The most important thing I’ve learned about extracurriculars after three and a quarter years of high school is this: if you don’t enjoy something, QUIT.
I know that there’s this huge stigma at our school (and in our greater society in general) around quitting things you’ve started. With LOHS’s competitive environment, many students feel obligated to load up not only their courses, but also their extracurriculars, with activities that they think will look good to colleges.
And to an extent, that pressure is a good thing. Taking challenging classes will certainly put you ahead when it comes to applying to colleges and can often save you money once you get accepted. By the same token, admissions officers look at extracurriculars when comparing academically similar candidates, and extracurriculars are also important in winning scholarship money—which for many students is helpful in avoiding future debt.
It’s not bad to have a rigorous academic and extracurricular load—what’s bad is doing things you don’t enjoy just for the credit.
While doing extracurriculars is important in and of itself, what’s more important is remaining true to yourself. I know—cheesey. What I mean to say, though, is that extracurriculars should be an expression of you and your own interests. Not what your friends like to do, not what your parents encourage you to do, but what you’re passionate about doing.
Here’s an all-too-common example: let’s say you’re doing a competitive sport that you absolutely hate. You drudge your way through three seasons and then finally make the varsity team your senior year. The hours and hours of free time a school sport forces you to give up have caused you to lose friends, struggle more with your classes and give up other activities you actually enjoy, but you feel obligated to follow through. After finally completing your senior season, you never want to play again. (And spoiler: you probably never will.)
So what was it all good for?
You may feel a slight sense of accomplishment for having completed four years of a difficult sport, sure, but then what? You’ll enter college no closer to finding out what you want to do with your life because you’ve spent all of high school pursuing dead-end activities just to check a box.
In the long run, it will be so much more beneficial for you if you just pursue extracurriculars that actually reflect your passions. I promise you, there’s something for everyone. Who cares if it’s not conventional? If you refine a skill that you’re passionate about (and can potentially, although not necessarily, help you on your career path), colleges will acknowledge and respect that.
So, if you haven’t found that thing yet, try something new. This is high school—this is your time to grow, experiment and figure out what you like to do before the taxes and tuitions and burdens of adult life kick in. So take advantage of it. Finding what you love is worthwhile, and I promise you, you won’t regret it.