It’s time to stop letting colleges dictate our lives

How do we decide our extracurriculars? What makes the final cut? The reality is that in our competitive environment, many students at NT, as at every high school, pick and choose activities based on what they perceive colleges will prefer. As the Harvard admissions lawsuit of 2018 revealed, the school prefers “academic” extracurriculars, such as Science Olympiad or Math Team. The documents produced, however, failed to address that those specific clubs may not be right for everybody.

The preferences of some colleges can pressure students to join certain clubs that they wouldn’t otherwise be interested in. Harvard is the big Kahuna that many other schools follow in terms of admissions processes. If Harvard likes debate and Model UN, so do many other schools, creating an entire culture of incentivization for academic activities over others.

But by pushing students into clubs that aren’t the right fit, schools are limiting exploration and experimentation at a crucial time in our lives. We should be able to try new activities without fear of negatively impacting the chance of getting into a specific school.

If science is your greatest passion, then Science Olympiad is the perfect activity for you. If doing math in your spare time sounds like fun, then we fully encourage you to join Math Team.

However, if you’re passionate about non-academic pursuits like dance or are more inclined towards just hanging out with friends or just don’t know yet, Cereal Club’s got your back and may benefit you more than any of the aforementioned activities.

By doing what we enjoy, we can gain much more than forcing ourselves into certain activities based on how they appear on our resumes and what colleges appear to want.

Sure, as the lawsuit shows, colleges may prefer certain activities over others because of the academic curiosity that these clubs show. There is a legitimate incentive to join these clubs beyond mere interest.

But this academic preference that schools have only goes as far as the admissions office. The clubs may not be more beneficial than others once actually in college or out of college.

For those chemists out there, “like attracts like” is a common phrase. And the same goes for people. It’s often that one’s best friends will be found by being involved with the same activity. Sports teams, for example, can create strong bonds between players. Clubs as well: if two people are both really into cooking, those two people are more likely to become friends.

But joining an activity that your heart isn’t fully in may be harder to form connections with people because you just don’t have that much in common.
Choosing extracurriculars based on interest and not college preferences also gives us the chance to experiment to find different things that we may like. We’re only in high school, so how do we know for sure what we want in the future? The huge range of clubs at NT give us a chance to try different things. Locking yourself into one all-time-consuming activity can prevent exploration into other potential interests.

Almost every extracurricular in high school will help you later on in life. While it may not be the deciding factor between you and your dream school, clubs give students the leadership and social skills necessary to succeed once actually at college. Admissions may seem like the highest hurdle, but without the practice of making friends and navigating social situations that clubs can give us, college itself may prove exceptionally difficult.

The school day goes from 8:15 to 3:25, that’s 7 hours and 10 minutes of learning formulas and quotes five days a week. After school, learning more formulas and quotes may not sound appealing to some (if it does, more power to you). If it’s not something you truly want to do, then don’t succumb to the pressures that colleges put on you. Choose what YOU want to do. In the end, you will learn more from participating in an activity that makes you happy and that you have fun in.