Casey Neistat is a filmmaker and vlogger who posts a variety of inspiring, high quality content on his ever growing Youtube channel. During my freshman year of high school, I watched a video of his titled “The Key to Success.” In this video, he draws a diagram that he found from a book called “Essentialism” by Greg Mckeown which represents focus.
The diagram showed two ways of doing things. You could do ten things to the first degree or you could do one thing to the tenth degree. By doing one thing to the tenth degree you would excel far past what you achieved with the other ten activities. If you scatter yourself, you’re never accomplishing anything, and instead, “chipping away at a bunch of nothingness,” as Neistat said in his video. His overall advice was that “really focusing and investing yourself into something you’re passionate about will always yield better results than scattering yourself around and spreading yourself thin.”
As students at Oyster River High School we (Isabella Crocco (‘21) and Heather Clegg (‘22)), are active participants in clubs and extracurriculars, such as sustainability club, that take place in and out of our school. We’ve decided to co-write this article because we’ve noticed that some students at ORHS participate in extracurriculars for the sole purpose of putting it on their college resume. As students, we believe we should not be spending time on activities in order to influence a college’s perspective on us, but rather on things that peak our interest. When you participate in a club or extracurricular that you’re not interested in, it not only wastes your time, but everyone elses if you’re not putting in 100%.
In high school, we, as students, tend to have this idea that we need to participate in as many clubs and extracurricular activities as possible in order to be recognized by universities. It’s as if we feel that having a jam packed schedule filled with barely enough time to breathe is going to be the deciding factor that gets us into college.
Colleges look for passion, they look for dedication, and they look for hard work. You don’t have to participate in every extracurricular under the sun. Don’t believe us? Take it from UNH Undergraduate Admissions Representative, Tara Scholder.“I encourage students to use the application to tell their story,” said Scholder. “Who they are, what is most meaningful to them, what they want to do, etc. Please do not try to be someone you are not because you think it is what a college is looking for. Be as genuine as possible so we can get to know you through your application for admission.”
Like Scholder said, pick a few or maybe just one activity to give your all to so that you’re not only getting the best out of your education, but so that you’re also enjoying it. “Students should pursue whatever interests them and also consider challenging themselves,” said Scholder. “Please do not try to read our minds. Students should seek to participate in extracurricular activities that align with your interests and talents.”
While it can be more beneficial to participate in a few activities, don’t limit yourself if you’re interested in lots of different extracurriculars and can manage the schedule. If you’re passionate about something, pursue it.
Something that colleges look at that we sometimes overlook, are the jobs we hold in high school. Cassamass explained that jobs count as extracurriculars, and should therefore be something that you enjoy. I, Isabella Crocco, have noticed that a lot of my friends are unhappy with the jobs they have. I couldn’t be happier with my job at Live and Learn. Even if I had a horrible day, walking into the classroom and hearing 26 four to five year olds shout my name and then proceed to shower me with hugs and ask me if I can hold their hand, cheers me up in an instant. I realize how lucky I am to absolutely adore my job and to be excited to go. Since we’re in high school and we have the opportunity to find a place that we enjoy working at, there’s no reason students should be working somewhere they can’t stand. As students at ORHS have so many job options in the surrounding towns, so take advantage of that and find a job that you’ll love.
While it’s easy to sit here and preach about how important it is to focus on your passion, finding one is a whole other story. Thankfully, our school offers over thirty clubs. If you’re clueless when it comes to what you want to pursue after highschool, join a club or two. If you don’t like it, quit, and try again. There’s no point in wasting your time taking part in an extracurricular that you have no interest in, and there’s no shame in letting go of the activities you don’t want in your life.
It’s important to preface that we understand not every student is participating in clubs and extracurriculars just because they want to put it on an application. If you love what you do, keep doing it. The point of this article is not to discourage students from participating in extracurriculars, but to remind them that if you’re trying to get a college’s attention by doing so, it’s not always the most effective to participate in as many as you can. While it can be more beneficial to participate in a few activities, don’t limit yourself if you’re interested in lots of different extracurriculars and can manage the schedule.
