Being Well-Rounded vs. Spreading Yourself Too Thin

Photo provided by Carolyn Johnson

Photo provided by Carolyn Johnson

When you’re in high school, the pressure to make yourself a worthy candidate in the eyes of college admissions committees becomes amplified.  The emphasis that is put on being the ideal “well-rounded” student--the student who has top-notch grades in challenging courses, competitive test scores, evidence of leadership qualities, tons of extracurricular involvement, and volunteer hours galore--is absolutely astonishing.  While there isn’t anything wrong with challenging yourself to be a great student and an involved person in your community, the same cannot be said for overworking yourself in order to become the elusive well-rounded student.


Here’s an example that many students can relate to:  upon looking over your resume, you find that it isn’t “impressive” enough;  it isn’t what college committees are “looking for.”  What do you do to remedy this problem?  You apply for every leadership position available, and if there’s a volunteer opportunity, you sign up for it.  You do all of these things without a second thought about whether you really have enough time to devote yourself to all of those activities, or whether you’re even genuinely interested in whatever organizations you’ll be working with; but you’re doing these things “for the resume,” and that’s all that matters… right?

That kind of thinking only leads to stress, fatigue, and apathy.  If you find yourself doing something solely for other people--especially people on a college admissions committee--and not at all for yourself, chances are that you shouldn’t be doing it.  There is a huge difference between trying to be involved and trying to be involved in everything.  No one has enough time in their schedule to do everything that is offered, and college committees understand that.  In fact, when they spot a resume that has a surplus of clubs and other extracurriculars on it, they tend to become suspicious about how much involvement actually went into each one of those associations on the student’s behalf.  Generally, they prefer seeing that a student has invested large amounts of time and effort into a few extracurriculars that he or she values above all of the others.  That shows true leadership and enthusiasm.

So, to sum it all up, when you begin signing up for clubs and organizations this school year, don’t sign up for the things that will look the best to college committees--sign up for what looks best to you.