When I was growing up, my parents had a rule for my sister and I (well they had many) but the particular one had to do with commitment. They told us that we could only choose one sport/ extracurricular activity at a time. We were not the over committed family that always had 3 soccer games, a softball game, church, and a girl scout meeting all in a weekend. The most I got away with doing was soccer and girl scouts at the same time. And this was permitted only because Girl Scouts met once a week for maybe two hours at a time. It wasn’t a huge time commitment, my parents believed it was important, and I liked it. They wanted to preserve family time and their sanity. I am so grateful that they did.
But I am noticing a growing trend that concerns me. First in society as a whole; that we are way to busy. I am totally guilty of this, so I am not preaching from any pulpit, that’s for sure. Secondly, many people, especially high schoolers, are over-involved and under-committed. Now, hear me when I say that. Over-involved and under-committed; how is that even possible?
To answer that question, I ask you to reflect upon what most colleges are looking for in a competitive applicant. They want a well-rounded individual, who has played a varsity sport, been the president of a club, while being involved in two other clubs, been involved in the community, and on top of all that maintained stellar grades and achieved great test scores. I feel like they are asking for their applicants to dabble and under commit to everything, just so they can attain that “over-committed” level that colleges look for. If there was a common mantra among current high school students, I’m pretty sure it could be, “Just do it for the app.”
The frustrating thing about this over-involvement is that instead of picking a couple of things that they love and committing to them and being super involved with them, students are doing things for the label, just so they can say they are “involved” on their college application. AND COLLEGES SEEM TO ENCOURAGE THIS! Though I’m sure every admissions counselor would say, “We would much rather you be deeply involved in a few things that you are passionate about, instead of a bazillion different things”; the activities section on the common app begs to differ. There are ten different sections to fill out describing your different activities and involvements in high school. And if you only fill out four of them, that’s leaving a lot of blank space on the application that decides your scholastic fate. Thus, students are driven to over involve themselves and under commit. It is impossible to be completely committed to ten different activities, maintain good grades, have some semblance of a social life, and still sleep for the 8-9 hours recommended for teenagers.
What is created is a “Do it for the college application” attitude. And one can assume how frustrating and annoying this attitude can be. Try taking already slightly noncommittal teenagers, throwing them into ten different activities, and telling them to be committed to every one. What you get is the bare minimum, a warm body in meetings, brain only half there, constantly thinking of all the other things that have to be done. The expectation is that we are able to do it all, while in reality we have no chance.