and clubs.

Birnbaum said, “When I think of clubs I think of things like chess club but, there are also clubs that are sports so even tho they participate in a club that doesn’t mean they are unathletic.”

She is correct; not all clubs at Cambridge are academically focused, with clubs like dance team, equestrian club and fencing club that are all athletically associated.

When asked why we as a society believe stereotypes and rumors, Abraham said, “People don’t care enough to actually get to know someone and see what they are actually like so they just believe what people say about them.”

Being stereotyped by a peer can be hurtful and sometimes offensive, especially when there is often much more to a person than what meets the eye.

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