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Clubbed to death

May 3, 2024 at 4:00:00 PM

Alice Yoo '27

Many say we live in a world where students are expected to be perfect in everything, under the notion of “we-want-to-have-a-holistic-view-of-the-applications” and “we-want-to-see-every-individual-uniqueness.” It is difficult for students to balance classes and extracurricular activities as they often feel overwhelmed by the fact that they should be great at everything, from academics to sports to the arts. Students feel pressured to be involved in various extracurricular activities, even those they are not interested in, because of the competitive nature of college admissions. 

It is inarguable that extracurricular activities are great for students to show something about themselves to colleges other than the grades on their transcripts. Different dimensions of students can be shown in ways beyond the numerical data of SAT scores and AP test scores. Additionally, students can find new activities they enjoy as well as spend time with peers. 

Students need to know that extracurriculars should not be crammed into a list, with the student with the longest getting into the most prestigious college. Colleges cannot understand a student’s story and individuality merely through grades and teacher recommendations. Extracurricular activities should be one of the ways for students to express themselves aside from academics. It should be a time for students to explore topics and passions, get to know people, and acquire lifelong skills. 

In addition to the pressure on students, there is a significant social issue intertwined with extracurricular activities: the socioeconomic gap. Despite the goal of getting a holistic view of the application, it can be difficult for students to access extracurricular activities depending on their socioeconomic background. Common extracurricular activities that come into mind, such as summer camps and competitions, cost money. Even though some activities might sound “free,” they come with unavoidable expenses. Take the orchestra, for instance. The cost of purchasing and maintaining instruments as well as music lessons cannot be overlooked. Encouraging and assisting students with extracurricular activities would be hard for families having difficulties paying necessary fees.

Furthermore, even if students want to participate in activities, not all schools provide them with the opportunities. It makes it hard for students since their school is the main place to seek resources. Colleges still look for students who have participated in various extracurriculars, often ignoring the context of whether they were given the chance to participate. They may have had the ability but just never the opportunity.

This is not to say that extracurricular activities should not be accounted for at all in the college admission processes. Extracurriculars are indeed a great way to gain a holistic perspective of each student’s application aside from grades and standardized test scores. However, colleges should be aware of the inequalities in extracurricular participation during the admissions process and focus more on quality than quantity. Currently, there are eight to ten boxes for students to list their extracurricular activities. Shortening the list would both lessen the pressure on students to participate in every possible extracurricular activity and recognize the difficulty of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to be involved in various extracurricular activities.

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