Some people have known their dream job since they were kids. Perhaps all their ancestors were doctors, their first birthday present was a toy stethoscope and first aid kit, they volunteered at their local hospital since the day to which they were legally allowed, and they already have a pretty solid idea of where they want to travel for their work with Doctors Without Borders.
But, the majority of us aren’t like this. Our ancestors aren’t in this field, we didn’t spend summers gaining experience this field, and we certainly didn’t receive odd plastic toys resembling this field’s instruments. In all honestly, we just really like Grey’s Anatomy and want to be Cristina Yang in real life (you can’t blame us).
In many college admissions essays, the school may ask what drew the student into his/her field of interest. Unfortunately, no admissions officer wants to hear about our Grey’s obsession (and if you find one that does, let me know ASAP so I can apply). Addressing this prompt and attempting to demonstrate commitment and interest to a certain field can be tricky — especially if you have no solid reason, or simply have no idea what field you want to go into in the first place.
But alas, there is a way! If you’re not Ms. Child Doctor Genius, here are some awesome activities you can complete during high school to demonstrate commitment and interest, even if you have none.
Some universities look for a student’s commitment, in order to gauge the student’s self-discipline and drive. Demonstrating long-term engagement can highlight your ability to passionately pursue one specific activity. Unfortunately, this really doesn’t work well for a) the Jack of All Trades who took lessons for a different musical instrument every single year just to shake things up, or b) the lost and confused student who has no interests, and thus, nothing to commit to.
But thankfully, the college isn’t necessarily looking for commitment in your future major, but across all aspects. If you are student B and have no idea what you want to major in, a great way to commit to a long-term activity is through community service. Simply volunteering through one organization for a long period of time shows tons of dedication and commitment, bonus points if you serve in a leadership role at the organization or even your high school’s community service club. Even general activities such as school sports teams and music lessons are awesome ways to show commitment throughout your high school years (again, bonus point for leadership roles). Community service, sports, and music are great activities to show long-term commitment, especially if you have no idea what you want to study in college.
Another component that universities may look for in your application is interest. Demonstrating engagement in one specific field can highlight how passionate you are about said field. Though, as I mentioned before, this doesn’t work out too well for the Cristina Yang Wannabes who don’t have the time, money, and experience to accurately demonstrate their passions (unfortunately, Professional Netflix Binge-Watcher isn’t exactly a résumé boost).
If you don’t have many resources to pursue your passions, the best high school activity is to lead a club dedicated to the field! Many larger organizations are specifically created for high school students to explore professional tracks, such as Future Business Leaders of America, Health Occupation Students Association, DECA, and more! If you’re looking to study business, you don’t have to become a super successful child inventor/entrepreneur with products featured on QVC and Oprah. Joining and actively participating in these high school clubs is a great way to gain experience and demonstrate interest, plus it costs much less than those fancy schmancy pre-college summer programs. If a club or organization chapter doesn’t previously exist at your school, chat with student government and start it yourself!
Moving outside the realm of high school, you can also take classes at your local community college for a relatively affordable cost. There may be age restrictions or preliminary tests, but past that, there’s a wide array of classes that address many different fields of interest. If money is tight, look for some online opportunities and internships for high school students. The availability will depend greatly by your field of interest, but they’re definitely out there. Shameless plug: if you’re into journalism/PR/communications, be sure to check out our High School Internships here at The Prospect! These online internships are a great way to gain experience in your field, for simply the price of an internet connection (plus you can stay in your pajamas the entire time).
Choosing high school extracurriculars can be tricky, especially if you enjoy everything (or enjoy nothing). Even if you have no idea what you want to study in college, you can still demonstrate long-term commitment through your activities with community service, school sports, and even music lessons. If you do have a specific area of interest, but your budget won’t allow fancy programs, you can still participate in pre-professional clubs, community college classes, or online internships. Gaining experience as a high school student isn’t as intimidating as it may seem; the opportunities are definitely out there. It’s just a matter of searching for small opportunities and making the best of them.