Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

Are you stressed out by tests? Clubs? Sports? If you think trying to juggle all these activities is tough, then you’re not alone. As the college admissions process becomes increasingly holistic, the need to self-actualize by getting involved in all manner of extracurricular ventures has pushed our entire generation of hopeful college admits to new, inconceivably frustrating heights. But fear not! You have elder peers who’ve been through it all and seen it all, and we’re here to help.

First and foremost, don’t make the mistake of “overloading” during high school. Personally, I bit off a bit more than I could chew; I had to dash down the hallway from meeting to meeting, lost a ton of precious sleep during the fall, winter, and spring sports seasons and had trouble finding enough time to balance schoolwork and extracurricular obligations. The root of the problem? I used a scatter-shot approach to clubs freshman year. I just joined any club I was remotely interested in and stuck with each one throughout my four years of high school. Once I hit junior year, I found that my packed schedule took an increasingly large toll in my well-being, wakefulness in school and testing (in-school and standardized).

While it seems like a good idea to do as much as you possibly can, to be as active as possible within your own community, it’s equally important to know your own limits. You’re human. Imperfect. There are only 24 hours in a day. These are facts of life, and learning to accept them and work with them is the best way to hamper your performance in other aspects of academia. If I could do things over, I would test the waters with several extracurriculars, then whittle the list down to three or four that I really like. Things that I can get passionate about, things that I can become involved in on a deeper level.

Additionally, if you’re good at something and really like it (this could be music, painting, dance, etc.), then try your absolute best to be the best. That doesn’t mean you have to be the best, you just have to try. The effort will pay off immensely if you enter competitions, apply to programs related to your hobby and can achieve results for your talents. Trying to be a modern day renaissance man or woman is not the way to go; you might be great at a lot of things, but you’ll likely never be jaw-droppingly fantastic. You know, the kind of fantastic that college admissions officers love. Trust me, having one extraordinary talent, even if you’re lacking in multiple other areas, is preferable to dabbling in all areas and having less to show for each. It’s a phenomenon with which I’m all too familiar.

But exactly how much is too much? It’s hard to quantify because the question itself is complicated by countless variables. Some activities turn out to be bigger time commitments than others. Some activities happen to coincide with very important events or even other activities. Using common sense, however, playing a sport during every season and participating consistently in more clubs than you can count on your fingers is probably overkill. If you do so much that may beg the question, “is that even humanly possible?”, then your involvement may become a negative in the eyes of admissions officers. If it doesn’t seem humanly possible, then you’ll be suspected of spreading yourself too thin.

The message to take away here is “choose carefully.” If you know what professional field you want to pursue, maybe try your hand in a club related to your career interests and keep running with it. Just don’t join too many clubs, especially if you’re unable to make a difference within said organizations or demonstrate your leadership skills within them. If you’ve already joined a comfortable number of activities which you’re happy with, then stayed involved until the very end. Show your dedication! Aside from that, I have nothing left to say. If anything, just remember that (in the case of college admissions), less is (sometimes) more!

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the author

Nelson Dong is an incoming freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and hails from North Hunterdon High School. Born in a state overrun by loud, tan New Yorkers (yes, they're all from New York with the exception of Pauly D), he holds great disdain for the shore. He dabbles in dancing, singing and writing, among other artistic ventures and plays tennis to stay in shape. However, it must be noted that he absolutely does not lift because he doesn't have time.

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