Extra Extracurriculars Come With Extra Consequences


National Honor Society officers pose on induction night for new members.

Joselle Escobar, Staff Reporter

Stressed out seniors, ambitious juniors and other college-aspiring students, it’s time to slow down your fast track straight to an Ivy League or any university for that matter. It’s time to pause all of your extracurricular activities and sports in order to  reflect on whether or not you are making all these commitments for your enjoyment or with the sole reason to just fill up the activities section of your college application.

Every year students are pressured more and more to join more clubs, do more activities and take harder classes to compete with other students as they attempt to vie for the limited spots at their chosen schools.  Students have succumbed to doing too many extracurricular activities, causing them to give only surface-level commitment to a wide array of activities.

“There’s certainly a degree in which students feel the pressure to be well-rounded and join extracurricular activities that they don’t necessarily have interest in only because it makes them appear as a better person; that’s a reality,” said Senior Jasmine Cuasay, who participates in theatre, National Honor Society (NHS), Asian Club, Best Buddies, Future Educators Association (FEA) and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).

High school students should instead focus on joining activities in the school that they are truly interested in despite the mounting pressure to be well-rounded by college admissions. If students can reflect their genuine interest and passions for the activities they do in their applications, schools will be able to see how the student shines.

“Colleges want to see that you are unique and that you follow what you like and not just what everyone likes,” said Senior Brendan Callas who is involved in Band, Link Crew, NHS and FBLA.

Recently Harvard’s School of Education enacted the “Turning the Tide initiative” on January 2016 in order to reduce the application pressure among students. The initiative allows the students to be more focused on creating genuine contributions to their community and engaging in ways to promote the greater good of the world instead of emphasizing test scores and grades.

An article called “Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions” posted on the Harvard Graduate School of Education, quoted Stuart Schmill, dean of admissions for Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “This report communicates our expectations much more clearly to applicants. We don’t want students who do things just because they think they have to in order to get into college. To the contrary: we want students who lead balanced lives, who pursue their interests with energy and enthusiasm, and who work cooperatively with others, all of which will help them be successful in and after college.”

More than one hundred U.S. universities, such as Yale, Brown, University of Michigan, University of Chicago, Notre Dame, Purdue and Wake Forest, have signed on to either support or endorse this initiative. Many schools recognize the intense pressure students are put under by college admissions to be the “perfect student”.  Students should focus on striving for uniqueness and showing off their true identity instead of curating a different version of themselves.

The article also quoted Kedra Ishop, associate vice president for enrollment management at the University of Michigan: “Escalating achievement pressure is not healthy for our youth. Young people are suffering from higher rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse as they juggle the demands of their lives.”
Some students, however, can’t help but feel that pressure.

“Colleges are always talking about how it’s not just our grade; it’s not just our test scores,” said Senior Jisel Gomez who is involved in Interact, Mundelein After School Coalition, NHS, Link Crew, Student Leadership, Best Buddies and FEA. “They want to see us joining stuff, doing community service, being involved, so sometimes I feel like we’re just pressured to do stuff because that’s what colleges want to see.”

MHS College Counselor Andrea Rusk offered advice on what colleges are truly looking for when it comes to extracurricular activities.

“Obviously getting involved is tremendously beneficial,” she said. “It can help any student at any point, but the problem comes in when a student overexerts themselves and gets involved in too many activities. That creates a large breadth but not enough depth.”

Rusk also suggested that finding one activity that a student is truly passionate about is an opportunity for that student to strive for a leadership position within that activity, which is much more impressive to colleges.

It’s good news that many colleges are starting to tone down the pressure of having the perfect amount of activities on student applications, but all students should focus on being involved with activities they genuinely care about. It’s always a beneficial experience to go out and explore fun clubs in the beginning of high school, but put your effort into activities you know you’re interested in, not just because it can look good on your college application.

No matter how important college is to you, doing activities you love and care about should be your first priority. That is something we all need to be reminded of once in a while during this busy time of year, especially for seniors.