In high school, it quickly starts to feel like every decision you make is geared towards college. What classes you enroll in, who you befriend, what standardized tests you take, and inevitably, what extracurricular activities you participate in. When choosing clubs and sports to be in, high school students feel torn between what they believe colleges want to see and what they actually want to participate in.
Let me give you an example:
In my high school, the most popular organizations are Key Club, Future Business Leaders of America, and Student Council. These students are stuffed with over a hundred students, and they use the point system to keep track of everyone’s participation. Now, these are all great with sound missions, but does it seem likely that all the hundred-odd students in the organization are there because they want to be?
There are always some who are truly passionate about volunteering, or business, or student government-- I’m in Student Council myself-- but many only come to put it down on their college applications. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that, but when you are only in a club because you think it looks it good, you are only hurting yourself. Colleges, especially highly selective colleges, are really good at telling the difference between someone who is truly passionate about the activities they are in and someone who only cares about getting into a good college.
So you might be considering joining FBLA or Key Club or whatever is really big at your school, but ask yourself, do you really want to be in that club? Because now, your extracurriculars are potentially the most important part of your college applications. There are thousands of students who are valedictorians, who score high on the ACT and the SAT, who get straight A’s, so your extracurriculars are what gives colleges the chance to see you as a person. And when you are part of something you are passionate about, it shines through.
Many students have this idea that you need be “well-rounded” to get into a good college, but do you know what well rounded really means? It means you’re kind of good at everything, and you never really excel. Because if you’re constantly trying to be good at everything, you naturally end up good at nothing. So instead, focus your energies on being exceptional at something you genuinely enjoy. When you enjoy something, it’s easier to be good at it, and that passion shows in your application.
Questions to ask yourself about a club:
-Can I commit to this club?
-Do I actually like it?
-What will I learn from it?
Never do anything just for college, but for yourself too.