When choosing extracurriculars, opt for quality over quantity

Illustration by Jonah Charlton.

Illustration by Jonah Charlton.

Gigi Wade, Opinion Editor

Student Ambassadors, Team ASAP, Random Acts of Kindness. These are three items on a much longer list of activities that I regret doing in high school.

To clarify, there are no structural problems with any one of them. Rather, I had a structural problem with commitment and time. Intimidated by the 10 activities expected of me by the Common Application, I spent my junior year supercharging my resume. Unfortunately, my pursuits sacrificed quality for quantity – I was unable to deeply engage in most of my extracurriculars because doing so would require selectivity, an attribute that I had yet to discover.

Senior year, I axed the better half of the list and decided to spend more time on the things that mattered. For me, this meant investing more into debate, the Evanstonian and recreational pursuits, such as reading, that I truly like. As a result of my experience, I have two pieces of advice: find the comfort in quitting and learn how to commit yourself.

Concerning the first piece, my intent isn’t to encourage anyone to promptly quit life, or even to drop multiple activities. Instead, I believe in strategic quitting, which includes a thorough analysis of your enjoyment, dedication and potential for leadership. It’s most important to prioritize what impacts a combination of yourself and the world in the best way – a surplus of surface level, nearly identical ventures limits your potential to do good.

Once you have condensed your timetable, you can begin to apply yourself to the extracurriculars (officially recognized or not) that excite you. It’s impossible to really feel a part of anything if your loyalty is divided into dozens of parts; it follows that the more loyalty you display, the more meaningful your presence becomes.

There’s also a big misconception in regards to the sort of activities that we believe we should devote ourselves to. While academic and athletic clubs are certainly worthwhile, pastimes do not need to be organized to be productive. Jobs and leisure-oriented recreation can equip you with an indispensable skill set for life after high school, oftentimes one that is more relevant than anything acquired through a general scholastic club, one founded on work-ethic, financial responsibility and time management.

Removing yourself from superficial extracurriculars helps with more than just mental health, it gives you an edge in the college application process. Admissions officers can detect passion and personality – they can also detect activities that are on applications for the sole purpose of filling up space. Uniqueness is derived from authentic enthusiasm, not from any numerical value.

So, my word of advice to all of you not graduating this year: when it comes to high school extracurriculars, less truly is more.