Do what you love, not what you think colleges love

The pressure on high school students has never been higher. Students, starting from as young as 13 years old, are feeling the intense stress of high school. With hours upon hours of homework and studying—piled on top of sports, volunteer work, academic teams, and various other extracurriculars—students often find it difficult to manage all of their activities. This is frequently linked to students joining extracurricular activities just for the sake of building a résumé for college applications.

It is useless to pack our schedules with extracurriculars that we don’t even really want to do. From a practical standpoint, this only makes time more scarce, causing us to lose valuable time that could be spent on the few activities that we truly enjoy. Therefore, we are not able to excel in any activity because of all the time spent attending every club meeting, rehearsal, or practice.

Imagine that a student, who is thinking about building a competitive résumé, decides to join many clubs in hopes of looking strong on an application; however, what he really enjoys is art. Because of this choice, he cannot spend nearly as much time on his artwork, causing him to lose out on many opportunities. A student with a true gift for painting—for using a canvas as a pure expression of who they truly are—will be unable to grow and develop their skills as their time increasingly becomes devoted to other completely arbitrary and unrelated activities. This idea of quality over quantity is, after all, what colleges value in extracurriculars. Former Dean of Admissions at Harvard, William Fitzsimmons, stated that in extracurricular activities, “substance is far more important.”

These trends not only harm the individual student, but also do a disservice to the entire academic community. Students who don’t feel stimulated and engaged will contribute to an overall apathetic attitude throughout the school. When students join clubs because they think it looks good on a piece of paper or take a class that sounds impressive, they will never come in with the same drive and gusto as if they had chosen the club for deeply personal reasons. This leaves the other students—those with an actual appreciation for the subject at hand—lacking a fully engaged and enthralled classmate and an inability to reach their full potential as a group.

Colleges are now increasingly looking at a students in a holistic way: not only evaluating a prospective student solely based on grades and test scores, but also understanding the kind of person they are. Developing who we are as people and discovering our passions and beliefs are not attainable by simply attending every club meeting we can and doing a little bit of everything. Rather, complete immersion into something that you love is the path to true self-discovery. High school provides a unique opportunity to lay the foundation for skills and ideas that will later be honed into real-world application—it should not be squandered.

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