Once at the lunch table, I was having a conversation with one of my friends who is notoriously busy with a million different things at one time. She is basically Hermione Granger, minus a Time Turner (though sometimes I wonder if Time Turners exist and if my friend is actually hiding it from the world). She is the #1 runner on JV Cross Country, a member of Diversity Club, the Future Premeds Club, Chemistry Club, Spanish Club, the Community Service Club, and only God knows what else. She also researches at a lab over the summer and has published research. What can this girl NOT do?
My dear friend is what I like to call a “dabbler”. I’m pretty sure people like her have 34 hours in a day instead of 24, unlike the rest of us normal human beings in the world. I remember her saying during freshman and sophomore years about trying to find two activities she really liked, because “colleges like to see that.” Now, during senior year, she’s scored leadership positions in the Future Premed Club, Diversity Club, is captain of JV cross country, and the coordinates segments for the broadcast channel my school has. These are activities she has passion for, and she found this passion quite late in her high school career. But, she’s also one of the smartest people I know, and has a better application than most because of this “dabbling.”
I talked to her the other day about this article, and I asked her if she ever worried about trying so many things and not knowing what to be committed to. She offered a really unique perspective, something I thought was really valuable. She related being a “dabbler” to the being a Renaissance man–dabbling is like training yourself to be somewhat of a polymath, which is someone whose expertise spans a large variety of different subject areas. “Coordinating segments for my school’s TV show has taught me about working a camera and what goes into the creative process of writing a skit. Being part of the premed and chem clubs has allowed me to expand on my interest in the sciences, and now I want to go into medicine. Running cross country is basically a continuation of the running I’ve been doing with my dad since I was little. And community service and diversity club are both part of my culture and religion–being Indian and Hindu has taught me to care about others, and going to a primarily white school has made me want to teach people more about my culture. I get to learn so much and become good at so much. I’m like a Renaissance woman!” she said.
I asked her if she thinks being a “dabbler” would be a bad thing when applying to colleges. “No,” she responded, “because I can offer a unique perspective from a variety of viewpoints.” She has a good point, too. So many students feel disheartened because they feel they’ve committed themselves to too many clubs, which might lead colleges to think they wanted quantity over quality, when in reality their intent was to try and find the one or two clubs that inspired them the most. And then in senior year, they feel crummy because they wished they’d found their niche earlier.
If it’s senior year and you’re thinking “Crap, I shouldn’t have joined x club” stop mid-sentence and be glad you allowed your mind to expand that much. Who knows, your experiences could make a great college essay, and your dabbling will have paid off after all. It might not be smooth sailing all the time, but hey, smooth waters never made skillful sailors, did they?