Handing my old copy of The Odyssey to my incoming freshman sister a few months ago reminded me of how much of an odyssey my freshman year was. High school was a big transition for me in terms environment, workload, and opportunities, but one that I have become familiar with and now enjoy.
Looking back, I came into my first year at PHS with too many goals and ambitions at once. It’s a trial period, and ambitious endeavors shouldn’t get in the way of happiness and well being. I was one of those kids who wanted to join tons of clubs right off the bat. I had a plan to join debate, model UN, and track in the spring, and boy did that plan fail. I took things too fast, contacting the debate coach before the club fair at which freshman start joining activities (pro tip: don’t do that). I ended up attending one meeting at which I watched top upperclassmen practice for the fall competition at Yale University, and from that point on was far too intimidated of public speaking with a club.
I came out of my freshman year as a member of no activities besides band and drama, which I took as classes, and my morale was a bit low. However, having an idea of what was available after my first year, I came into sophomore year with a plan. I joined Spectacle Theatre, in which I became part of the tech crew for the numerous plays, concerts, and musicals put on in the Performing Arts Center (known by most as the PAC). I also joined Ideas Center tutoring, Cranbury First Aid Squad, and Music Mentoring as community service activities. Later in the year I joined the Tower. By the end of the year I was a member of many clubs that I had a great time being a part of.
In terms of the “impress college” mindset, all I can say is that if you try hard enough you’ll find what you love, which is ultimately more important than impressing schools. Looking back, I started out as a student who wanted to do it all from day one at PHS, but eventually learned to do what I enjoy rather than go out of my way to participate in activities I think colleges would look favorably upon. After I found what I liked to do, everything came fairly easily. As a rising senior I am now involved in many leadership roles within the activities which I have stuck with.
I have friends who have trapped themselves in activities they didn’t like being in for years before finally quitting. As a freshman, it can be easy to join a lot of clubs and stick with them because they’re something to keep you busy or to fill a resume. Take your time to experiment as you get acclimated to the new environment—it’s fine if you don’t find anything you really enjoy doing this year, I didn’t my first year and I was in no way affected in the long term. Take academics seriously but don’t obsess, find new friends, don’t even think about college, and take time to find an activity you love. If you really can’t find anything, make your own club—the form is online.
If you have any questions about anything I participate in or about clubs in general, message me on Facebook, I’d be happy to help. Don’t sacrifice anything for well-being, and appreciate the atmosphere PHS provides—it’s really a great one.