Under the mask

High school students pressured to put on a face during college admissions process

Today, high-schoolers are put under so much pressure to get into college that the college application process turns into a sales meeting to pitch their latest product: themselves.

Students across the nation are given expectations that can only be met by overloading themselves with extracurricular activities and as many advanced classes as possible, regardless of what suffers, including their sleep or family commitments. This pressure is applied by parents, teachers, other students and the students themselves. This pressure causes students to join as many clubs as they can without considering what they truly love to do and where they can invest their time wholeheartedly.

Instead of focusing on many things, students should discover what their passions are and join clubs and classes that pique their interests.

When beginning the application process, it is best to focus not solely on what you are involved in but why you wanted to participate in those activities in the first place. It is also important to look for ways to become a leader and devote more time to those activities than once every few months.

According to Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz of the Huffington Post, “it is better to be consistently involved in one, two, or three activities and/or sports over a number of years, than superficially involved in eight, 10 or 12 for shorter periods of time.”

Joseph Berger of the New York Times spoke with Chioma Isiadinso, the founder of Expartus, a college coaching firm in the city.   

She gives advice on how students approach activities by saying, “think not just what you’ve done, but why you’ve done what you’ve done… What [colleges] care about is the passion, commitment and consistency.”

By students thinking this way, they will be met with less stress and can take the time to be all-in with their passions. They can take part in clubs and classes that they enjoy and challenge themselves.

I personally took this approach to the opposite extreme. During freshman and sophomore year, there weren’t any clubs I devoted my time to because I thought that nothing would interest me or be an efficient use of my time. Now, I find myself a junior scrambling to find a club that I’m interested in to put on a college application. I like the clubs that I participate in now, and I chose just a few clubs that I wanted to devote my time to, but I am not a leader of any of them because I did not get involved early in my high school career.

I believe that is productive to be in a multitude of clubs in middle school and your freshman year in order to find out what you like, but as you continue through high school, the amount of clubs you’re involved with should become smaller as you find your niche.

It is all about finding a balance and being true to what you enjoy. It is a balancing act between being in enough clubs and actually spending your time doing something worthwhile. As high school students, our time is precious, and we should be spending it doing something we love, not something that will supposedly get us into college.

As students approach the application process, they should think of themselves not as a product to sell, but instead as a piece of art that has been shaped and molded throughout high school that can now be displayed for its viewers to see the hard work that brought it to this point.