Extracurricular Activities: Quality Over Quantity
by Madeline Barnes on Friday, June 6th, 2014
Milton strongly encourages socializing outside of the classroom whenever possible, as extracurricular activities have recently become as integral to life at Milton as sports and the performing arts have in the past. Milton boasts over thirty clubs and student run organizations, including Entrepreneurship Club, Lorax, Magus Mabus, SAA, GASP, SAGE, and Investment Club, to name a few. With all these options, there is truly something for every student. Activities period allows us to engage in conversation with students whom we may never have known otherwise. In trying out clubs, we can create friendships and unearth passion for an activity or cause that we had never before considered. Club participation can open doors to incredible opportunities and can even influence our choice of an academic major in college.
We often hear that extracurricular participation can be a focial point for college admissions officers admitting students. Participation shows not only leadership potential but also the ability to work well with others. According to StudyPoint, a college preparatory organization, “proven leadership ability is a big deal in college admissions. Hundreds of thousands of students have excellent grades and test scores, but what often sets an applicant apart—and secures an acceptance letter—is his or her outstanding involvement in school clubs, athletics, or community organizations.”
However, with an abundance of clubs available, students agonize over whether to split their attentions between a variety of clubs or to concentrate on one particular activity. I believe that stronger dedication to fewer organizations results in a more in-depth and rewarding experience, increasing the chance to make a difference and allowing one to hone their leadership skills in a particular area of interest. As Mitchell Lipton, Dean of Admissions and Records and Registrar of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, said, “Remember that quality of involvement is more important than quantity. Stick with activities that have always interested you, as most colleges can see through the applicant that pads their résumé, especially late in the game. There is no one type of activity that is valued most.”
For many, club participation at Milton is tantamount to academic achievement and athletic participation. For some, clubs can help students discover new interests, while for others they provide an infrastructure to allow further pursuit of a passion. Certainly, many students enjoy becoming “the jack of all trades, but the master of none,” as Emmie Atwood (I) recently articulated in her original oratory at the Speech Team assembly. These students diversify their club experiences, so they can know a little about debate, a little about robotics, and a little about environmental activism. Spending time in so many clubs gives them a broad foundation: they know something about everything, so they are prepared for whatever comes. While these students can become leaders in the clubs they attend, piling so much on their plates often causes things to slip through the cracks.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Milton’s extracurricular clubs are the opportunities they provide for students to explore or further develop their leadership skills tailored to a interest. For many students, however, exploiting the opportunities to provide solid leadership in a school club limits the number of organizations in which they can ultimately become involved. As Douglas Christiansen, Vice Provost for Enrollment, Dean of Admissions at Vanderbilt University, said, “Colleges and universities are looking for well-rounded applicants. This means they want applicants to be excellent students, have good test scores, be leaders in their school and community, and be involved in different types of activities. What is more critical to the application is not how many activities and clubs a student is in, but, rather, what the student does as a member of the clubs and activities.”
Whether we are starting as freshmen or moving on as graduating seniors, acquiring organizational and leadership skills is critical to our developing maturity and enables us to make a difference. While going to lots of different clubs not only looks good on a résumé but also allows students to develop interest in everything from gender equality to the fine art of knitting, taking part in fewer clubs allows students to concentrate their attentions and, as a result, become better leaders. At Milton, when students must decide whether to go Asian Society, Public Issues Board, or nothing at all on Mondays, they should, as we hear so often, think not of college but of what they are genuinely curious about. Participating in clubs is the small but very important first step in discovering new interests, pursuing a passion, and leading others to do the same.
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