“If you’re doing an extracurricular that you don’t even care about, you’re not going to grow from it,” explained a member of the sustainability club at ORHS and the crew team at Great Bay Rowing, Aidan Covell (‘21). Once a member of the ORHS boys soccer team, Covell talked about the genuine connection he feels when he’s doing an activity he loves and the difference between the connection he feels with the sustainability club versus what he experienced on the soccer field.
Referencing sustainability club, Covell said, “it feels like every face I see I know that they’re there going to put as much effort as they can into whatever they’re doing. I know that they all feel the same way I do. On the soccer team, I knew that a lot of people were there because they wanted to put it on their college resume. Even on the rowing team you do see that in some people. They’re running for team captain because they want to put it on their college resume,” said Covell.
When I, Heather Clegg, first moved to Oyster River, I was amazed by the amount of clubs ORHS offered and I was thrilled to join the clubs that interested me. There weren’t as many clubs offered at the school I attended in Australia as there are here at ORHS. I am involved in a few clubs in ORHS that really interests me and I’ve noticed students within those clubs have the misconception that colleges want students to be involved in as many extracurriculars as they can. Clubs and extracurriculars here at ORHS are for students to have a break from school, meet like minded people and develop stronger interests.
Being in a club that involves volunteering and community service should feel rewarding to students and less like a chore. You can really show colleges your commitment, hardwork and dedication in the extracurriculars you participate in by being highly involved and passionate.
The reason I participate in clubs is to deepen my interest and to meet people with similar interests. As a new student, I’ve noticed that some students are participating in extracurriculars for a different reason. Jenna Young (‘22), a member of Red Cross explained her reason for joining the ORHS club. “It looks good on a college application. It is a lot of fun but I joined mostly because of college,” said Young. “I always have a feeling that if I have the same stats as another person, because I have Red Cross as an extracurricular it will put me a leg up in front of the other person. If a college has one spot left and it’s between me and another person, I want that spot.”
I’m involved in a few clubs that I’m interested in and often times I see students participating in a club they aren’t passionate about. It can be difficult to operate a club with students who are not passionate about what we’re doing and are in it for the recognition.
Emily Shuman (‘20), an original member of the Red Cross club when it formed during her freshman year, explained why having students who aren’t interested in the topic can harm the club’s effectiveness. “When there’s people that don’t necessarily do it for the right reasons it makes it hard to get commitment out of them. We have meetings and they might not show up and might not want to work at the blood drives. They don’t contribute to the atmosphere at all. When they do show up, they make it negative. They don’t care enough to help us figure out the problems,” said Shuman.
As previously mentioned, Covell acknowledged that some students participated in sports because it looks good on a transcript. Quitting the soccer team had a lot to do with how the lack of passion he saw between his teammates started affecting the game. “The reason I quit soccer was because I couldn’t stand how little of a team it had become. As I went through the season, I realized that everybody was just trying to beat everybody else. It honestly felt like a competition. Slowly the team aspect of the sport just got drained away. I don’t get the reason for putting effort into things people don’t even enjoy. You won’t get anything out of doing it if you don’t enjoy it.”
As high schoolers, we should spend our free time doing what interests and motivates us. Students who participate in clubs for reasons such as trying to impress colleges show a lack of dedication and waste their own time participating in something that they don’t enjoy. We should not let the stress of colleges affect our judgment and add unnecessary pressure to ourselves when selecting extracurriculars.
There’s no reason to stress ourselves out over what extracurriculars we “should” be participating in. Whatever you do, however you plan your highschool career, there will be a college that wants what you’ve got. Stop asking yourself what you can do in order to make yourself more appealing on paper, and start asking yourself what you enjoy and want to continue doing.