The Cost of Extracurriculars:

How College Applications Ruin Passions
In her opinion piece, Ella Liu argues that the machinery of the college application process is reaching ever further into the entire high school experience and driving student choice for co- and extracurricular activities.
In her opinion piece, Ella Liu argues that the machinery of the college application process is reaching ever further into the entire high school experience and driving student choice for co- and extracurricular activities.
Ella Liu

After the school day ends, students don’t just stop, they rush towards practice, club meetings, and more. Extracurriculars are usually viewed as ways for students to bring forth their own interests, but recently one question has ruined the idea; “Will this look good on my college application?”
As colleges start to place heavier and heavier emphasis on extracurricular activities, students no longer participate in them for themselves, instead for their college applications.
The University of Florida’s official admissions blog ranks extracurricular activities as the fourth most important aspect of an application, right after SAT/ACT scores and even before college essays. As many colleges have started going SAT/ACT optional, the importance of extracurricular activities is higher than ever.
Many online resources, and even ones provided by colleges themselves, list the most important or “best” extracurriculars to have in order to have a strong application. This abundance of information is not just an indicator of the importance of extracurriculars but also evidence for how after-school activities have turned from passion-driven pursuits to merely a means to an end.
As students sign up or engage in outside activities based on pressure for how it will appear on an application, they could force themselves into an activity that they do not enjoy or quit something about which they were passionate.
Some may say that the encouragement of extracurriculars helps cultivate student passions by letting them show what they do outside of school and show what they can accomplish outside of just grades; changing how colleges look at just grades in applications.
The truth is, it’s just making it so that students have to keep up their grades and extracurriculars at the same time. A survey in 2017 of freshman at Harvard showed that the average GPA for accepted students was 3.94, with more than half reporting a perfect 4.0. Good grades have become a requirement on top of extracurriculars.
Additionally, it creates the need for students to have a strong passion for something before they even know what that passion might be. This performance pressure then forces them to commit to one path during the time they should have to explore. Students should not feel the need to already have found what they want to do with their life just as they are beginning it.
Students, you have to remember that extracurricular activities are something that should be done for your enjoyment. They are important because colleges want to see what you’re interested in. Do you really want to get into college by forcing yourself to do something that you hate and then regret all the effort you put into it? Extracurriculars are a way for you to have fun doing something, not just another box to check on your application. The most important thing to ask yourself is, are you really happy with what you are doing?

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