Captain of a varsity sports team, a position on the student government, president of several clubs, skilled artist, member of numerous honor societies, over 200 hours of volunteer work, a multi-AP class course load and straight A’s. It seems impossible, but this is the goal of many CHS students who believe that overworking themselves is the only way to get into a “good” college. However, the amount of piled-on extra curriculars and overwhelming responsibilities lead students down a slippery, stressful slope.
Many students believe that they have to look the part of a brilliant, well-rounded student on their college application, motivating them to participate in more activities than most people can handle. But, as it turns out, the stress does not pay off in the end. Research shows that many college admissions would rather a student excel at one or two things that they are passionate about than participate in multiple extracurriculars that they don’t have the time or passion to fully commit themselves to.
According to the My College Guide website, the quality of student activities is much more significant than the quantity they are involved in. Generally, college admissions are able to tell when students join as many clubs as possible for the purpose of building their application.
Passion and commitment, on the other hand, are traits that colleges look for in their prospective students. By showing a deep commitment to the obligations one has in life outside of the typical school day, college admissions recognize the student’s motivation and ability to work hard.
An excess of extracurriculars is not only unnecessary, but is also detrimental to a student’s mental health.
According to a Jan. 2014 Chicago Tribune article, too many extracurricular activities can cause symptoms of anxiety, depression and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, in addition to feelings of being overwhelmed.
High school is a defining time in one’s life. But many people only see it as pre-college: a time to do as well as possible in order to open up more options and opportunities later in life. Because of this, it is very common for high school students, particularly CHS students, to prioritize their academics over their mental health.
However, high school is also a defining time in one’s life developmentally, namely for the brain. Sacrificing happiness, sleep and healthy relationships for the sake of an A, or for the sake of a college acceptance, is not worth it in the long run. Extracurricular activities are intended to help students meet people with similar interests, and therefore should not be turned into another academic burden for students.
Over the course of a lifetime, one will often be faced with a choice: whether to follow their passion or do what may bring them success. But what even is success? And why do we let other people define it for us?
So don’t overwhelm yourself with too many activities, because doing what you love will feel more successful in the long run, regardless of how society defines it. You’ll be glad that you chose to commit yourself to what you love, and colleges will be too.