Students overcommit and overload themselves, instead of finding their passion

  How many clubs? Which sports? What classes? Have you built houses in Mexico? Maybe you studied abroad, or completed hundreds of volunteer hours, or helped solve world hunger. Maybe you’ve done all that. Now, you take all your accomplishments, all your successes and milestones and achievements, pick ten of them, and consolidate each one into a title, category, brief description, and the number of hours you did it a year. If this seems familiar, it should.

You spend countless hours, stressing just trying to juggle extracurriculars, on top of schoolwork, sports, and possibly any family or outside commitments and you break down a couple times by merely looking at what needs to be done. You build relationships with teachers for those stellar recommendation letters, you make yourself known to get that team captain role, you dip your toes in everything that there is to possibly dip into because college admissions officers boast that they’re looking for the most “well-rounded student” there possibly is.

And, for what? To be converted into some raw score? To be put into a stack? To be printed out, emailed, converted into a PDF file? 200 hours of volunteering, five AP scores, dozens of A-plusses, four years of your life doesn’t look like much when it’s just a couple boxes on your Common Application.

This practice breeds a loss of individualism. By senior year students aren’t doing activities because they’re passionate, they are following through with what they are “supposed to do” because they are told that it looks good on college applications.

In a school of less than 500 students, we have 45 clubs, seven boards, and student councils of at least twelve students per class. These opportunities make it the norm, not the exception, to have a leadership role. The culture at NDB surrounding leadership and extracurricular involvement as the default, extenuated through the Club Fair and other events, keeps the hamster wheel of overcommitment turning. At Class Day, a faculty member asks the mass of girls in the bleachers to stand if they have been involved in leadership, and every year, only a handful are left sitting.

By senior year, students have participated in so many activities that resumes can be ten pages. But how many of these clubs, service events, academic organizations, did they genuinely care about? Many students are signing up for extracurriculars for the sake of a well-rounded college application. They’re going through the motions, not pursuing their passions.

This realization opened my eyes to a complete lack of time organization. I was spending more of my time committed to my social circles and playing water polo that grades for college and pure personal enjoyment were not even first or second but practically on the back burner of my priorities. This meant I now had much more time to fill. Without social media, the only “streaks” I maintained were consecutive days I could leave my phone home or complete recreational reading.

Transforming myself from a checklist back into a person taught me more about what I want. I loved reading, so I read. I was curious about politics, so I started a club at school and completed three internships. I was passionate about culture, so I went on trips with my family and immersed myself in the history of countries.

So for the sake of being happy, take a moment, a couple days, or sequester yourself to your bedroom for a week because you had strep throat like I did, to rethink how you are spending your time. You are not defined by a college’s ideal candidate, and if you make some much needed changes, the benefits you will reap will not only help you personally but make arguably one of the most invasive and personal processes that much easier to complete.