Although grade point averages and test scores are highly emphasized in college admissions, high school extracurriculars are what really give you dimension on paper. Your numerical scores give the colleges an estimate of your academic ability, critical thinking/reasoning aptitude (to certain extent, but that’s a different article). In extracurriculars, colleges can see what you’re interested in and somewhat how you excel in these things.
Because of the pressure put on high schoolers to join clubs and get leadership positions (then join more clubs), some high schoolers actually load up on too many extracurriculars in fear of the competition, for colleges to like them, or just because.
Much to my chagrin, I was one of those kids. Although I definitely didn’t join clubs for the sole purpose of putting them in my application (I repeat: do not do that), I had a hard time picking and choosing which ones I had time for, and which ones I didn’t. So, of course, I joined all of them. But what happened was that when I figured out that I actually had time for all of them in addition to academics, I stayed in all the clubs and spread myself thin. (Do not do this either.)
Although colleges do look for enthusiasm in some candidates, it seems a bit desperate for their love when you pick up ten different activities. It may show time-management skills, motivation, and leadership, but you also want to tell colleges that you’re mature enough to draw the line and prioritize. Quality, not quantity, kids.
But however manageable a million and a half extracurriculars are in high school, in college, the game is quite different.
In a university, a lot of people are pretty confident about their interests and what they want to pursue. So when you’re a biology major with no significant interest in journalism, but you’re looking for a leadership position in the school paper, try again. Journalism, English, or Communication majors are going to beat you to the job. In college, it’s not as easy to procure the positions you want simply based on ambition.
Because of my uncontrollable desire to join all the things in high school, I almost had that going on at my university. At our club fair, I gave my email out to eight or nine clubs that interested me, fully believing that I would actually have time to join all of them. However, after I joined one of my main extracurriculars, a volunteer organization that teaches health classes in the Bronx, I was hooked, and hooked completely. It wasn’t like the high school extracurriculars that I had a better time balancing; rather, it was more demanding of my abilities, and required me to hone in on and develop my skills so I could contribute more. Basically, the lesson to learn is that in college, your extracurriculars are going to be more of a commitment.
However, once that’s realized, the college extracurricular game is interesting. This is the main chance you’ll get to dip your toes into different activities that relate to your major, and to channel your passions, talents, and the knowledge you learn from your major/minor into making the most of your extracurricular activities. Despite the fact that you might be interested in a variety of activities, it’s important to just select a few and commit your time well. When I did so, I found my extracurriculars to be much more enjoyable.