When less is more: the downside of overinvolvement

board game

One of the most telling aspects of any student’s application outside of the essay is the page devoted to extracurricular activities and community service. 

You can say anything about who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what you care about.  But, the most effective way to show us these things is through your time.  Actions speak louder than words.

Don’t let this discourage you to give up clubs and groups entirely, and don’t let it force you to spend 12 hours of a 24-hour day trying to give equal time to everything you’re involved in.  Instead,  stick to what matters most.

Avoid the urge to sign up for 10 different school groups just for your college application.  Many high school students are guilty of joining every group that sounds remotely interesting purely for the application wow-factory, but rarely are seriously involved.  It’s easy to have your name on the roster and take credit for the real hard work of fellow classmates.

As application readers, we would much rather see that you have lended not just your name abut also the lion share of your time to just two or three things that mean the most to you. Being in band, serving in National Honor Society, and being engaged as an officer in a community service organization is great. Don’t sign up for “Spanish National Honors Society, Beta Club, Fans of Beta Club, and Board Game Players of America” just so you can say you’re involved in more clubs. Here’s a secret: You won’t fool us! We can often tell when interests are genuine and when they are not.

The same rule should apply to volunteer work and community service.  We appreciate seeing students who make time to give back to their community.  But, you serve your community much better when your time is focused and concentrated on one or two efforts. You’ll feel better and you’ll have actually been effective with your time.

When you arrive at your future college, you’ll have countless opportunities to get involved in a number of clubs and organizations, fraternities and sororities, academic study groups, and community service projects.  Resist the urge to join everything, even if you’re tempted with free pizza, free t-shirts, free lanyards, free puppies…(you get the point).  Instead, look for groups with causes that you are strongly passionate about, or clubs that will let you meet new people in areas you’ve never explored, or organizations that you know you’ll have fun with.  You’ll still be well-rounded, but with a narrowed focus.

As you begin your college application, keep this question in the front of your mind – “what kind of impact have I already made, and what kind of impact do I want to make next?”